8 Mind-Bending Facts About Outer Space

By: Jonny Hughes

From time to time, we all gaze up at the stars and wonder about outer space. It can be an incredibly mind-blowing, beautiful, fascinating, exciting and even scary place to think about, as it is so incomprehensibly vast and unexplored and it contains so many secrets. We seemingly discover new things about outer space each year and there have been some astonishing accomplishments in recent times, yet we have barely dipped our toes in the water. These out-of-this-world 10 facts are sure to make your next stargazing experience a truly mind-bending one.


8. If Two Pieces of the Same Metal Touch in Space, They Will Become Stuck Together

On Earth, if you were to touch two pieces of the same metal together you would simply be able to pull them apart, but this is not the case in outer space (provided they are perfectly smooth). On Earth there is oxygen in the atmosphere, which creates a very thin layer of oxidized metal, and this acts as a barrier between the two metals. There is no atmospheric oxygen in space, and consequently there is no barrier, so the two metals form a bond and become one. This is known as cold welding. This may sound like a complete nightmare in terms of spaceship construction and working on the International Space Station, but because the metals and tools will have come from Earth, it means that they will retain the coated layer and not become stuck together.

7. The Pistol Star is 10 Million Times the Brightness of the Sun

One of the most massive known stars in the universe is accepted to be the Pistol Star, which is located approximately 25,000 light years from Earth in the direction of Sagittarius, and is surrounded by the Pistol Nebula. The Pistol Star has a mass which is about 100-150 times that of the sun, and it is about 10 million times brighter too (making it one of the most luminous). It would be visible to the naked eye as a fourth magnitude star, but it is completely hidden from view due to interstellar dust. Despite this, 10% of its infrared light reaches this planet, and this makes it within reach of infrared telescopes. It is thought to have created the Pistol Nebula by expelling up to 10 solar masses of gas in giant outbursts around 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, but its exact age and future are unknown.

6. 99% of Our Solar System’s Mass is the Sun

The sun makes up an incredible 99.86% of the total mass in our solar system. Of the remaining percentage, 99% of this is made up of the four giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus). This leaves 0.002% for the remaining objects in the solar system, which includes little old Earth, the remaining terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus and Mars), dwarf planets, moons, asteroids and comets. This puts into perspective just how small Earth is in our solar system, but mainly just how breathtakingly dominant the sun is. It has a radius 100 times that of Earth, which means about one million Earths could fit inside the sun. Around three-quarters of the sun’s enormous mass is hydrogen (its main fuel), with the rest largely comprised of helium. There are then smaller quantities of heavier elements, such as iron, neon, carbon and oxygen.

5. You Could Fit All the Other Planets in Our Solar System Between Earth and Our Moon

In terms of outer space, we generally think that the distance between Earth and our moon is quite small. Amazingly, it turns out that you could fit the other planets in our solar system within the average distance between the Earth and moon. The average distance is 384,400 km or 238,555 miles, and the diameter of the seven remaining planets added together would leave 8,030 km or 4,990 miles to spare. This makes it a (relatively) tight fit, and is a remarkable statistic when you consider how large some of the other planets in the solar system are. It also makes you think about the distance between Earth and the other planets in our solar system, and just how vast space is. This statistic also makes you realize what an incredible job we have done in exploring our solar system, but equally how much more there is to discover.


4. There Are More Stars in the Universe Than There Are Grains of Sand on the Earth

The size of the universe is truly mind-boggling and difficult to comprehend. Astronomer Carl Sagan is famous for claiming that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on the world’s deserts and beaches, but this is, of course, difficult to prove. Many people do not take this as a fact, and instead just see it as a good way of describing how astonishingly big the cosmos is. Scientists went about conducting a study at the Australian National University to see if Sagan’s claims are in fact true, and after some mammoth and mind-melting calculations were made, they discovered that this was in fact the case. This is certainly something to think about next time you are relaxing on a beach somewhere, as it really puts into perspective just how vast and unexplored the entire universe is.

3. There is a Gigantic Body of Water Floating in Space

In 2011, scientists discovered the oldest and largest reservoir of water in existence, and it was found floating through space. The water is equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the oceans, and it could provide every single person on Earth a planet’s worth of water 20,000 times over. This is an almost incomprehensible amount of water, and it is particularly odd when outer space is generally considered to be a desolate and dry place. The water was discovered around a gigantic black hole that is in the process of sucking in matter, and spraying out enormous amounts of energy (known as a quasar). Water is created by the waves of energy knocking hydrogen and oxygen atoms together. This was found at a distance of 12 billion light years, meaning that this was occurring in the earliest times of the universe.

2. It Takes Around 230 Million Years For Our Solar System to Orbit the Milky Way

Everyone knows that it takes 24 hours for Earth to rotate on its axis and 365 days to orbit the sun, but we never hear much about a galactic year. This is probably because it is estimated to take a whopping 225 to 250 million years for our solar system to orbit around the center of the Milky Way. To put this into perspective, the Big Bang occurred around 61 galactic years ago, and dinosaurs would have been walking the Earth one galactic year ago. Dinosaurs were then wiped out 0.26 galactic years ago, with modern humans making an appearance “just” 0.001 galactic years ago. Some believe that in one galactic year, all the continents on Earth will have fused into a supercontinent. These breathtaking statistics put into perspective just how long the universe has been around, and are enough to make anyone feel slightly insignificant in the big picture.

1. All the Stars, Galaxies and Planets Only Make Up About 4% of the Universe

It may seem that we know a fair amount about outer space, but it is really just a penny in the ocean. All the stars, galaxies, planets and other matter that can be detected only make up 4%, with the other 96% being what cannot be seen, detected or even understood by astronomers. Twenty-three percent of the mass of the universe is called dark matter, and we know about this because its gravity pulls on visible stars and galaxies. This stuff is baffling enough, but 73% of the mass of the universe is dark energy, and this is something that scientists are stumped by. This has repulsive gravity, and is believed to be the reason that the universe is accelerating in its expansion, instead of expanding at the same rate throughout time or slowing down. This makes it one of the most baffling and mind-melting mysteries out there.