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Snowy Ingleborough Copyright Pete Collins

Need more space? There’s plenty here

Wednesday 10 February, 2021, by Katy Foxford

The universe can be mind-boggling… so to boggle it further we have put together some fun and interesting dark sky facts which we hope might answer some of your questions about life beyond earth. Prepare to be amazed as you discover some truly cosmic data!

  • The International Space Station travels at 30,000km/hour around the Earth.
  • An aurora appears when electrified particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Most galaxies, including our own, are thought to have extremely massive black holes at their centre.
  • Stars die out in different ways… small stars tend to fade away gradually, but supergiants may collapse and cause a massive explosion. This is called a supernova.
  • Stars look like specks of light in the night sky, but they are actually huge balls of hot gas.
  • The Sun is a star. It looks much larger than the other stars because it is a lot closer to the earth.
  • As our planet is located within the Milky Way the galaxy only appears to us as a band of light.
  • Comets are collections of ice, dust and rock that orbit the Sun and, when they get close, they heat up and become more visible. There are approximately 5,000 known comets and, on average, one per year is visible to the naked eye.
  • Andromeda is our next closest large galaxy at 2 million light years from Earth. It can be seen without a telescope.
  • Evidence of past volcanic activity has been found on most planets in our solar system and on many of their moons. Possible volcanic activity has occurred on Mars, Venus, Pluto and Europa. There is a volcano on Mars three times the size of Everest.
  • There are two ice giants in the solar system – Uranus and Neptune. They are a different type of giant planet to Jupiter and Saturn.
  • Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system and it rains sulphuric acid.
  • The largest meteor showers are the Perseids, which peak in August, and the Leonids, which can be seen in November.
  • Twelve well-known groups of stars, called constellations, lie in the zodiac – the term used to describe the circle of 12 divisions of celestial longitude that are centred upon the path of the Sun. See if you can name them.
  • The universe is made up of countless galaxies of various shapes and sizes.
  • Planets are being discovered all the time and there have been many more discovered beyond the ones that exist in our galaxy.
  • Remains of a supernova explosion form a neutron star or a black hole. A supernova explosion can be brighter than a billion Suns.
  • Stars are made from hydrogen and helium gas. They differ in size, temperature, colour, brightness and amount of matter. There are red, yellow, white and blue stars.
  • Supergiant stars are blue and are the brightest and hottest stars in the sky, but not the biggest (though 500-1,000 times bigger than our Sun). The largest star could fit the sun in more than 3 billion times.
  • White dwarf stars are tiny and hot (smaller than our Sun). The Sun will eventually become a white dwarf.
  • Red giants are the coolest stars and 30 times bigger than the Sun.
  • Light from the faintest galaxy would take 13 billion years to reach the Earth.
  • The Milky Way is the name of our galaxy; it holds around 200 billion stars – including the Sun. It is estimated that it would take 6,000 years to count all the stars in the Milky Way – that’s one per second!
  • A galaxy is a collection of stars, gas and dust held together by gravity. A small galaxy can contain a billion stars and a large galaxy can contain a trillion. There are between 170 to 500 billion galaxies visible to us.

If these facts have piqued your interest and you want to learn more, we have a stellar line up of many free events and activities for you to get involved in as part of our 2021 Dark Skies Festival.

Picture of Katy Foxford

Katy Foxford

Katy is the Tourism Support Officer with the YDNPA


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