1. The sun makes up 99.8% of the mass of the solar system.
In case you were wondering, that’s 1,989,100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg.
All the other planets, moons, asteroids, and every other bit of matter, including all of the people on Earth, fit into the remaining 0.2%.
2. There’s a gas cloud in the constellation of Aquila that holds enough alcohol to make 400 trillion trillion pints of beer.
The amount of ethanol was measured in 1995 by British scientists. They found over 30 other chemical compounds in the cloud, but alcohol was the main one, the lead scientist on the study told the New York Times.
4. Interstellar space sounds kind of eerie.
Voyager 1 recorded the sound of dense plasma vibrating in interstellar space in 2012 and 2013. Play the video to listen to it.
5. All the other planets in the solar system could fit between Earth and the moon.
Here’s the maths:
Earth-moon distance (384,440km) – [diameter of Mercury (4879km) + diameter of Venus (12,104km) + diameter of Mars (6771km) + diameter of Jupiter (138,350km) + diameter of Saturn (114,630km) + diameter of Uranus (50,532km) + diameter of Neptune (49,105km)] = 8069km.
7. But we wouldn’t be able to hear any sounds in space.
Voyager managed to record the above eerie interstellar space noises with its plasma wave instrument, but because gas is much less dense in interstellar space we wouldn’t be able to hear the sound out there ourselves.
“If a sound wave was travelling through a big gas cloud in space and we were out there listening, only a few atoms per second would impact our eardrum, and we wouldn’t be able to hear the sound because our ears aren’t sensitive enough,” says Lynn Carter in an answer at Cornell University’s Ask An Astronomer site.
8. Saturn’s rings sort of vanish every now and then.
Once every 14 to 15 years Saturn’s rings are edge-on as seen from Earth. They’re so thin, relative to how big Saturn is, they seem to disappear when this happens. (Don’t worry, they don’t actually go anywhere.)
9. Saturn has a huge extra ring that was only discovered in 2009.
The ring starts about 6 million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from Saturn and goes on for 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles), making it as wide as almost 300 Saturns side by side.
Saturn’s moon Phoebe orbits within the ring, and astronomers think it’s the source of the ring’s material.
11. There’s an asteroid called Chariklo in our solar system that has rings, like Saturn.
This is an artist’s impression of the asteroid, which has two dense and narrow rings. It’s the fifth solar system object we’ve found with rings, after Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus.
17. Dung beetles can use the Milky Way to navigate.
Birds, seals and humans are known to use stars to navigate, but African dung beetles go one step further by using the whole galaxy, rather than individual stars, to make sure they are travelling in a straight line. Scientists noticed that the beetles are able to move their dung balls in a straight line when the sky is clear, but can’t when it is overcast. They confirmed their Milky Way hypothesis in planetarium experiments.
19. We are all made of stardust.
After the big bang, tiny particles came together to make hydrogen and helium. Then, in the super dense and hot centres of stars, these elements fused together to make all the elements up to iron. Iron, and anything heavier than it (like nickel and gold), must have been made in high energy reactions as a star exploded at the end of its life.