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AstroFacts

A hypothetical Mars with oceans a billion years ago

Snow flakes: It takes a billion billion snow flakes to make a comet and one billion comets to make an object like Pluto.

Reduce the universe to the size of the Earth and the part of the universe we humans can live in without having to wear a space suit or live in a pressurized compartment is about the size of a one atom.

Music in Space: The universe resonates at a pitch that is 33,000 times lower than the voice of James Earl Jones saying, "This is CNN."

Kuiper Belt objects: a group of asteroids orbiting past Pluto originated closer to the Sun and then exiled into darkness by the gravity of the planet Neptune.

"Spooky," Einstein called it. Physicists call it 'entanglement'. It appears that photons, electrons, and other elementry particles have the ability to interact with each other even when they are miles apart.

How many stars in the universe? 100 billion stars times 100 billion galaxies, or 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. 

In the 1920s, Edwin Hubble, using the 100-inch telescope at Mt. Wilson, Calif. determined that the universe is expanding - later to be known as the big bang.

The Cosmos truly is full of surprises. The Sun doesn’t set, the horizon rises.

String theory: Strings may be the smallest pieces of matter. If an atom were expanded to the size of the solar system, 1 string would be the size of a tree.

Super Strings (SS). Faster-than-light travel may be a possibility if starships can travel on (yet-to-be-discovered) SS, concentrated strands of energy as thin as atoms and crisscrossing the universe.  A 3-foot-long length of a SS could weigh as much as the Earth.

Farthest objects in the solar system? Three Kuiper Belt Objects, similar to Pluto, orbit the Sun past Neptune. Until now, the 20-mile-wide KBOs have are only called 2003 BF91, 2002 BG91, and 2003 BH91. Have any suggestions?

Fathest planet. A Jupiter-size world 5,600 light years away orbits binary star system M4, a 13-billion-year-old star cluster in Scorpio. The white dwarf and neutron star planet is twice the mass of Jupiter.

Space Songs: Quiet Night and Quiet Stars, Moonlight Becomes You, When the Moon Hits Your Eye, Sunshine On My Shoulder, Hold On to the Night, In the Misty Moonlight, Moonlight Serenade, Fly Me to the Moon, Shepherd Moons, Blue Moon, Moon River, On Moonlight Bay, When You Wish Upon a Star, In the Chapel in the Moonlight, Paper Moon, and Silver Moon. (send me sugestions)

How big's the universe? Light from its fathest region hasn't reached Earth.

Space Shuttles would take 82,000 years to travel the 4.3 light years to the closest star, Alpha Centauri.

The universe, crushed to the density of a neutron star, would fit inside the orbit of Mars

Longest year in history? Julius Caesar gave 46AD 445 days in order to correct Rome's calendar to the one we use today, the Julian alendar.

Most distant object in the Universe? A galaxy 13.6 billion light years away. 

Cosmic branes may be flat, parallel universes occasionally "banging together" to recreate universes that are all located within a much more vast structure that may never have had a beginning and may never have an end.

Quarks are not stars. The announcement of Quark stars was a mistake.

Shortest binary star orbit is 5.4 minutes. The two stars are separated by a mere 48,000 miles - six earth-diameters.

The star Altair is oblate because it rotates so fast - 130 miles per second

Most massive star measured is 57 times more massive than the Sun.

A Pulsar with planets? Yes. Four low-mass planets have been discovered orbiting Pulsar B1257+12

Windy. Winds extend out 1.5 light years from the star Vega.

Sodium is the first element discovered in the atmosphere of an extra-solar planet. It orbits the star HD 209 548.

New Planets: So far more than 1,200 planets have been detected orbiting other stars.

Molecules: 120 have been found in dust clouds in space.

Comets eject material that become meteors if a piece hits Earth.

Meteors seen in the night sky are only the size of a pencil eraser.

Ceres. The first asteroid to be photographed by Hubble Space Telescope.

The Sloan Sky Survey mission will photograph the entire sky. Its website offers motion pictures and information at http://skyserver.fnal.gov

Our Saturn seen in Orion? Yes. It was a fluke. Orion's upper corner extends into the Zodiac and Saturn was traveling a little below the ecliptic.

French, ice-drilling cryobots may be sent to Mars in 2007 and Jupiter's moon Europa in 2008 searching for microbes beneath the ice.

The Astronomical League, 240 astronomy clubs, will place a 16" telescope in the International Space Station to be used by amateur astronomers.

Digital tripod photography is possible with cameras allowing manual focussing and manual selection of multi-second exposures. Set the lens as wide open as possible to override the flash. It must have the ability to automatically shoot a dark frame after you take a timed exposure.

Black Holes, regions of space so dense light can't escape the gravitational pull, come in small, medium, and large. Small (the mass of) a few suns, medium with several hundred suns, and large with several million suns.

The Mars opposition on 8/27/03 brought Mars closer to Earth than it had been since 57,617 B.C. The next closest will be the summer of 2287.

Jupiter now has 67 moons. New "possibles" are being tracked using telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

Saturn now has 34 moons.

Most comets discovered on one photograph - 32 by Carolyn Shoemaker.

Planetary alignments. Nothing ever happens. Neither of the last two caused any measurable effects when in Feb. 1962 & May 2000 all the planets lined up and spanned an area of the sky 16° and 25° respectively,

Brown Dwarfs, failed stars, are neither stars nor planets. They outnumber normal stars by 2 to 1. They are red (not brown), radiate their heat in infrared light, rotate in less than an hour, and have hydrogen cores.

Blue moons are the fourth Full Moon in any three-month season and not, customarilly believed,  the secondnd Full Moon in any month.

A new asteroid belt may lie between the orbits of Earth and Mars. Astronomers determined this after finding these three near-Earth asteroids in that zone: 1996 XB27, 1998 HG49, and 1998 KG3.

Comet Alert. In 1.4 million years a star GL 710, will pass the sun, dip into the Oort comet cloud, and launch millions of comets that will cross Earth's orbit.

Age of the universe? 13.7 billion years.

The Sun is a variable star that brightens and dims over an 11-year cycle and slightly changes Earth's climate.

Martian polar caps consist of water ice and traces of frozen carbon dioxide.

Coldest spot in the universe: the Boomerang Nebula (5,000 LY distant) in the constellation Centaurus is -272° C. (1 degree warmer than absolute zero).

Saturn's rings are the thinnest objects known. A model would be a 20-mile-wide CD disk of normal thickness.

Incoming! The chance of Earth being hit by an asteroid large enough to do great damage is about the same as you being killed in a plane -- 1 in 10,000.

International Space Station travels 4 miles a second 250 miles overhead.

The Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico can receive a cell phone call from the planet Jupiter 390 million miles away. No collect calls please.

Apollo equipment on the Moon isn't visible with Earth-based elescopes.

NASA's Galileo spacecraft was crashed into Jupiter in September 2003 to protect the moon Europa from possible contamination.

The closest star to Earth? The Sun.

The closest star to the Sun? Proxima Centauri in the Alpha Centauri trinary star system. It is 13,000 times dimmer than the Sun and 4.2 light-years away.

Most stars are binary with each star separated by a Sun-Neptune distance.

Reddest star: Mu Cephei (the Garnet Star) a red supergiant with a diameter equal to the Earth-Sun distance. If it took the Sun’s place, its surface would reach out to the planet Saturn.

Fastest star: pulsar PSR 2224+65 moves 1,000 miles per second.

Beginning of dinosaurs may be linked to an asteroid strike 200 million BC.

Quauor (kwah-wahr) 800-miles-wide is made of ice and rock and is a Kuiper Belt Object (located past Neptune) about 4 billion miles from the Sun. It and 300 similar objects, including Pluto, are called Plutinos.

The Moon's core is about 400 miles in diameter, highly pliable, and molten.

Asteroid 2002DM passed Earth by 75,000 miles on 6/14/02 but wasn't found until June 17. It's 100 yards wide and travels 23,000 mph. If it ever hits Earth, the explosion will be equal to a hydrogen bomb.

Enlarge a hydrogen atom to a football field. Its nucleus would be the size of a grain of sand on the 50 yard line. Its electron would orbit at the 1-yard lines.

How empty is space? Between the stars there are 10 hydrogen atoms in one cubic foot of space.

The total mass of all the asteroids would equal the mass of the Moon.

Mars probably had blue oceans 1billion years ago and may again if we make it like the Earth (teraforming). It would take hundreds of years.

Youngest supernova remnant: Cassiopeia A; 10,000 light years away; blew up 10 thousand years ago in 8,318 BC; wasn't visible until AD1682.

The Sun, a large dwarf star, is 1,271,000 times larger than Earth.

Scaled down. If the Sun was the size of an electron, galaxies would be the size of dinner plates separated by seven feet and all 100 billion galaxies in the universe would fill a volume 10,000 times the size of a football stadium.

The Moon's gravity causes tides on both the water and land. When the Moon is overhead, the ground under it rises up 6 inches.

If the Milky Way was as big as the US, the solar system would fit in a tea cup.

Humans took 10,000 generations to get where we are today. In another 18 million generations the Sun enters a warm spell (500,000 AD). We'll have to adjust the Sun's internal workings or move Earth to another star system.

Million, billion, trillion. One million dollars stacks up 500 feet - as tall as the big pyramid in Egypt. One billion dollars is 10 times higher than Mt. Everest. One trillion dollars is 1/4 of the way to the Moon or 60,000 miles.

The idea of the Big Bang came from the Belgian astronomer-priest George Lemaitre to describe an expanding universe. The term Big Bang came from English astronomer Fred Hoyle during a debaate to ridicule the theory.

If the star Betelgeuse was the size of a 20-story building, Earth would be the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

The first landing on an asteroid? On 2/14/01 NASA's Near-Earth-Asteroid-Rendezvous spacecraft soft landed on Eros (more of a controlled ker-plunk).

Reduce stars to grains of salt and the Milky Way would still be 225 million miles wide and on average, stars would be 60 feet apart.

Double asteroids, Pulcova and Antiope, are 188 million miles away. As a comparison, it would be like New York and Boston in orbit around each other.

Asteroid 2000 SG-344 is 180 feet wide and has a 1-500 chance of colliding with Earth in 2030 with an impact of 100 World War II atom bombs.

The number of inches in 1 mile equals the number of astronomical units in 1 light year. (One AU is the Earth-Sun distance and 93 million miles).

A day on Venus is 243 (Earth) days long. A year on Venus is only 225 Earth days long. A Venus day is longer than its year.

The universe weight in tons: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Robert A. Heinlein, "Once you make it to orbit, you're half-way to anywhere."

Each second the Sun becomes 4 million tons lighter.

One-fifth of the universe is blocked from view by the Milky Way.

Model of the Andromeda Galaxy. Use 200 billion grains of salt separated by 60 feet for its stars and it would be as big as the Earth-Moon distance.

Murphy's Law. The term comes from a scientist (Murphy) who discovered that the sensors in a  rocket sled he was testing were installed backwards.

Richard Nixon's name on the lunar lanaders will be legible for 400,000 years.

This information is gathered from "billions and billions" of sources including:

"The Mind-Boggling Universe" Neil McAleer, 1987, Doubleday & Co.

"Don't Know Much About the Universe?" Keneth Davis, 2001, HarperCollins.


NGC 5128 (Centaurus A)

This elliptical galaxy is 17 million LY distant in the southern constellation of Centaurus. SInce ellipticals don't have dust lanes, those seen dissecting this galaxy may be a small galaxy merging with a normal spiral galaxy. This is also a radio galaxy with radio lobes jutting out at right angles from the dark lane. It also has a black hole at its center and is a strong source of X-rays.