Page 7 - Science Facts

There is an asteroid that will alter the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun. Does that mean of 'one year' will change too?

Cruithne is an Aten asteroid in orbit around the Sun in 1:1 orbital resonance with Earth, making it a co-orbital object. It has been incorrectly called "Earth's second moon" in the past; however, Cruithne does not orbit Earth and at times it is on the other side of the Sun.

It takes Cruithne about 364 days to orbit the sun, almost the same amount of time it takes for the Earth to complete it's orbit of the sun. Because of this, it appears that the Earth and Cruithne follow each other around the sun and that is why it is sometimes erroneously referred to as Earth's second moon.

It takes slightly less than a year for Cruithne to complete it's path around the sun, which means Earth 'falls behind' a little more each year. Eventually, after many years, Earth would have fallen behind so much that Cruithne will be catching up from behind.

When Cruithne does catch up, it will make a series of annual close approaches to the Earth and gravitationally exchange orbital energy with Earth. This will alter Cruithne's orbit by a little over half a million kilometers and Earth's orbit will altered by about 1.3 centimeters. This will mean that it will take us a bit more than a year to orbit the sun.


One of the first known images of dark matter. Only about 4% of the universe is made up of what we consider regular matter!

The universe is full of mind-bending facts that are just a little tough to believe. At the top of that list is the fact that atoms are nearly all empty space (99.999999999%). What's that mean for us as humans? All the matter that makes up the human race could fit in a single sugar cube.

But doesn't that mean that because of that empty space, we could potentially walk through solid objects without colliding? Unfortunately not. When two atoms try to pass through each other, the electronic shells repel each other like two negatively charged particles. Essentially, everything that contains atoms has a strong negatively charged shell around it, repelling and preventing them from passing right through one another.

Only about four percent of the Universe's mass makes up everything (people, objects, planets, etc). The rest is made up of dark matter and dark energy, completely invisible to the naked eye. This stuff fills all the empty space and repulses gravity.

You may be thinking you've seen it all, but it turns out you can't see the vast majority of mass.


Pluto was discovered, named a planet, then stripped of its planet status long before it ever made one trip around the sun

For being the smallest "planet" in our solar system, Pluto has raised quite the controversy. Despite it's tiny size, it is the tenth-most-massive body that orbits our sun and the second-largest known dwarf planet after Eris. From the time it was discovered to moment it lost it's classification as a planet, it didn't even complete one revolution around the sun.

On February 18, 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered a possible moving object after nearly a year of searching. He did this by taking images of the night sky taken two weeks apart and then examine them for differences. The photos taken on January 23 and 29 of 1930, combined with a low-quality photo from January 21 confirmed the movement of the distant planet.

The Lowell Observatory reserved the right to name the new object and received over 1,000 suggestions from all over the world. The name Pluto came from the god of the underworld, which was proposed by an 11-year-old schoolgirl in Oxford, England.

Pluto's orbital period is 248 Earth years, with a chaotic, highly inclined orbit that differs from the rest of the planet. A single day on Pluto, or the time it takes to complete a rotation, is 6.39 Earth days, rotating at an axial tilt of 120-degrees.


Some awesome lists!

Even if Earth was the size of dust, the nearest star would still be nearly 200 miles away!

The size of not only the universe, but our very own solar system, never ceases to boggle the mind. For instance, if the Earth were the size of a mere speck of dust (about .01 centimeters) , the sun would still be 47 inches away, and the nearest star would be a whopping 198 miles away.

Scaling back to actual sizes, the distance from the Earth to the sun is an important measurement when talking about space. That distance is called a single astronomical unit, or AU. An AU is approximately 149,597,870,700 meters, or 92,955,807 miles. The AU is used to measure distances of all other celestial bodies such as planets and asteroids.

The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 250,000 AU away. That's 250,000 times farther from the Earth to the sun. However, when dealing with such large distances, astronomers use light-years, the distance light travels in a year, which is equal to 63,239 AU. Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light-years away from us. Quite the journey to explore our solar system neighbor!


A 'water world' planet has been discovered and it may contain 'hot ice' and 'super-fluid water'

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a new class of planet. It is a water world enshrouded by a thick and steamy atmosphere. The planet is larger than Earth. "GJ1214b is like no other planet we know of," said Zachory Bertha of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "A huge fraction of it's mass is made up of water."

Zachory Berta of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and colleagues made the observations of the planet GJ1214b.The planet is about 2.7 times Earth's diameter and was discovered in 2009. It weighs almost seven times as much as Earth and it orbits a red-dwarf star every 38 hours at a distance of 1.3 million miles. Its estimated temperature is 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Berta and his co-authors used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) to study GJ1214b when it crossed in front of it's host star. Calculations suggest that GJ1214b has much more water than Earth does, and much less rock. "The high temperatures and high pressures would form exotic materials like 'hot ice' or 'super-fluid water,' substances that are completely alien to our every day experience," Berta said.

GJ1214b is located in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus, and just 40 light-years from Earth. Therefore, it's a prime candidate for study by the planned James Webb Space Telescope.



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