Facts About The Universe

The Mice Galaxies, NGC 4676A (right), NGC 4676B (left)

Enjoy these 205 incredible astronomy facts…from the event horizons of black holes where known science breaks down, to the methane mystery of Mars. The sheer weirdness of neutron stars, to the unbelievable power of a gamma ray burst. How fast the universe is expanding, the difference between dark energy and dark matter, and where to find the cleanest, purest ice in the solar system.

Beyond The Solar System…

The magnetic field of a magnetar, a type of neutron star, is a thousand trillion times more powerful than Earth’s. They are the most magnetic objects ever discovered, and if one was at the Moon’s distance it would wipe all credit cards on Earth. Their colossal magnetic fields sometimes shift and rearrange themselves, causing star quakes on their surface, releasing powerful gamma rays. A star quake from a magnetar occurred in 2004, from 50,000 light years away on the other side of the Galaxy, it damaged satellites orbiting the Earth

A super massive black hole is thought to inhabit the heart of every galaxy, including the Milky Way. The more massive the black hole, the bigger the galaxy. Some super massive black holes are billions of times the mass of the Sun, with events horizons larger than the solar system

If you look up at the stars with your nakes eyes on a clear night, you will only ever see 0.000003 % of the number that make up the Milky Way

The largest known reservoir of rare metals in the universe lies in the Perseus Galaxy Cluster. Metallic atoms of chromium equal to 30 million times the mass of the Sun, and manganese at 8 million solar masses exist in hot gas between the cluster’s galaxies in intergalactic space. It would have taken 3 billion supernovas to produce this amount of material, spanning billions of years

The unstable and unpredictable giant star Eta Carinae shines 4 million times brighter than the Sun, and weighs in at 100 solar masses. All the talk is usually of red giant star Betelgeuse going supernova, but this monster is also just as likely to blow. “Likely” means anytime now, or the next few thousand years

The Cat’s Paw Nebula is a vast stellar nursery near the heart of the Milky Way, 50 light years across. It is one of the most active star birth regions in our Galaxy, and really does look like a cat’s paw print in space

Red dwarfs are the most common stars in the universe. The Sun will last for roughly 10 billion years, but red dwarfs burn their fuel very slowly and have a life span of trillions of years. So no red dwarf star has ever been seen to die, as the universe is not yet old enough

If you shouted in space even if someone was right next to you, they wouldn’t be able to hear you.

Cosmic rays are particles travelling at near light speed that are thought to come from black holes, or supernovas. When these cosmic rays hit our atmosphere they produce a shower of slower moving particles that can hit the surface. These can cause faults with electronic devices such as computers

The interstellar gas cloud Sagittarius B contains a billion, billion, billion litres of vinyl alcohol

A neutron star’s gravity is so strong and the object is so dense, that it pulls itself down into a perfect sphere, with a surface as smooth as polished metal

On the clearest night the human eye can only see about 2,000 to 3,000 stars, there are 200 to 400 billion in our Milky Way alone

Information about what has fallen into a black hole is thought to be stored on the event

Black holes are extremely efficient, if a car was as efficient as a black hole it could travel 1 billion miles on one gallon of petrol

Scientists estimate a billion, billion could be the number of available planets suitable for life. If the chances of the right conditions and elements coming together to form life were just one in a billion, then life would arise on a billion planets

Famous globular cluster M13 has 100,000 stars packed into a space 150 light years across. The centre of this cluster is so crowded that it’s thought that stars crash into each other forming new suns called “blue stragglers”

A gamma ray burst is produced when a massive star explodes and collapses in on itself. It is a narrow beam of extremely powerful energy, and if one went off in our Galaxy and was pointed towards Earth, it could cause a mass extinction

Red super giant star Betelgeuse pulsates, varying in diameter from 550 to 920 times that of the Sun

A star orbiting a black hole, can travel at over 200,000 kilometres an hour.

The spinning neutron star at the heart of the Crab Nebula is just 10 kilometres wide, and 50 trillion times denser than lead

Exoplanet WASP-19b orbits its star in less than a day, just 19 hours. It is the fastest orbit of a planet outside our solar system yet found. Its year is shorter than 1 Earth day

A magnetar, is a type of neutron star with a magnetic field one quadrillion (one thousand, million, million) times stronger than Earth’s. The intense magnetic fields can cause star quakes on the surface of the magnetar, releasing powerful flashes of x-rays

The average temperature at the surface of the Sun is 6,000 degrees C. Brown dwarf star CFBDSIR 1458 10b is no hotter than a cup of coffee

The matter in the universe is so thinly dispersed that the universe can be compared with a building twenty miles long, twenty miles wide, and twenty miles high, containing only a single grain of sand

The black hole at the centre of the Sombrero Galaxy weighs in at 1 billion times that of the Sun, one of the most massive black holes ever measured

The fastest star making machine in the known universe is a star burst galaxy 12.3 billion light years distant nicknamed “Baby Boom”. It produces around 4,000 stars per year, compared to the Milky Way’s 10 stars a year

The cosmic microwave background radiation is the furthest back in time we have data for. It marks a point 380,000 years after the Big Bang when the Universe cooled and became transparent enough for radiation to travel. Before this point the universe was opaque, therefore astronomers can’t use any kind of light to see what existed there

The width of a human hair held at arm’s length is 1 arc second of sky

Quasars are so bright they can vastly outshine our entire Milky Way Galaxy and are among the brightest objects. They’re produced by matter falling towards a violent and feeding super-massive black hole at the centre of a galaxy, usually hundreds of millions of times the mass of the Sun. The matter circles the black hole in the accretion disk at tremendous speeds, emitting large amounts of light as it gets destroyed by the colossal gravity

Dark matter and dark energy are often confused as they sound alike, but they’re two very different things. Dark matter is an invisible kind of mass that doesn’t act or interact with things like light and normal matter. It’s the undetectable stuff that makes the motion of a galaxy act as though it’s far larger than it appears. Dark energy is the strange force in space that’s accelerating the expansion of the universe

The universe is expanding at a rate of 80 kilometres per second for each megaparsec of space (a megaparsec is 3.26 million light-years). The further away a galaxy is, the faster is appears to be moving away from us. So a galaxy will appear to move 160,000 miles per hour faster, for every 3.26 million light years away from Earth

The scientific term whereby one galaxy gravitationally disturbs another is called galaxy harassment

A photon of light experiences no time, as it is of course is travelling at the speed of light

The biggest, closest exoplanets to their sun can actually produce tides on the stars surface

In the core of starburst galaxy M82 or the “Cigar Galaxy”, stars birth goes on at a rate 10 times faster than the entire Milky Way Galaxy

A black hole is formed when matter is crushed to infinite density. To make a black hole from the Earth you would have to crush the entire planet including everything on it, down to the size of a pea

M64, The Blackeye Galaxy’s outer section of it’s galactic disk is rotating in the opposite direction to the inner section. Friction at the boundary where the opposite travelling gas and dust clouds meet, causes intense star birth

The speed of light is the cosmic speed limit and always 186,000 miles per second, or 300 million metres per second…no matter how fast you are travelling when observing it

The furthest galaxy ever seen (UDFj-39546284) is 13.2 billion light years away, from a time just 480 million years after the Big Bang. It is a hundredth the size of the Milky Way, 500 million times fainter than the faintest star visible to the naked eye, and must have been one of the very first galaxies. It was detected by the Hubble Space Telescope

Bok globules

Bok globules in IC2944

Bok Globules are very dark, dense clouds of dust and gas that act as cocoons for developing stars. They are some of the universe’s coldest objects at just 8 Kelvin

The Earth is rotating on its axis at a rate of 460 metres per second at the equator, and is orbiting the Sun at a rate of about 30 kilometres per second. The sun is orbiting the centre of the Milky Way at a rate of about 220 kilometres per second. The Milky Way is moving at a speed of about 1000 kilometres per second towards a huge mass 150 million light years away called the Great Attractor

Active galaxy NGC 1275 lies at the heart of the Perseus Galaxy Cluster, it has huge filaments of gas that extend out from the core. They look like the tentacles of an immense galactic octopus and are 20,000 light years long, and just 200 light years wide. They are held in place by powerful magnetic fields from the massive central black hole

Red hyper giant star VY Canis Majoris is so big, if it was placed in our solar system at the Sun’s position it’s surface would be at Saturn. It’s 2,100 times the size of the Sun, and light takes 8 hours to cross it’s circumference

In the first tiniest fraction of a second after the Big Bang, the new universe had expanded to the size of the solar system

The biggest galaxy in the known universe is IC 1101, it is a giant lenticular galaxy dominating the centre of the galaxy cluster Abell 2029. IC 1101 has a diameter of about 5 million light years, containing up to 100 trillion stars, it is around 80 times larger than our Milky Way, and is just over a billion light years away

The tightly coiled and powerful magnetic fields that corkscrew into the spinning accretion disks of black holes, this can whip up winds blowing at 300 miles per second.

As late as 1820, the universe was thought by European scientists to be 6,000 years old. It is now known to be roughly 13,700,000,000 years old

A gamma ray burst is a cataclysmic blast from an exploding massive star, it puts out more energy in a few milliseconds than the Sun will emit in 10 billion years

There is a vast super cluster of galaxies in the direction of the constellations Perseus and Pegasus that is over 1,000 million light-years long, and is the largest super cluster known. In 1989, astronomers found another structure called the “Great Wall”. It is a collection of galaxies some 500 million light-years long, 200 million light-years wide, and 15 million light-years thick

Giant planet HD 189733 b has wind speeds nearly 6 times the speed of sound at 4,500 miles per hour, but these wind speeds are slow compared to what astronomers think the fastest winds on this planet could reach, 22,000 miles per hour

If you could squeeze all the stars in the Milky Way together into a single mass, it would fit into the volume of space between our Sun to the nearest star

A feeding black hole has an accretion disk surrounding it. This is a very extreme environment, and creates intense magnetic fields around the black hole. These magnetic fields funnel high energy particles into a narrow jet travelling at close to the speed of light, erupting from above and below the black hole. These jets can be so long that their length can exceed the host galaxy’s diameter

The Tarantula Nebula (NGC 2070) is located in the eastern portion of the Large Magellanic Cloud. It is the only extra-galactic nebula that is visible to the naked-eye. If NGC 2070 were as close as the Orion Nebula (M42), it would take up the entire constellation of Orion and be bright enough to cast a shadow

Why is the sky dark at night? The universe must be finite, not infinite. If it was infinite then everywhere you looked, your line of sight would land on a star, together with an infinite amount of time for all starlight to get to us. The sky is dark, so we must live in a finite universe, this is called Olber’s Paradox

The typical spec of dust that you see floating in the air is half way in size between the Earth and a subatomic particle

The black hole at the heart of elliptical galaxy M87 weighs in with a mass of at least 2 billion times that of our Sun. Travelling at near light speed from the disk of gas and dust orbiting the black hole, is a 5,000 light year long jet of matter ejected from the galaxy

Most of the elements in your body were originally forged inside earlier generation
stars, and blown out into space by violent supernovae explosions

A galactic year is the time it takes the solar system to do one orbit of the Milky Way Galaxy, 225-250 million years. The solar system has been in existence for 20 galactic years. At 7 galactic years the first bacteria appeared, and at 19.999 galactic years the first humans emerged

As the solar system travels through the Galaxy it does not stay level, but bobs up and down along the plane of the Milky Way. This up and down motion has been noticed to coincide with major extinction events

Only 4% of  the universe is what we can actually see, stars, galaxies, planets, nebulae etc…the rest is dark. Around 22% is made up of dark matter, and the rest 74% is made up of dark energy

Gamma rays are produced in the hottest and most violent events in the universe such as the birth of a black hole. Gamma rays have the most energy of any other part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and have a wavelength shorter than the width of an atom. Gamma ray light is lethal and can easily damaging human DNA. Gamma ray light cannot be reflected with mirrors as the waves will pass right between the atoms of the mirror

The Crab Pulsar is a neutron star just 10 km across, has a mass of between 1.4 and 2 times that of the Sun, and spins at 30 times per second

The bright orange star Arcturus in constellation Bootes is actually a red giant. At 25 times the diameter of the Sun it is one of the fastest moving stars, travelling at 150 km per second. But Arcturus is not moving with the motion of all the other stars, but going perpendicular through the disk of the Galaxy

At the core of radio galaxy Centaurus A is a super massive black hole, hundreds of millions of times the mass of the Sun. From above and  below this violent gravity well, jets of matter shoot out at near light speed in two huge plumes. Each plume is over a million light years long, 10 Milky Way galaxies would fit along each plume‘s length

Our solar system travels through the Galaxy at 251 kilometres per second, as it orbits around the Milky Way’s centre. The Milky Way is so vast that even at this speed it takes 225 million years to do one orbit

There are thought to be more than 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe, each one can contain up to a few hundred billion stars. The word “galaxy” comes from the Greek term for our own Galaxy which means “milky circle”


Eta Carinae

Eta Carinae

One of the most massive stars Eta Carinae is very unstable and is likely to explode in a supernova. This could be any time, in the next few years, in our lifetime, or in a few hundred thousand years. It may even go hyper-nova, releasing two deadly beams of gamma rays in a so called gamma-ray burst capable of wiping out life. This is the most powerful event since the Big Bang, but there’s no danger as the two opposing beams won’t be pointed towards Earth


The speed of light is 670 million miles per hour, or 380,000 miles per second, or the speed you would have to travel to go around the Earth 7 times in one second. Even if you could travel at this speed it would still take 100,000 years to cross our Milky Way Galaxy

In a few milliseconds or seconds, more energy is released when a star explodes in a gamma ray burst, than the Sun will emit in 10 billion years

Supernova remnants contain a memory of how their original massive star exploded. Even from blasts hundreds of thousand of years ago, the shape of the aftermath still shows just how the star was ripped apart

To a distant observer a clock near a black hole would appears to tick more slowly, this is gravitational time dilation. To the same observer, an object falling into a black hole would appear to slow down as it approached the event horizon, taking an infinite amount of time to reach it

A pulsar is an extremely dense and magnetic object, usually only a few kilometres across that is left over when a massive star explodes. Pulsars spin, and the fastest pulsars rotate hundreds of times a second, faster than a kitchen blender. They are natures most accurate clocks, rival man made atomic clocks

The number of suns in the universe are thought to exceed the number of grains of sand on all of Earth’s beaches

The three exoplanets PSR B1257+12 b, c and d are now just burnt rocky remains after their sun blew itself apart in a supernova explosion. The explosion ripped the atmospheres from their skies, extinguishing all life, if any. The three dead worlds still orbit around what remains of their star, a spinning pulsar that rotates once every 6.33 milliseconds

Astronomers used to believe that galaxies were distributed more or less evenly through space, they have now found regions where galaxies are rare or absent. The largest of these empty voids is located in the direction of the constellation Bootes, and spans more than 250 million light years across

The cosmic microwave background radiation is the “echo” of the Big Bang, and the oldest known radiation in the universe

One of the brightest star in our Galaxy is the Peony Nebula Star that shines 3.2 million times brighter than the Sun

A galactic pileup is happening 5.4 billion light years away, MACSJ0717 is a 13 million light year long stream of galaxies called a filament. Over millions of years this huge filament is pouring into an area already crowded with galaxies, as collisions happen one after the other

The neutron star at the centre of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A has a gravity 100 billion times stronger than Earth‘s, with an atmosphere 4 inches high

The biggest star known is hyper giant VY Canis Majoris. A star so big that if the Earth was reduced in size to 1 centimetre in diameter, then on the same scale VY Canis Majoris would be 2.3 kilometres across

Stars emit eerie throbbing sounds when brought into the range of human hearing, and each one has a its own unique tone. Using a process called stellar seismology scientists can find out how large, how old, and what the chemical make up of a star is with very high accuracy

The fastest spinning pulsar known is PSR J1748-2446ad, it is less than 16km across, but just under twice the mass of the Sun. It is spinning at 70,000 km per second at its equator, 24% the speed of light

Cosmologists believe most galaxies have a super-massive black hole at their centre, with a mass of between 1 million, or billions of times that of the Sun. All of a black hole’s matter is crushed into a tiny point of infinite gravity called a singularity. Science’s understanding of physics, space, and time breaks down beyond the black hole’s event horizon, the boundary of no return where not even light has the speed to escape its immense gravity

Red super-giant star Betelgeuse, the bright orangey star on Orion’s top-left shoulder, is so big that if it was placed where the sun is, it would swallow up Earth, Mars and Jupiter. It is approaching the end of its life, and likely to explode in a supernova any time during the next few hundred thousand years

Astronomers see billions of light years across the universe, but it wasn’t always this way. Under a billion years after the Big Bang, the cosmos was “foggy“. Opaque hydrogen gas filled the early universe and this gas absorbed starlight. But the first generation of stars went to work clearing this fog away with their fierce ultraviolet light making it transparent, in a time called the era of re-ionisation

Dwarf irregular galaxy Holmberg IX contains a rare “yellow giant eclipsing binary”, two stars 15 to 20 times the mass of our Sun that orbit around each other so closely that they share material. Visibly they would look like one object, forming the shape of a peanut

White dwarfs, the left over core from the death of  a Sun like star, are like big hot diamonds in space…carbon atoms compressed down into a crystalline form

Our nearest major galactic neighbour is the Andromeda Galaxy at 2.5 million light years away, and contains up to one trillion suns. It is heading towards us at a speed of 313,200 miles per hour, when it will eventually collide with our Milky Way Galaxy. It will take Andromeda roughly 3 billion years to get here


Local fluff

The local interstellar cloud, the ‘Local Fluff’

The solar system is travelling through a local interstellar cloud in the Milky Way that is 30 light years wide, astronomers call this cloud the “Local Fluff”. The solar system entered it between 44,000 and 150,000 years ago, and it will take us another 10,000 to 20,000 years to pass through it

Brown dwarfs are star like objects, but not really stars…or planets. They’re too cool and lightweight to be stars, and too hot and big to be planets. Viewing them as star like objects, the dimmest brown dwarfs yet found shine with 1 millionth the light of our Sun

Monster star R136a1 is 265 times more massive than the Sun, and shines 10 million times brighter

Since our solar system was formed, it has only done 20 orbits of the Milky Way Galaxy so far

The red supergiant star Betelgeuse(red star at Orion’s left shoulder)is almost 1,000 times bigger than our Sun, and emits 100,000 times more light. But it’s mass is no more than 20 solar masses, meaning it has an average density of less than air

The Milky Way’s super massive black hole, Sagittarius A, is around 4 million times the mass of the Sun. Some cosmologists think it could take up a region of space just 1/10th of Earth’s orbit

The massive and unstable star Eta Carinae is expelling material into space in the form of two lobes that look like huge dusty balloons. This material is travelling into space at speeds of 1.5 million miles per hour, and the star itself emits natural laser beams of ultraviolet light

If the Earth was the size of a basketball, then the Moon would be around the size of an apple at 7 metres away. On this scale the Sun would be just under 3 kilometres away, and 26 metres in diameter. The nearest star to Earth would lie at twice the distance of the real Moon


Inside The Solar System…



Titan, an artist’s impression

Saturn’s moon Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system, being 50% larger than our Moon. It is the only place known other than Earth where liquid exists on the surface in the form of lakes and rivers


The Sun puts out more energy in 1 second, than has been used in all of human history

The orbit of Neptune’s moon Triton is slowly decaying, meaning it is getting closer to the planet. In 3.6 billion years time Triton will drop below the Roche limit, and Neptune’s tidal forces will tear Triton apart, forming a ring around the planet

Mars’s moon Phobos orbit’s the red planet so fast that it completes 3 orbits in one Martian day

It takes sunlight 8 minutes to reach Earth, 12 minutes 47 seconds to reach Mars, and 5.5 hours to get to Pluto

Time passes more slowly for satellites in orbit when compared to time on Earth, because the satellites are further from the Earth’s gravitational effect on space time

Methane is produced on Mars and it changes from season to season. The gas was first spotted in 2003 when a 19,000 tonne plume was detected. The methane is either being produced by geological activity, or biological activity

Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system, even bigger than the planet Mercury. Saturn’s moon Titan is the second largest moon, and Earth’s moon is the fifth largest

The entire surface of Mars was likely shaped by liquid water, about 4 billion years ago. The red planet would have been a warmer place than today with rivers, lakes, and small seas on it’s surface

Mars’s two Moons Phobos and Deimos translate as “Fear” and “Panic”, and were named after the two horses that pulled the chariot of the Greek war god Ares, from Greek mythology

A coronal mass ejection, an extremely powerful eruption on the surface of the Sun can be so violent that it can create a solar tsunami. Waves radiate outwards from the CME like a stone thrown into a pond. These waves are made of magnetism and million degree plasma, and rise up higher than the Earth itself as they race out across the Sun’s surface at 560,000mph

Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanic body in the solar system, and the moon’s surface is continually renewed. The largest volcanic depression on Io is Loki Patera, and contains a 180 kilometres wide lava lake

The mass of the asteroid belt that lies between Mars & Jupiter, amounts to just 4% of the Earth’s Moon



Saturn’s moon Mimas

Saturn’s moon Mimas is nicknamed the “Death Star” due to Herschel, a giant 81 mile wide impact crater that makes it resemble the Death Star in Star Wars. Mimas is the smallest body in the solar system to form into a rough sphere under it’s own gravity

Saturn’s E ring is known to contain salt, giving a clue that the moon Enceladus could hold an underground ocean

Nasa’s orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory has made groundbreaking discoveries, studying the universe in x-ray light. The electrical power used to power the spacecraft and it’s instruments is just 2 kilowatts, roughly equivalent to a hair dryer

Saturn’s rings are mostly made up of ice particles, ranging from very fine material up to huge mountain sized chunks half a mile across

Saturn’s water geyser moon Enceladus has the cleanest and purest ice surface in the solar system

The furthest objects built by mankind are the two Voyager Spacecraft. In a few years they will be leaving the solar system completely and entering interstellar space

Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system, larger than the planet Mercury, and is the first moon known to have its own magnetic field

Just half a billionth of the energy released by the sun reaches the Earth

The orbit of Neptune’s moon Triton is slowly decaying, meaning it is getting closer to the planet. In 3.6 billion years time Triton will drop below the Roche limit, and Neptune’s tidal forces will tear Triton apart, forming a ring around the planet

The Earth has 4 major jet streams, Jupiter and Saturn have about 20 jet streams each, and Uranus and Neptune have just 3 jet streams. The jet stream on the equator flows east on Jupiter and Saturn, but west on Uranus and Neptune. Neptune’s jet streams are 10 times more powerful than Earth’s

The heat inside the volcano vents on Jupiter’s moon Io can be 1/3rd the temperature of the surface of the Sun

Sedna is an icy solar system body that is so distant, it takes 11,400 years to orbit the Sun. It resides roughly 3 times further out from the Sun than Neptune, and is two thirds the size of Pluto. It is one of the most distant objects known in the solar system, and although Sedna is covered in ice, it appears almost as red as Mars

One Day on the planet Pluto is about the length of a week on Earth

Venus rotates so slowly that its day is longer than its year, it also rotates “backwards” so the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east. It has temperatures that would melt lead, sulphuric acid clouds, and a surface pressure that would feel like being a mile under the sea

Solar flares can erupt more than 100,000 miles from the Sun, into space

The Solar System has 144 named moons.

When the Moon was named, astronomers didn’t know that other moons orbited other planets

Around 1,400,000 meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere every day

Jupiter’s huge magnetic field is 14 times stronger than Earth’s, and has 20,000 times more energy

Saturn is the only planet in the solar system less dense than water

“The long haired star”- How the Anglo-Saxon’s described Halley’s Comet in 1066

Venus is the only planet that rotates clockwise.

Uranus is the coldest planet in the solar system, and gives off less heat than it absorbs from the Sun

41% of the moon is not visible from earth at any time

Halley’s Comet is next due to pass by Earth in the year 2061

Neptune’s moon Triton is geologically active and has erupting geysers on it’s surface that blast liquid nitrogen 8 kilometres high

Nasa’s new James Webb Space Telescope will have 7 times more light collecting ability than the Hubble Space Telescope, and will sit out beyond the orbit of the Moon. Some say it’s the successor to the Hubble but as it will operate in infrared it is really the successor to the Spitzer Space Telescope

Pluto hasn’t finished one orbit since it was discovered in 1930, taking 248 years to go around the Sun

Saturn’s moon Titan has a continent called Xanadu, that is about the size of Australia. Xanadu is very reflective and has Earth like geography. The Cassini Spacecraft has imaged hills, rivers, valleys, mountains, and dunes on it’s surface

Jupiter’s moon Io has “land tides“, from the gas giant’s gravitational pull. The land of Io actually rises falls by as much as 100 metres, as well as cracking and splitting apart as Jupiter pulls on it

The diameter of the Moon is 2,160 miles, its surface area is 14,645,750 square miles. It was likely formed when Mars sized object collided with Earth early in its history. The debris thrown up by the impact came together forming the Moon we know today

The Sun was about 10 times brighter than it is today, after forming from its interstellar gas cloud

The Oort Cloud is a vast spherical cloud of comet nuclei one light year from the Sun. It is held relatively weakly by the solar system’s gravity, so it can be easily influenced by the gravity of passing stars. This gravity can nudge comets out of position, and send them travelling into the inner solar system

A solar flare is an explosion from the Sun’s surface produced when hugely powerful magnetic fields snap and break apart under immense stress. One of these flares can have the power of a billion Hiroshima bombs

The largest thing in the solar system is Jupiter’s magnetosphere, it stretches from Jupiter’s poles to Saturn

The Sun loses 4 million tonnes of material into space every second, but has enough to last for another 5 billion years

There are over a billion asteroids in our solar system of a diameter of 100 metres or more

Think of a comet, and you imagine a glowing ball with a long luminous tail streaking off behind, like the tail is following in the comet‘s wake. But the comets tail always points away from the Sun due to the solar wind, bearing no relation to which direction the comet itself is travelling

Mars has the longest and deepest canyon in the solar system, the Valles Marineris. If it was on Earth it would stretch right across the United States

The Sun is 99.86 % of all the mass in our solar system. The Earth, the other planets, moons, asteroids, comets etc account for just 0.14 %

Neptune has the strongest winds in the Solar System at 2,100 km/hour

The Sun is huge…one million, three hundred thousand Earths would fit into its volume

The tallest mountain in the solar system is the volcano Olympus Mons, on Mars at a height of about 16 miles, three times the height of Mount Everest. It covers an area nearly the size of France, and has lava flows that are so young that some scientists think it could be still active. Olympus Mons has a sheer cliff at its outer edge towering 5 miles tall

A year on Mercury is one and a half Mercury days long

Over 50,000 is the number of volcanoes that has been imaged by radar on Venus, more than any planet in the solar system

Jupiter’s centre is a place of extremely high pressure, so high that the core of the planet is thought be liquid metal, caused by the gases hydrogen and helium changing their form under pressures of 70 million Earth atmospheres

Saturn’s main ring system stretches nearly the distance from the Earth to the Moon

The Oort Cloud is a spherical cloud nearly 1 light year from the Sun, it has a mass of 5 times that of the earth, and contains several trillion comet nuclei larger than 1.3 kilometres in diameter

The Moon causes not only the sea to rise as the Moon passes over it, but the land rises and falls too, by as much as 30 cm each day

The strongest colour light emitted by the Sun is green, but we see the combination of all the Sun’s colours as white light

Scientists think Jupiter’s moon Europa which is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon, contains even more liquid water than all the Earth‘s oceans put together

Saturn’s moon Titan has Cryo-volcanoes, these actually erupt cold water lava instead of molten rock. This weird lava flows down the flanks of the volcano like treacle. This strange mixture contains ammonia that lowers the freezing point of the water

Neptune’s moon Triton is the only large moon to orbit backwards (retrograde), the only other moons with retrograde motion are Jupiter’s moons Ananke, Sinope, Pasiphae, Carme, and Saturn’s moon Pheobe

Mars is only about half the size of Earth, but it has the largest mountain/volcano in the solar system. Olympus Mons is 16 miles high, it has a sheer cliff at its outer edge towering 5 miles tall, and the whole thing would cover Arizona


Olympus Mons

Comparison of Olympus Mons to Arizona

Mars is only about half the size of Earth, but it has the largest mountain/volcano in the solar system. Olympus Mons is 16 miles high, it has a sheer cliff at its outer edge towering 5 miles tall, and the whole thing would cover Arizona

The most extensive linear dune systems in the solar system are on Saturn’s moon Titan

The Sun is so big that 1.3 million Earths would fit into its volume, the hyper giant star VY Canis Majoris is so big that 7 thousand, million, million Earths would fit into its volume

If you could stand on the north pole of Uranus, the Sun would rise and stay in the sky for 42 years, before setting again for a 42 year long night

A region of Neptune’s largest moon Triton has a strange landscape of fissures and depressions called cantaloupe terrain, because it looks like the skin of a cantaloupe melon

If the Sun was replaced by a black hole of the same mass, it would be just 3 kilometres across and the orbits of the planets would be unchanged

If the planet Jupiter had been 80 times more massive, it would have formed into a star

Jupiter is the fastest rotating planet in the solar system, and huge at over 11 times as wide as the Earth. It rotates so fast that its poles are flattened and the planet bulges out at the equator. Its day is just 10 hours in length

Mercury and Venus don’t have any moons

The planet Venus’s day is longer than it’s year, it takes 243 days to rotate once

Saturn’s moon Mimas has been likened to the Death Star in the film Star Wars due to a huge crater called Herschel, that covers nearly a third of its diameter. Herschel is 88 miles wide, and has crater walls 3 miles high

Jupiter has 63 named moons, the vast majority of them are less than 10 kilometres across and were only discovered after 1975

Our Sun is a loner, about three out of every four stars are part of a binary system, two stars that orbit each other

Jupiter has 2.5 times the mass of all the other planets in the solar system combined, and would take more than 11 Earths side by side to cross its diameter

If Neptune’s moon Triton was orbiting the Sun and not Neptune, it would be considered a dwarf planet

Neptune’s vivid blue colour is the result of methane in it’s atmosphere

If you were standing on Pluto at its midday, it would look like a moonlit night here on Earth. The sunlight that reaches the demoted planet Pluto is 1,000 times weaker than on Earth

When Jupiter was formed it was much hotter and twice the size it is now, it continues to shrink at a rate of 2 centimetres per year due to heat radiation

 A coronal mass ejection, an extremely powerful eruption on the surface of the Sun can be so violent that it can create a solar tsunami. Waves radiate outwards from the CME like a stone thrown into a pond. These waves are made of magnetism and million degree plasma, and rise up higher than the Earth itself as they race out across the Sun’s surface at 560,000mph

If the Milky way Galaxy was reduced to 10 metres in diameter, the entire solar system including it’s furthest outer reaches would be no bigger than 0.1 of a millimetre across

The European Space Agency’s Huygens probe touched down on Saturn’s mysterious moon Titan on January 14th 2005. It was humanity’s first and only attempt to land a probe on another world in the outer Solar System

There is a strange looking storm on Saturn’s north pole called The Hexagon, with 6 straight sides 13,800 kilometres long, winds speeds of 200 miles per hour, and it is as wide as two Earths. Saturn’s south pole has a giant storm in the shape of an eye

Saturn’s E ring is created by eruptions of water ice from the “Tiger Stripes” of the moon Enceladus

You could fit 755 Earths into Saturn’s volume, but Saturn only has the mass of 95 Earths. The ringed giant is less dense than water

Saturn’s water/ice geyser moon Enceladus is about the size of England

Look up to the Moon tonight, about three quarters of the distance from you to Luna is the width of Saturn’s rings

Tycho, is the crater on the south side of the Moon that shows its crater rays at full Moon spreading out in all directions, it looks obvious because of its youth. The crater is 85 km wide, 4.8 km deep, with a 2.25 km high central peak. This is one of the youngest craters known as seen from Earth, at 108 million years old, it was created when a 8-10 km wide asteroid or comet slammed into the surface

The moon is moving away from Earth at a speed of about 1.5 inches per year

The gravity you feel is due to the mass of the Earth disturbing the fabric of space time

Every year the sun evaporates 100,000 cubic miles of water from Earth (400 trillion tonnes)

If you could stand on the surface of Venus you would experience 92 times the atmospheric pressure than on Earth, the equivalent of going a mile down under the sea

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