Fun Science Facts

Carl Sagan once said that, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”  The Universe is full of the incredible—just waiting for us to finally figure it out. Researching the Universe so Hap and Tara could have fun adventures was awesome! And I was able to discover some of those incredible things waiting to be known. So, I made a list of the top ten cool things I discovered about our universe. 

Hey! Who Turned Out the Lights?
The Earth is approximately 93 million miles away from the sun (which is pretty far). It takes eight minutes for the sun’s light to reach the earth. So when people talk about the speed of light, they are talking about really fast stuff. If the sun were to suddenly stop shining, it would take us just over eight minutes to notice

Race You to the Sun and Back! 
Mankind is trying to figure out how to replicate the kind of speed that light has.  Star Wars makes hyper-speed look awesome. Who wouldn’t want to try that out? The fastest spacecraft ever launched from Earth is NASA’s New Horizons.  New Horizons is traveling at 75,000 km/h (47,000 mph), meaning it would take 82 days to get from the Earth to the Sun—not exactly speed of light, but a whole lot faster than taking the bus.

Cosmic Measuring Tape
People keep telling Hap Hazzard that the universe is a big place, but how big is big? And how do scientists measure the universe?  I use a measuring tape when I want to figure out if a couch will fit in my living room, but scientists can’t exactly pull out their measuring tape and see how big things are. They had to come up with a different way to make measurements. Scientists use a method they call Parallax. Parallax means that scientists look at how much the stars move in the sky back and forth throughout the year as the Earth circles the Sun. If we take a picture while on one side of Earth's orbit, and then take another when we get to the opposite side of the orbit, then we have a large enough distance that we can see the stars parallax, and determine how far away they really are.

Jump Off The Earth 
When I was a kid, I wanted to jump off the earth and reach out so I could catch the tip of the crescent moon and hang there for a while. Think of the view! When I grew up a little, I realized that jumping off the earth required a little bit more than taking one big leap. Jumping off the earth requires something called escape velocity. Escape velocity is the speed you have to be going in order to make the earth’s gravity let you go entirely. To actually jump off the earth, you need to be traveling 11.2 kilometers per second or 25,950 miles per hour. I hope you took your vitamins because you’re really going to need a running start for this accomplishment. 

Can you see me now?
98% of the universe is invisible. The atoms that make up you, me, trees, bacteria, planets, and stars only tie up 4% of the mass of the universe. And we can only see half of that. That means we can only see 2% of the universe, and the rest is invisible.  What makes up the rest of the universe if it isn’t the atoms that are you and me and planets and stars? Dark Matter and Dark energy. All that empty space isn’t as empty as we thought it was. We know that dark matter exists because its gravity pulls on all those stars we can see. This invisible stuff takes up a lot of room in the universe.  Hap’s going to have to figure out how to deal with dark energy as he travels the universe finding the books of the nine unknown scientists. You could try to help him out and figure out what that dark matter is made of. If you do, all the scientists of all the nations in the world will be standing up to clap in your honor. You might even get a noble prize out of it.

That’s One Event I Don’t Want An Invite To
 When something extra special happens, we call it an event. But the event horizon of a black hole is nothing to celebrate.  The event horizon is the area surrounding a black hole where the gravity of the black hole overtakes the object caught within the event horizon. It is the point of no return. Even light can’t escape a black hole, and we’ve already talked about how fast light is. The gravitational pull of a black hole is stronger than anything we know of. Once something is caught in that pull, it’s not going to be able to get out again.

And the Winner is . . .
Jupiter has 63 moons—that’s a lot of rocks in orbit! Four of Jupiter’s moons are as big as Earth’s moon. They are called Lo, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. But one of Jupiter’s moons is in a huge hurry to get around the gas giant. Metis orbits Jupiter ever seven hours. Considering that Jupiter is so big it can hold 1300 planets the size of Earth inside it, that little moon has a long way to go in that seven hours! Run, Metis! Run

 Let’s Go Visit The Dinosaurs Before Dinner!
According to Einstein’s theory of gravity, time travel is totally possible. There are a lot of scientists who don’t agree, and they’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to prove Einstein wrong on this one, but so far haven’t been all that successful. Stephen Hawking says that if time travel were really possible, where are all the time travelers of the future? Maybe they just come to watch, but don’t want to interfere with our lives in case they mess something up and change the future. That could get pretty dicey.  Messing with time isn’t as much fun as one would think. In Ray Bradbury’s short story A Sound of Thunder, the main character steps off the path he was supposed to stay on for the safety of the future. When he returns to the future, everything has changed. Everything he loved and held dear was gone—replaced by things that scared him. He’d stepped on a butterfly while he was off the path. That one little butterfly changed the face of the future. So you might want to rethink visiting the time when the pyramids were being built—unless you can promise to stay off to the side and just quietly watch.

 I Am So Done With You, Galaxy
You’ve probably wished on a shooting star a time or two in your life. It’s awesome to be away from the city lights and see shooting stars, but what you see are not really stars. You’re seeing meteors entering earth’s atmosphere (which is still pretty cool). But there really are actual shooting stars. They’re called hypervelocity stars. And for whatever reason, these stars shoot out of their galaxies at the speed of 530 miles per second. That’s a star with somewhere to go in a hurry! Scientists figure that black holes or supernova explosions are responsible for these stars leaving their galaxies. 

Home Sweet Home
Earth is the top coolest thing in our universe and this isn’t just us being arrogant because it’s our home, but simply because it’s true. Our planet sustains life. People, bumblebees, frogs, monkeys, dogs, horses, dolphins, narwhales, butterflies, hummingbirds, bats, and sycamore trees. Yes, I know sycamore trees don’t really fit into the previous list, but they are alive. And we’re talking about life, and I like sycamore trees.  Life on Earth is amazing—a billion shades of totally awesome. We have water which sustains us and things growing at every level. From microbes to whales, from seedlings to the giant Sequoia. So far, we haven’t found another planet that can sustain life as we know it. It gives new meaning to the phrase, “There’s no place like home!”