2014 is just around the corner, and every year we’re finding new and fascinating things about space! To celebrate the up-coming New Year, here are 14 strange and fascinating facts you can bring with you to the party:
1. Astronaut training is intense.
Since 1959, Johnson’s Space Center in Texas is where adventurers have gone to train. If they make it through the world’s most competitive selection processes, the candidates then face two years of intensive, generalized training before they can even begin training for the mission they were selected for.
2. The sun will eventually die.
When the sun first starts to die, it is expected to become a red giant, which will swell to many times its normal size. Although it won’t actually engulf the Earth, it will get close enough to turn Earth into a planet much more like Mercury, with blazing heat and no liquid water.
3. Rockets need so much fuel!
It takes more than 500,000 gallons of fuel to get a rocket into orbit. This brings the cost of purchasing such amounts of fuel to mind. They don’t use regular gasoline, but have focused their efforts on other sources, much to the displeasure of those benefitting from natural gas scams.
4. Astronauts are clumsy when they come home.
In space, you float. Because of this, the inner ear doesn’t need to keep you balanced, so your brain forgets. When astronauts come back to Earth, it takes a few days for their brain to re-align with the inner ear and remember how to balance.
5. Vacations to space are coming.
Even though it sounds like The Jetsons, some pioneering companies are working to make it a reality. Already, some people have paid close to a million dollars to have the privilege of a space flight. At the moment, however, it isn’t exactly commercialized, as two years of training and learning to speak Russian are still requirements.
6. People grow in space.
There’s less gravity in space. Therefore, with much less weight to “weigh” you down, your spinal column can stretch out and relax, which adds a few inches!
7. In orbit, there’s a sunrise every 90 minutes!
This happens because of how quickly a spaceship must travel in order to stay in orbit with the Earth. According to NASA, when in orbit, every object must travel at a minimum of 17,500 miles per hour.
8. You can see human activity from space.
Of course, we’ve all seen the images of huge storms rolling across the planet. However, there’s a great deal of human activity that can also be seen from space, like the lights from cities, pollution or explosions from the release of natural gas mining.
9. You can see other planets without a telescope.
There are quite a few other planets that can be observed from Earth without any kind of magnification. Jupiter, being a gas giant, is the biggest and brightest planet—it’s often visible. Details such as Saturn’s rings can only be seen with a telescope, though.
10. Things get strange around black holes.
That’s because black holes don’t just pull in the stuff around them, but they actually cause a divot in the space-time continuum. This distorts matter, space and time, and the more these are altered, the more they alter everything around them.
11. One sun in a solar system is unusual.
This isn’t something that you typically think about, but most solar systems actually have two suns. This is because stars typically form in pairs. Scientists have theorized that Jupiter was actually supposed to be our solar systems second sun, but it never got big enough to start nuclear fusion.
12. Periods of high solar activity have coincided with major revolutions.
Throughout the recent past, many of the major revolutions that have happened around the world have been at about the same time as unusual periods of solar activity. The French Revolution is the most well-known, but it was, in fact, the 5th revolution in less than a century.
13. You can (sort of) go forward in time.
This theory is called the Twin Paradox. The idea stems from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Basically, if you had an identical twin that traveled at almost the light speed for 14 years, when they came back, you wouldn’t be identical any more. You would have aged the full 14 years, but your twin would have aged less, since less time would have passed for them.
14. The first living organism in space was a dog.
Laika was actually a Russian dog, found as a stray and trained by Russian scientists. She was never expected to survive the voyage. There was no way for the Russians to have her re-enter the atmosphere. As expected, she died of overheating, but she secured her place in history.