19 Awe-Inducing Space Facts That Will Make You Feel Really Small

Earth really is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.

1. The sun makes up 99.8% of the mass of the solar system.

NASA/ESA / Via solarsystem.nasa.gov

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.

Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona / Via caelumobservatory.com

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.

3. We’ve found over a thousand planets outside our solar system just in the last 20 years.

ESO/M. Kornmesser / Via eso.org

At the time of publishing we were up to 1822 confirmed planets.

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.

6. It takes a photon, on average, 170,000 years to travel from the core of the sun to the surface.

But then just eight minutes to reach Earth after that.

7. But we wouldn’t be able to hear any sounds in space.

Warner Bros

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.

NASA/JPL / Via nasa.gov

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.

10. There’s a hexagonal cloud at Saturn’s north pole.

NASA/JPL / Via jpl.nasa.gov

It’s a six-sided jet stream that spans 30,000 kilometers (20,000 miles) across.

11. There’s an asteroid called Chariklo in our solar system that has rings, like Saturn.

ESO/L. Calçada/M. Kornmesser/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org) / Via eso.org

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.

12. Jupiter is two and a half times bigger than all the other solar system planets combined.

Basically it is huuuuuuuuuuge.

13. More solar energy reaches Earth’s surface in an hour and a half than we used in the whole of 2001.

NASA / ISS Expedition 13

14. If you fell into a black hole you’d get stretched out like spaghetti.

Alain r / Via en.wikipedia.org

It’s called, fittingly enough, Spaghettification.

15. Undisturbed, footprints would last forever on the moon.


Because there’s no wind or water to erode them.

16. A star was recently discovered that had been lost in the glare of a supernova for 21 years.

NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI) / Via hubblesite.org

The star and its companion, that exploded hiding it from view, are in galaxy M81, which is 11 million light years from Earth.

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.

18. A Mars-sized object probably crashed into Earth 4.5 billion years ago.

NASA / Via sservi.nasa.gov

This is the best idea we have for how the moon formed. The object would have chipped off a chunk of rock that became the moon, and made Earth’s axis tilt slightly.

19. We are all made of stardust.

NASA/ESA/HEIC and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) / Via nasa.gov

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.

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Kelly Oakes is science editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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