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24 Strange Things About the Universe: Part 1

August 18, 2014

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The universe is certainly a strange place … perhaps more strange than you know! From the pages of The 2015 Old Farmer’s Almanac, here are some fascinating pieces of trivia about our solar system and beyond!

24 Strange Things About the Universe: Part 1

  1. The slowest-spinning object in the known universe is the nearest planet, Venus. A person could walk faster than it rotates.
  2. The density of every neutron star is equivalent to what you would have after crushing a cruise ship until it’s the size of the ball in a ballpoint pen.
  3. The longest star name still in common usage is Libra’s Zubeneschamali. The shortest is Sun.
  4. Mid–19th century scientists found that sunspots increase and then fade out in an 11-year cycle. Other scientists knew that compasses strangely fluctuate in the same 11-year period, yet it was years before anyone put these ideas together and realized that the Sun intimately affects our world through magnetism.
  5. The large dark blotches on the Moon, called mares or seas, are all named for weather events (Ocean of Storms) or emotions (Sea of Tranquility).
  6. There’s a separate “Earth” inside our planet: Earth’s core is not liquid iron as was once believed, but a solid ball the size of Pluto—and it spins faster than the rest of our world.
  7. The Sun’s energy output every second is equivalent to the explosion of 91 billion 1-megaton hydrogen bombs.
  8. Astronomer Percival Lowell obsessively hunted for a ninth planet, “Planet X,” in vain. However, it was discovered from his observatory in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, and this is one reason that the name “Pluto” was chosen to honor Lowell. The first two letters are his initials.
  9. The rocky celestial body with the shortest lifespan is Mars’s moon Phobos. The closest moon to any planet, it will crash into the Martian surface in 10 million years.
  10. The first person who said that our planet moves was not Copernicus or Galileo. It was Aristarchus of Samos. This bearded genius was ignored for 18 centuries.
  11. On a scale model in which Earth is a dust mote, the Sun would be 1 inch away and the size of the period at the end of this sentence. The nearest star would be another period 4½ miles distant.
  12. The most common object in the universe (possessing mass) is the neutrino. These tiny particles are more numerous than anything else by far. A trillion neutrinos fly through each of your fingernails every second.

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