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10 Facts About the Universe You Probably Didn’t Know

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1. Hungry?

You can’t smell space directly, but astronauts report that their gear often smells like seared steak, hot metal, and arc welding fumes. Tasty! I’m gonna mig a medium-rare t-bone on some stainless steel right now.

2. Interstellar Ale, Anyone?

About 10,000 light-years away in the constellation Aquila,  there is an ethyl alcohol cloud 1,000 times larger than our solar system. A perfect pairing for that mig steak.

3. You just might be an alien

According to the late astronomer Fred Hoyle, we really do come from the stars. His theory stated that life, as we know it, actually formed in space, spreading throughout the entire universe, with some of that life falling to Earth. He also stated that evolution was influenced by comet-borne viruses that also fell here on Earth.

4. Cosmic speeding

Next time you’re pulled over for speeding, tell the cop that he was actually doin’ 62 million mph, or 100 million km/hr. That’s how fast the Milky Way Galaxy is spinning. It might get you out of a ticket (probably not).

5. Something’s Rotten in Puppis

5,000 light-years from here, the Rotten Egg nebula is really causing a stink. Sulfur is the element that gives that notorious rotten egg smell to anything that contains it. While you won’t be able to smell it for yourself, you can see this dying star in the southern part of the constellation Puppis.

6. Playing Chicken with Andromeda

The Andromeda galaxy is heading straight for us, and refuses to get out of the way. No need to prepare a hysteric(al) exit plan though–the collision itself won’t happen for another 3 billion years.

7. Talk about being in the Dark…

All known matter makes up only about 5% of the universe. Dark matter makes up about 27%, with dark energy comprising the remaining 68%. Some scientists are calling this dark energy quintessence, after the fifth element of the Greek philosophers. In spite of substantial research, scientists still know very little about dark matter or dark energy.

8. Now That’s a Diamond!

50 light-years from Earth, scientists have discovered the largest diamond in history. It’s about 4,000km in diameter with a core of 10 billion trillion trillion carats, or 1031 carats.

9. Cold Welding for Real

When in outer space, if you touch one piece of metal to another, they stick together. The only thing that may prevent this phenomenon is the oxide layer on metal brought from Earth. The vacuum of space is the key player here.

In the Feynman Lectures, Richard Feynman explained, “The reason for this unexpected behavior is that when atoms in contact are all of the same kind, there is no way for the atoms to ‘know’ they are in different pieces of copper. When there are other atoms, in the oxides and greases and more complicated thin surface layers of contaminants in between, the atoms ‘know’ when they are not on the same part.”

10. You Have (Inter)Stellar Vision

The Andromeda galaxy is so bright that you can see it with the naked eye, even though it’s 2.2 million light-years away.

What does Trump’s Presidency Mean for NASA?

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NASA has been left in the dark, or so it would seem since Trump’s inauguration as 45th President of the United States.

For NASA, the Earth Science division may be at risk of being defunded and turned over to other government agencies. NASA’s budget could also be adversely impacted as a result of Trump’s desire to cut taxes and implement sweeping cuts to government spending.

In either case, while the outlook may not be bleak for NASA, it’s a bit gloomy.

NASA’s Budget for 2017

Under a Continuing Resolution, current funding for all branches of government are extended until April 28th, 2017. As such, the Office of Management and Budget will limit expenditures for government programs to the lowest possible budget level proposed by the House, Senate, and White House for FY2017.

This is effectively a budget cut in its own right, one that will hamper NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, and Planetary Space programs. Earth Science funding, while increased when the FY2017 budget request was drawn up, may well see a major reduction or complete defunding under the Trump Administration.

Space Launch System and Orion

With private development of similar technologies by companies such as SpaceX, the SLS and Orion programs have been heavily criticized. In 2017, both divisions will see budget cuts that may further hamper NASA’s efforts in these two programs.

Commercial Crew Development

Started in 2010, this public private partnership was created to share the cost of restoring America’s ability to use its own rockets and launch from its own soil. While there are skeptics, this program is explicitly excluded from cuts in the FY2017 budget. This program has bipartisan support, with a hope that a market will emerge for the services this program is developing.

Planetary Science

While this division benefits from strong bipartisan support in Congress, that doesn’t mean it will see an increased budget. In fact, the FY2017 budget request plans to cut funding by $112 million, or 6.9%.

In light of the mostly successful missions to other planets in our solar system, the continuing pattern of cutting the Planetary Science division’s budget begs the question: Why? There is no clear or meaningful answer to be found at this time.

It seems that this division is meant to run on vision and dreams alone.

Earth Science Division

Under the Trump Administration, funding for this may be cut altogether, with NASA’s research and data being given to the North American Oceanic Administration (NOAA) or possibly the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Regardless of the details, one thing is certain: the earth science that thrived will be left to wither in the glare of the Trump Administration’s disregard for climate change and the science behind it.

Conclusion

Outside of the proposed budget cuts to Earth Science, little is known about where the Trump Administration stands with regard to NASA. Meanwhile, NASA continues to carry on, its path overshadowed by uncertainty in the first few weeks of Trump as President.

NASA Goes Rogue following Trump Directive

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“Houston, we have a problem.” The White House is Apollo 13, and we’re in trouble.

The Trump Administration is flipping switches and pushing buttons as fast as it can to halt climate science. Meanwhile, the White House spacecraft careens toward Earth in a spiral that could shatter the U.S. Constitution on impact.

The gravity of this is not lost on NASA.

On January 25th, @RogueNASA  was the third government agency to join the rogue ranks. On the same day, it tweeted:

“We cannot allow Mr. Trump to silence the scientific community. We need peer-reviewed, evidence-based research MORE THAN EVER now.”

The public has responded with over 867,000 @RogueNASA followers.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the rogue movement as a whole is that we, as Americans, are responding to it. We recognize something has gone horribly wrong in Washington, D.C., and that we need to correct the course of the Trump Administration, even if we aren’t sure how.

Some journalists have questioned the authenticity of these rogue Twitter accounts, and with good reason. Literally anybody can make up a rogue government agency account and start tweeting.

The imagination can easily run wild with possible scenarios, the next one even wilder than the last. The litmus test may be as simple as observing that, before the Trump Administration issued its directive intended to silence climate science, there were no rogue government agency Twitter accounts.

After the directive was issued, several of those Twitter accounts suddenly appeared. While some of the rogue accounts may have nothing to do with the agencies they appear to represent, a little critical thinking can help discern the authentic rogue accounts. If @RogueNASA is tweeting links to its own content and maintains a clear focus, it’s probably the real deal.

If, however, another rogue NASA account were tweeting some scientific links, then went off on some conspiracy theory tangent, then it’s probably an account that has nothing to do with the real NASA.

The fact that so many agencies have created rogue accounts should serve as warning that far more than climate science is at stake. While attempting to halt muzzle climate science, the Trump Administration may also be testing the constitutional waters to see just how far it can go without being stopped.

If the Trump Administration succeeds at censoring scientific data, it will set a precedent that allows the censoring of any person or organization the Administration perceives as a threat, whether real or imagined.

Such a precedent would effectively strip us of our First Amendment rights to free speech. Losing our ability to speak freely would have a devastating impact not only on science, but social discourse on important issues while outlawing dissent altogether.

The government employees who are resisting the attempts by the Trump Administration to silence them deserve to be applauded. They are risking their jobs to uphold not just climate science, but democracy and the Constitution upon which it is based. May we collectively find a way to steer the White House back on course and preserve the freedoms guaranteed by Constitution and its amendments.

How The Next Space Age Will Arrive with the Boeing CST-100 Starliner

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In classic science fiction, Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) stations were, at one time, a mundane reality for the transfer of goods and people onto spaceships far too large to land on Earth. Over the last few years, it seems that such science fiction will once again become science fact.

Even the names of the companies involved have sci-fi names: SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Virgin Galactic, just to name a few.

Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov, and other sci-fi authors probably smile knowingly from the other side, having seeded the clouds of the future with their own ideas about what was possible, even back then.

As part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, Boeing is currently building the next generation in spaceships, the CST-100 Starliner. Modelled after the Apollo space capsules, the Starliner is a little big bigger and can be reused up to ten times. Furthermore, it will be capable of landing on solid ground, using parachutes to slow the craft and airbags that deploy moments before it hits the ground, safely absorbing the energy of touchdown.

It wouldn’t do much good to design a 21st century spaceship without designing a 21st century space suit to go with it. These blue suits are lighter, slimmer, and loaded with space-age technology to provide optimal safety and comfort for crew members. They provide arm and shoulder joints that help maintain freedom of movement when the suit is pressurized. To top it off, there is a zip-on, zip-off helmet with compact headgear that looks strikingly similar to what fighter pilots wear.

That’s all well and good, but just exactly how is all of this going to bring in the next space age?

The approach of NASA and the private space companies seems to be ‘build it and they will come’. The hope is that, as various pieces of the Commercial Crew program are put in place, a market will emerge for the services offered.

One of the biggest barriers to all of this is the timeline in which this can be done. NASA is known to move slowly on these projects, often running behind.

To be fair, that’s not entirely NASA’s fault. There are a lot of other government agencies involved, and multiple layers of bureaucracy. On the other hand, private companies aren’t hampered by bureaucracy like NASA is.

This makes it possible for a company like SpaceX to have a viable commercial LEO station in place within a decade, along with low-orbit shuttles and crew. After the first station is established, and all the kinks are worked out, a second one will be built and deployed much more quickly, followed by a third, and so on.

Once it is recognized that LEO space transportation is capable of handling the transportation of goods and people, demand will grow quickly.

After the first-generation LEO technology matures, and costs are reduced, lower pricing will attract even more business, and with it, the new space age will be in full swing. It will be a much shorter step from that to building space stations throughout the solar system where research and testing can be conducted, and possibly even the mining of asteroids can begin.

Tiny Visitors from Outer Space found Hiding in Oslo and Paris

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Leave it to a musician. Not satisfied with edgy compositions orbiting the Harmonic Major modes, nor even his surrealistic art where the rocks have eyes, Jon Larsen’s mind went straight to the gutter. And there he found cosmic gold.

As a jazz composer and musician, Larsen travels around Europe playing jazz gigs on his classical guitar. An amateur astronomer, he also digs anything to do with space. Especially when it comes to gutters in his hometown of Oslo. It was there he first collected the muck in the gutters of buildings, made a slurry of it, then passed it over a magnet to catch anything that would stick.

Micrometeorites contain magnetite, a naturally magnetic form of iron oxide, which is also known as lodestone. Larsen struck a mother lode when he finished sluicing his mud. While examining what his magnet captured, he found several micrometeorites.

These little visitors have some unique features that form when they zip through Earth’s atmosphere at about 12km/second, (7.5 miles per second). While falling toward Earth, they become liquid globules, cooling into spheres. The minerals in them take on a striped appearance which makes them resemble  tiny marbles with diameters ranging from 300 to about 600 microns. 

For years, amateur astronomers claimed that they had found micrometeorites, but such claims were dismissed by professional astronomers. These claims of micrometeorites became an urban myth. Larsen’s efforts would eventually prove that this urban myth was actual fact, vindicating his fellow amateur astronomers’ claims that they had really found micrometeorites where they lived.

With overwhelming success at home, Larsen began collecting gutter samples in cities all over Europe, including Paris. Time and again, he found micrometeorites in the samples he brought back home.

To dispel the claim, once and for all, that micrometeorites were merely an urban myth, Larsen took his collection of about 500 micrometeorites to Imperial College, London and asked Matthew Genge and his colleagues to have a look. They analyzed 48 samples from Larsen’s collection and confirmed that they matched the composition of micrometeorites.

Micrometeorites tend to be high in olivine, a greenish semi-precious stone, and contain iron and nickel alloys. These alloys are rare in Earth-bound rocks because they oxidize rapidly in our atmosphere.

Most gutters are cleaned periodically, meaning that at least some of the micrometeorites collected are less than six years old. Some of these younger micrometeorites have a lot more stripes than older ones, suggesting that they arrived at an extremely high velocity.

Micrometeorite velocity is influenced by the pull of all the planets in our solar system. The change in composition may be due to a slight change in the planets’ orbits.  

Since that analysis, Dr. Genge and his colleagues have recognized that the gutters on the world’s buildings may well be a resource for micrometeorites that can be used for general study. While a certain urban myth may prevail in some parts of the web, we now know that it’s true–micrometeorites can be found right where we live.

It’s hard not to smile at the fact that it was a musician’s mind in the gutter that gave us something from the stars.

7 Fascinating Facts About the Last Man on the Moon

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On January 16th, 2017, astronaut Eugene Cernan passed away at the age of 82. Though not as well known as other famous space-goers, Cernan left behind an incredible legacy, including being the last person to walk on the moon.

In the spirit of preserving his legacy, and perhaps boosting his status in pop culture, here are five things you absolutely need to know about The Last Man on the Moon, Eugene Cernan.

He went to Purdue University

Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, has the honor of being the alma mater of two moonwalkers. Neil Armstrong graduated in 1955 and Eugene Cernan in 1956, which means not only was the college host to both the first and last man on the moon, but they both attended at the same time. Cernan received a degree in Electrical Engineering.

He was a Navy pilot

Cernan spent 20 years in the Navy, logging more than 5,000 hours of flying time and completing more than 200 aircraft carrier landings. He retired in 1976, having achieved the rank of Captain.

Third man to spacewalk

Eugene Cernan was only the third human being to ever perform EVA (extravehicular activity, commonly known as a spacewalk). During the Gemini 9A mission in June of 1966, he spacewalked for two hours, breaking the previous record of 21 minutes set by American astronaut Edward White.

First to use AMU

For use during his spacewalk in 1966, Cernan was outfitted with the first ever AMU (Astronaut Maneuvering Unit), which allows astronauts some mobility during spacewalks. On previous spacewalks, astronauts had no control over their movements other than holding onto a tether that would keep them from floating away.

However, due to fatigue and overexertion, Cernan was not able to employ the use of this new technology as the spacewalk was cut short.

Lunar land speed record

Eugene Cernan also has the distinction of holding the lunar land speed record. He and his crewmate, Harrison Schmitt, explored the Taurus-Littrow Valley for 22 hours, covering 35km during their Apollo 17 mission in December of 1972.

This mission not only broke the speed record, which they did by accelerating to 18km/h in the lunar rover, but is also the longest any astronauts spent outside of the lunar module.

Went to the moon twice

On top of everything else, he is one of only three people to have made multiple trips to the moon.

Along with the Apollo 17 mission, he served as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 10 in May of 1969, which was a dress rehearsal for the equipment that was going to be used on Apollo 11’s pioneering lunar mission. Although no landing was made, Cernan still piloted the module to within 15km of the lunar surface, coming closer than any other human had in the past.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would land on the moon two months later.

Apollo 10 speed record

Perhaps the coolest fact of all is that Eugene Cernan, Tom Stafford and John Young, have traveled faster than any other human beings in history.

Apollo 10 set the record of 39,897km/h for the highest speed ever attained by a manned vehicle.

A record which still stands to this day.

 

Neil deGrasse Tyson Totally Shuts Down Alien Conspiracy Theories

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During a recent appearance on The Jim Norton and Sam Roberts Show, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson took on alien conspiracy theories and the flaws inherent in their claims.

When co-host Roberts asked about reports people had given about being abducted, Tyson responded: “Though eyewitness testimony be high in the court of law, it is the lowest form of evidence in the court of science.” He continued: “If you go to a scientific conference and say ‘This is true because I saw it,’ they’ll just laugh you out of the room. Come back when you have a reliable and verifiable means of recording that information.”

Roberts went on to ask: “You’re not saying that alien abductions couldn’t happen but that you have no evidence?” Tyson clarified by saying: “The evidence that has been put forth as evidence is not convincing to a skeptic.

Roberts: “Could have been Aurora Borealis.”

Tyson: “It could have been actual aliens, but bring me an alien. Then we’re good.”

One of the show’s producers, Toy Quan, chimed in and told a story about three children in Zimbabwe who witnessed unexplained phenomena, and had their accounts of the event independently verified. Tyson responded by saying “In the era of the smartphone, we have such capacity to record, and I don’t see any better evidence than ever has been put forth. So, we can say the girls saw something, we don’t know what it is. That’s not enough evidence to convince a skeptic that they were actually visited by aliens.”

Quan defended his position by asserting that there has been “A lot of evidence of recorded, documented, unexplainable things in the sky.” Dr. Tyson responded by saying “Just because you can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it’s a visiting alien from outer space. You cannot say ‘I don’t know what that is, therefore it must be a visiting alien from outer space’. A period goes at the end of the sentence of ‘There’s something I can’t explain floating in the sky in front of me.’”

Co-host of the show, comedian Jim Norton, then asked Quan if he believed the truth is being covered up, to which Quan responded with an emphatic “Yeah.”

Tyson retorted: “What all conspiracy theorists have in common is there is a point where the data either don’t agree with what they already want to be true or there’s just an absence of data. And when they get to that point, they invoke the conspiracy. They’ll say it’s being covered up or withheld, or purposefully masked. There’s always some gapping going on in the data, and the gapping in every case is the assertion that there’s some powerful secret agency that is covering it up. I’m charmed that many people think it’s the US government. That is assigning a level of competence to the US government far beyond anyone who’s ever actually worked for the government will report to you about.”

Roberts asked Quan if he believed that was true or if the government was “up to some sh*t”. Quan responded by saying; “Yeah, I think they’re up to some shi*t.”

Tyson: “Don’t get me wrong, the government is always up to something. The government is always trying to keep a secret, the question is whether they will succeed in keeping the secret. Look at how much we knew about president Clinton’s genitalia. If there was ever a state secret, it would have been what he does with his, you know, where he puts it. But there it was, on TV!”

Quan went on to reference claims of a cover-up regarding a crash in Roswell, New Mexico, as well as statistics regarding similarities between people who claim to have been abducted, namely similar blood type and eye color.

Tyson: “All I’m saying is what you’re presenting and what you think is legitimate evidence simply isn’t, scientifically. And I’m not using different rules to apply to you than I would to any of my colleagues saying anything else about much less interesting things in the universe.” Tyson added: “If an alien has the power to cross the galaxy, it’s not going to show up to a farmer in the backyard or to five year old children. It’ll be a major thing that will go, unmistakably, down in history as an alien visitation.”

How Cosmic Catastrophes Enabled Human Life

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Certain disastrous events impacting our planet have actually created the precursors for human life or its evolution, rather than causing annihilating our species.

Significant evidence exists that dinosaurs were wiped off the face of the Earth as the result of a planetary asteroid strike, according to the Planetary Science Institute (PSI). This asteroid is believed to have been around six miles in diameter. It impacted Earth around 65 million years ago, and destroyed three-quarters of all life forms on the planet, including dinosaurs.

Meanwhile, the atmospheric ash resulting from the 1883 eruption of Mount Krakatoa lowered the planet’s temperature for an entire year.

Evidence for Asteroid Strike as Dinosaur Extinction Cause

The following are six lines of evidence for an asteroid strike as the reason that the dinosaurs became extinct, and allowing other life forms to thrive (per the PSI website):

  • The iridium excess in soil layers that are 65 million years in age have been confirmed by multiple researchers in many locations on the planet.
  • The same 65 million year-old soil layers have been shown to contain grains of quartz that were deformed by high shock pressures, as linked to what would occur in a massive explosion.
  • The same 65 million year-old soil layer contains enough soot to correspond to burning the entire planet’s forests which suggests that these soil samples were fire-impacted—as would occur following a massive explosion.
  • The same 65 year-old soil layer around the Gulf of Mexico and environs was shown to contain massive deposits of tumbled boulders—as would be generated by a large tsunami due to a massive asteroid strike on the planet.
  • In 1990, researchers identified the crater associated with the material found in the 65 million year-old soil layers, and it was carbon-dated to the same timeframe.
  • Astrophysicists estimate that a sizable asteroid strikes Earth once in approximately each 100 million years—which supports the theory that the massive asteroid strike did occur around 65 million years ago.

Had the dinosaur population continued to expand, it is doubtful that smaller mammals—including the primates that evolved into early humans—would have been able to survive.

Formerly, scientists believed that dinosaurs succumbed to the Ice Age. Meanwhile, an article in Science in 2016 provides additional evidence for the asteroid strike theory. Whatever the actual reason for their disappearance, dinosaur destruction was a positive development for the history of the human species.

The Chicxulub Cater – What Has Been Learned

A scientific team has been drilling into an asteroid-created crater off the shore of Progreso, Mexico. Its focus has been the crater’s “peak ring”, which was formerly undiscovered.

In 2015, the team was able to bring up to the surface a three-meter core surface; this section contained material that was found to be around 65 million years old—and providing further evidence of a massive asteroid at that time.

As of May, 2016, the scientists had drilled to a depth of 700 feet. Funded by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IOP), the involved scientists are embarked on exploring a section of this crater that was never before accessed.

5 Strange Space Facts You Absolutely Need to Know

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Is Pluto a planet?

Pluto has been the most controversial object in our solar system ever since it was discovered in 1930. Even after the discovery, nothing was really known about it until 1978 when the moon Charon was found. It was classified as the ninth planet, but many believed it to just be an asteroid jutting out from the Kuiper Belt.

The tricky thing about planets is that they’re difficult to classify from so far away. There are the rocky worlds (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars), the gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), but then there are many other large celestial objects orbiting our sun.

The problem is telling the difference between asteroids and planets, from hundreds of billions of kilometers away and with very little light. Pluto has since been reclassified as a dwarf planet, which is neither a planet nor a satellite, thanks in part to renowned astrophysicist and cartoon supervillain Neil deGrasse Tyson (he gets a lot of hate mail from small children).

The fact remains that there could be many more dwarf planets between Neptune and the Kuiper Belt waiting to be discovered, if only we could see them.

What makes planets rotate?

Have you ever wondered why planets rotate? No? Well, you should’ve. If you have, then you probably said something along the lines of “I get why planets revolve around the sun, but that doesn’t explain why they spin…” or something to that effect.

The short answer is angular momentum, most likely due to the shock wave from a supernova which collapsed the disk around our sun, breaking up into the planets we know and love today.

The momentum of that impact sent everything spinning, and due to inertia in space, things haven’t stopped since.

Fire in space

Here’s a fun fact, fire burns differently in space.

Fire on Earth is dependent on density, which causes gases to rise and oxygen to enter the fuel source, thus creating a flame. However, in the absence of gravity, gases don’t rise, which leaves the flame to burn in the shape of a sphere.

As part of NASA’s Flame Extinguishment Experiment, astronauts have observed that not only do fires in space require less oxygen and a lower temperature to burn, but in a few cases test fuels have continued to burn after flames have been put out.

In short, there is still much to learn about how fire works in space.

Biggest objects in the solar system?

Besides the planets, and that ugly stepchild Pluto, there are some pretty cool celestial objects in our solar system.

The dwarf planet Ceres, for instance, is 2,992km in circumference, making it more than half the size of Pluto. Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon with a circumference of more than 16,000km, is actually bigger than Mercury, making it the ninth largest object in the entire solar system.

Other large objects include Saturn’s moon Titan, Jupiter’s moons Callisto and Europa, and the dwarf planet Eris.

Biggest stars in our galaxy

We’ve covered the largest objects in our own solar system, now let’s talk about the biggest stars in our galaxy.

The largest star currently known is the Red Supergiant UY Scuti, which would, if placed in the center of our solar system, engulf the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter. It’s solar radii is 1,708, which is to say it has a diameter of almost 3 billion kilometers (for a point of reference, the diameter of Earth is only about 12,700km).

Another large star is VY Canis Majoris, a Red Hypergiant, which has a diameter of more than 2 billion kilometers. The next one is KY Cygni, another Red Supergiant, which has a solar radii of 1,420.

It’s hard to fathom how big these stars actually are, but to put it in perspective, if you were in a military jet flying over the surface, it would still take you nearly a thousand years just to go all the way around.

A (Very) Brief Primer on How Suns are Formed

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The Milky Way is thought possibly to contain as many as 400 billion suns.

Meanwhile, Earth’s sun—a G-type main-sequence star—is believed to have formed around 4.57 billion years ago, per a Universe Today article.

Furthermore, this recent article suggests that our sun resulted from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud. Following that collapse, one fragment began to rotate. Next, its central mass became accreted. After nuclear fusion precipitated an explosion, Earth’s sun was formed.

While the Earth has only one sun, scientists have identified planets with two or more suns in their orbits.

Key Facts About Earth’s Sun

Our sun—composed of hydrogen and helium—has a diameter of 864,000 miles, as determined by NASA. While 10,000 degrees F. (or 5,538 C.) at the surface, it is far hotter—at 27 million degrees F. (or 15 million degrees C.)—internally. Furthermore, its mass is 330,000-fold that of Earth.

Similar to other yellow dwarf (G2V) stars, our Sun  is white. We just perceive it as yellow due to the effect on electromagnetic field quantums—called photons—of the our planet’s atmosphere.

However, our Sun is neither the largest nor smallest star in our galaxy. Betelgeus, Rigel, and Aldebaran are far larger, and there are billions that are smaller. Notably, 99.86 percent of the mass of our solar system is occupied by our Sun.

The Orbit of Star 51 Pegasus and its Planet

More than 1,500 planets are known to orbit other stars, per the University of IllinoisPlanet Project.

In 1995, astronomers discovered a star orbiting around a single planet in the Pegasus constellation in our galaxy. Later, this star was named Star 51 Pegasus. At 50 light-years away from Earth, Star 51 Pegasus is 1.3 times more luminous than our Sun. However, its planet entirely orbits it in only around 4.23 days.

The following are three other stars with orbiting planets:

  • HD 10180 Hydri – believed to have 6 or 7 planets (in the Milky Way; constellation, Hydrus).
  • HD 210277 Aquarii – believed to have only one planet (in the Milky Way; constellation, Aquarius).
  • 47 Urasae Majoris – believed to have 2 planets (in the Milky Way; constellation,Ursa Major).

Planets that Rotate Around Two Suns

There are planets that rotate around two suns—termed circumbinary planets. The two known planets of this type are as follows:

  • Kepler 16b (Stars: Kepler 16A and Kepler 16B) – This planet with two suns is 200 light-years distance from Earth; its two stars are 20.5 million miles apart. It was discovered in 2011, per an article in 2016 in the Astrophysical Journal.
  • Kepler-1647b – Stars: Kepler 1647A an Kepler 1647B) – 3,700 light-years distance from Earth, and its complete orbit requires 1,107 days. It was identified by astronomers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in 2016, per NASA website.

The Aging Process of our Sun

The Sun is predicted by scientists to begin exhausting its hydrogen in approximately 5 billion years. Consequently, it will enlarge, and its helium will eventually burn into carbon. Eventually, it will be only a dead core composed of mainly carbon and oxygen.

According to LiveScience, the dying Sun—in 7-8 billion years–will turn into a “red giant”. At that point, it will vaporize Earth. However, three “Earth-like” planets were reported in Nature that are 40 light-years away, per CNN on May 2, 2016.

Therefore, it is possible that we, humans, may be living in a different galaxy by then!