The fact that our solar system is the only planetary system in the entire observable universe that sustain life is just mesmerizing, but there are other things that make our solar system quite unique. Even though, space exploration existed in ancient times, advancement in observational techniques and technologies in the late 20th century have really helped us to know about our planetary system deeply with more precision than ever. Today, we are covering some of the interesting facts about our solar system. Get ready for a surprise…
1. Recently discovered asteroid Oumuamua is the first known confirmed extra-solar object currently passing through our solar system. Scientists speculate that the asteroid may have been ejected 45 million years ago from the Carina–Columba association, a stellar system situated at a distance of at least 6,500 light years.
2. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. It’s famous for the iconic ‘Great Red Spot’, an enormous anticyclonic storm located just south of its equator. Another significant feature on this planet is the powerful Aurorae on the north pole, which was first discovered by the Hubble space telescope.
3. Do you think that Mercury is the hottest planet in our solar system? If no, then you are right. The correct answer to this question is Venus. The presence of a thick atmosphere around Venus traps a chunk of solar heat from the Sun, which causes the maximum surface temperature of the planet to reach up to 470° Celsius compared to 56° Celsius here on Earth.
4. The Sun is basically a giant ball of gas, but it contains over ninety nine percent of all the mass in our solar system. Earth has almost negligible mass, incomparable to the Sun.
5. A dwarf planet is neither a planet, nor a natural satellite but have the orbital characteristics similar to any of the planets. The IAU (International Astronomical Union) so far recognizes a total of five dwarf planets Pluto, Ceres, Haumea, Eris and Makemake.
6. Uranus was the first planet to be discovered with the help of a telescope, while the discovery of planet Neptune was made by mathematical calculations rather than observational research.
7. A day on any planet is measured by the time it takes to rotate once on its own axis. Do you know that Mercury takes 58 Earth days to rotate once?
8. The planet Uranus has an unusual axial tilt of 97 degrees, the highest in our solar system. As a result, its poles lie where other planets have their equator. This interchange of poles and equator cause extreme seasonal variations in Uranus’ weather.
9. Due to the small size of the moon, its gravity is six times less powerful than what we experience on the earth. Therefore, our weight on the moon would reduced by the factor of six.
10. Even though, Saturn is not the only planet to have a ring system, it certainly has the most prominent planetary ring system. But they were not discovered until 1970s. Other ringed planets in our solar system are Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus.
11. Based on lab results, many scientists speculate that the mantle of the planet Uranus and Neptune is based on an ocean of liquid carbon. The carbon, when released into their atmosphere causes diamond rain.
12. Our solar system has a tail, just like most of the comets. In July 2013, NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer enabled scientists to get the first ever glimpse of the heliotail. For years, the tail of the heliosphere was explained only by various models and theories, but it was the first time that we were able to get a detailed view of the heliotail.
13. According to the modern stellar theory, there are three types of black holes present in the universe. These three are supermassive, stellar mass and micro/mini black holes. Just like the stars, counting the amount of black holes present in the universe is impossible. But luckily, the Earth and the entire solar system are far enough that none of the known black holes can harm us in any possible way.
14. On an average, two to five solar eclipses occur every year. Since the advent of the Gregorian calendar, five solar eclipses in a single year occurred in 1693, 1758, 1805, 1823, 1870, and the most recent was in 1935.
15. The two farthest planets Uranus and Neptune are least studied planetary objects in the solar system. Both the planets were visited only once by the Voyager 2 space probe in 1986 and 1989. Though there is currently no approved space mission in the future to either of the planet, NASA might launch one under their Flagship Program.
16. Our planet revolves around the Sun in an elliptical orbit as the other planets.
17. The largest object in the asteroid belt is the dwarf planet Ceres.
18. Every day, millions of meteoroids from the deep space (mostly from the asteroid belt) travel through the Earth’s atmosphere, but only a very small amount reaches the ground as they are destroyed long before entering the Earth’s lower atmosphere.
19. The first dog in space, Laika died from cabin overheat when the Russian spacecraft Sputnik 2 was on its fourth orbit.
20. Due to the fact that space is without air, sound waves cannot travel in the void. So no matter what you do, you cannot create sound there. On the other hand, we can observe radio and light waves simply because they don’t need air to travel.
21. The Oort cloud is mainly composed of icy cold Planetesimal orbiting around the sun. This massive region is defined as the cosmological boundary of our Solar system.
This graphic shows the distance from the Oort cloud to the rest of the Solar System
22. Every year, the moon is drifting away from the Earth at a constant speed of about 5 centimeters.
23. A group of scientists compared the Sun to the size of a blood cell. They estimate that if the sun were the size of a blood cell, then the entire Milky Way would be the size of the United States.
24. Discovery of an asteroid accompanied by a natural satellite in 2015, made our solar system more interesting than ever. The asteroid was designated as (357439) 2004 BL86.
25. The dust storms of Mars are the largest in the entire solar system which lasts for several months.
26. A modern spacesuit can cost around $12 million and weigh over 20 to 21 kg.
27. In space, astronauts can’t feel their bladders. Which can lead to several problems. So they are trained to relieve themselves at regular intervals of time.
28. The first space station sent to the Earth’s orbit was the Soviet Salyut 1, launched in April 1971.
29. The Moon has no atmosphere and winds, therefore the footprints made by Neil Armstrong in 1969 are still perfectly preserved on the moon.
30. The biggest mountain in our solar system is on the planet Mars and known as Olympus Mons. It is more than 80,000 feet high from the surface.
31. Since its first discovery in 1930, Pluto was recognized as the farthest planet in the solar system but it was revoked in 2006. After detecting more Pluto alike objects in the Kuiper belt and beyond, the IAU was forced to reclassify it as a dwarf planet.
32. Before the advent of modern telescopes, astronomers were only able to see as far as the gas giants i.e, the outer planets in our solar system and it was believed to the solar limits. But in the mid 20th century, the estimated solar boundary expanded astronomically. Scientists believe that the limit where our Sun loses its gravitational influence on stellar and other space objects is actually extended up to 2 light years.
33. Just like planets, our solar system along with other stars in the Milky Way Galaxy revolves around the Galactic core. According to various studies, our solar system completes one revolution of the Galactic core in 250 million years, moving at an average speed of 830,000 km/h within its trajectory.
34. The boundary that separates the Earth’s atmosphere from the outer space is known as Karman line. From the sea level, the line is located at an altitude of 100 km. For reference, the highest cloud in the upper atmosphere form at an altitude of 75-85 km in the mesosphere. This boundary division is accepted by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, an international record keeping and the standard setting body for astronautics and aeronautics.
35. According to astronomer Carl Sagan, everything, including the DNA in our blood and the calcium in our bones, are made of stardust. He also believed that the life on earth was started due to stardust.