In light of the first ever picture of a black hole being released, it seems that space is is a bit of a hot topic at the moment – and that suits me! So I thought I’d jump on this bandwagon and share with you four of my favourite space facts 🙂
1. There is a library on Mars
In 2008, the Phoenix lander successfully landed on Mars and started working on all sorts of scientific experiments and sending back data to Earth. It did this for more than a year (longer than it was planned to last) and was declared dead in 2010. But Phoenix wasn’t just there for the science – it also carried the first library to Mars, in the form of a DVD, which contains literature and art inspired by the planet. If you were to load it into your computer (yes, it’s just a regular DVD), you’d find copies of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Green Mars. How cool is that?
2. Neptune’s moon was captured, not made
Earth’s moon likely formed after a huge asteroid impact blasted debris from the planet out into space, which clumped together and eventually became our moon. But not all moons are formed this way. Neptune’s biggest moon, Triton, was probably once one of a pair of dwarf planets, both orbiting each other. When this pair got too close to Neptune, one was slingshotted off into space, and the other, Triton, fell into orbit around Neptune. Yes, in space it’s possible to adopt a moon.
3. A spider revolutionised telescopes
William Gascoigne lived in the 1600s. He was an astronomer and he also made his own telescopes and lenses. One day, he noticed that a spider had spun a web inside one of his telescopes. When he looked through it, he found that both the web and the faraway objects he could see through the telescope were in focus. From this he invented the telescope micrometer, which is used to give very fine measurements of distant objects. Thanks, spider bro!
4. We observed the same supernova twice
In 1572, astronomer Tycho Brahe (along with many others) witnessed a new, bright star in the sky. He didn’t know what it was, but he wrote about it in great detail. It wasn’t until much later that scientists figured out that Tycho had seen a supernova (an exploding, dying star). Then, in the 1960s, astronomers witnessed the same supernova again. Light from the original explosion had travelled outwards, away from the dying star, and reached Earth in the 1500s. But some light had travelled in a different direction, hit a dust cloud, bounced off it and come back in the direction of Earth, reaching us hundreds of years later. In this way, humanity witnessed a supernova, then developed telescopes, modern astronomy and the concept of a supernova, just in time to see the same supernova again and this time understand what we were looking at.
Did you like those facts? I’ve got more where they came from! If you’d like to see more, just let me know and I’ll do another one of these posts. 🙂