As it is famously said, “Space is the final frontier“.
The greatest of unknowns, space is far vaster than we can comprehend, and filled with phenomena we barely understand. While we’ve been watching the heavens in awe for millennia, space exploration and discovery only began in earnest in the mid 20th century. Yet even what are no doubt our primitive findings still point at a universe more incredible than we ever thought.
So here are 10 surprising facts about space:
1. Until 1923 scientists thought that the entire universe was just our milky way- until astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the astronomical feature known as Andromeda, a fuzzy spot in the night sky, was actually an entire galaxy! Overnight the size of the universe was effectively doubled!
2. Hubble made his discovery from the Hooker telescope, built atop a mountain in California- it was the first mountain top telescope in the world and at the time, an incredible feat of engineering.
3. Leavitt’s discovery of how to calculate distance based on the cycling of Cepheid stars allowed Hubble to prove that Andromeda was located outside the Milky Way, and was thus its own galaxy.
4. The hottest planet in our solar system is not Mercury as most would assume, but Venus. Due to runaway global warming, Venus’ temperature is an incredible 863 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius).
5. Not only is Venus’ atmosphere blazing hot, but it also has an atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than the Earth’s- that would crush you flat as a soda can if you walked on its surface!
6. In 1966 the Soviet Union’s Venera 3 was the first man-made craft to land on Venus. Unfortunately, its communications system had failed long before reaching Venus and it was unable to relay back any data.
7. On the 18th of October 1967, Venera 4 became the first spacecraft to measure the atmosphere of another planet. The Soviets initially claimed the craft reached the surface intact, but when the American Mariner 5 spacecraft flew by Venus the very next day, it measured a surface pressure of 75-100 atmospheres, well out of the range of Venera’s 4 25 atmosphere hull strength. The claim by the Soviet Union was quickly redacted.
8. Venus’s atmosphere is so dense, that parachutes are only necessary to slow down. The Soviet Union’s Venera 9 released its parachutes at an atmospheric height of 31 miles (50km) and landed at a speed of only 15 mph (7 m/s). It was also the first spacecraft to transmit photos from another planet!
9. Our solar system is about 4.6 billion years old, and scientists believe it will last another 5 billion years before our sun turns into a red giant.
10. The tallest mountain known to man is Olympus Mons, an extinct volcano on Mars with a peak 15 miles (25 km) high. It is nearly 3 times larger than Mount Everest.
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