Page 4 - Science Facts

Saturn has a strange hexagon around its north pole. How did it form?

Our solar system is filled with a variety of different planets; from our closest neighbourMars, who appears to be mostly rock and dust, to the massive gas giant Jupiter. The furthest planet from earth is now Neptune after Pluto was demoted from planet status.

That being said, one of the most fascinating planets to orbit the sun in Saturn. At 95 times the mass of the earth, Saturn is not the largest planet, but it does boast being the least dense planet in the solar system. It is distinguished by its “rings” that are formed around the equator of the planet. These rings orbit the planet and are primarily made up of rock and ice particles.

Saturn also has 62 named satellites that orbit around it. Its largest satellite, Titan, is the second largest moon in the solar system, larger even that Neptune. It is the only satellite to have some sort of atmosphere.

In 1981, a strange hexagon shape was photographed at the north pole of Saturn by the passing Voyager space probe. The shape tantalised astronomers until it could be investigated in more detail by the Cassini probe in 2006.

The shape is believed to be a massive cloud formation with the shape being the result of huge disparate wind speeds in the cloud structure. The sides of the hexagon are longer than the diameter of the earth making this formation a truly massive cloud bank.

Saturn's north pole would appear to be the only place where the wind speeds and material viscosity are at the exact levels required to produce this kind of shape.

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An eclipse from space. Earth is the only known planet in the universe to have total solar eclipses!

Currently, our moon's diameter is approximately 400 times smaller than that of our sun; but it's also approximately 400 times closer. That means that, thanks to some great cosmic coincidence, we are the only know planet that can experience a total eclipse of the sun.

So what are the odds of this happening anywhere else? No one really knows, unfortunately. Only 893 planets have been discovered and named by astronomers so far, and our knowledge about their moons is equally sparse.

Based on our current knowledge of space, there may be millions or even billions of undiscovered planets, each of which may have one or more moons.

Ultimately, thanks to the vast numbers involved in the calculations, we can assume that some other planet, somewhere in the depths of space, also has the same size relationship between it's sun and moon — and maybe even intelligent life to view it!


The grand canyon full of clouds. Over 250 Million years of geologic data is missing from the canyon! Where did it go?

The Great Unconformity is the scientific name for the huge gap in the fossil record between the Cambrian era and pre-Cambrian times. It represents the loss of between 250 and 1200 Million years of geological information!

Unconformities occur when there are no rocks preserved from that time period, because no rocks formed or because all of the rocks from that period have eroded away. Little unconformities happen all over the place, pretty much all the time.

The Great Unconformity is different than these little unconformities for a few reasons: It is one of the longest known, almost everywhere in the globe exhibits it, and perhaps most importantly it divides the rocks with familiar fossils from those with no fossils or only fossilized bacteria.


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What made us human? Some scientists think that it has to do with our ability to cook food.

Humans are the only species on earth that cook food before eating. British primatologist Richard Wrangham argues that cooking food was a very important element in the process of evolving into humans. He argues his hypothesis in his book ‘Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human’ published in 2009.

According Wrangham Homo Erectus evolved about 2000 years ago because of this unique trait. Its evolutionary effect was profound because it increased food efficiency. This meant less time was spent on foraging, chewing and digesting food. Humans therefore developed a smaller digestive tract that worked much faster. In turn that freed up more energy and enabled larger brain growth.

Cooking required control of fire. This enabled out ancestors to stay warm and to defend themselves against dangerous predators. This helped them to establish a ground based lifestyle. He points out that humans have now become so evolved for eating cooked food that we would no longer be able to maintain reproductive fitness if we only eat raw food.

Critics of Wrangham’s theory question whether there is enough archaeological proof to support his view that cooking fires were used long ago enough to have pushed the evolution of the digestive tract to the extend that he describes it.


Johannes Kepler, one of the most important early astronomers, couldn't even see the stars!

People have been in awe of the stars since the dawn of time. Civilizations planned their lives, culture, and wonders around them. It wasn't until the last few centuries that humans took astronomy seriously with the invention of the telescope to see the heavens up close. Johannes Kepler was one of the greatest contributors to astronomy, but he couldn't see a single star or planet thanks to an illness.

Kepler was born in December of 1571 as a premature child in Swabia, a wine region in southwest Germany. At the age of seven months he became sickly with smallpox. It affected his vision bad enough that he would never see the stars he relied so much on as a firm believer in astrology.

He is best known as a mathematician, theorizing on the laws of planetary motion, a solid foundation for Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation. He lived in a time where church, science, and astrology were closely related, so he believed that God had created the solar system with an intelligible plan that could be deciphered through reasoning.

Though his theories of an intricate plan were off, his work and ideas created a strong foundation for generations of astronomers to come.



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