It’s easy for outer space to capture the imagination. When we stare at the heavenly bodies in the night sky, our minds go wild thinking about what’s up there. Our imaginations, however, have been influenced by some commonly held beliefs about space that just aren’t true.
There is much we still don’t know about space (and things that we don’t even know that we don’t know). Here are some facts about outer space that will give you a more realistic idea of what it’s like in the final frontier.
Myth 1: Mercury is the hottest planet.
Because Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, people just assume it’s the hottest planet. That’s not the case.
Venus is actually hotter because of the gas in its atmosphere. Mercury, at its hottest, will reach temperatures of 420 degrees centigrade. Venus’ surface temperatures never drop below 462 degrees centigrade. Venus may be closer to us than Mercury is, but we likely won’t be inhabiting either any time soon.
Myth 2: Earth is perfectly round.
In pictures, it certainly appears that our planet is perfectly round. This isn’t true.
Earth is actually flattened a little at the poles and gets a bit wider at the equator. Instead of being perfectly round and shaped like a baseball, the planet is actually sort of oblong and is shaped more like a potato.
Myth 3: A human in space without a spacesuit will explode.
We’ve all seen those scenes in movies where a human gets ejected from a spaceship only to explode without a spacesuit. That’s not what happens at all.
Without a spacesuit, you will die, but it will be a bit slower than an instantaneous explosion. Your lungs will keep working, but you won’t be getting any oxygen.
Myth 4: There’s a dark side of the moon.
Thanks to a well-known album by Pink Floyd, some people assume that one side of the moon never faces the sun. That’s not true.
The moon rotates on its axis just like Earth does. Amazingly, both the moon and Earth rotate at the same time, meaning only one side of the moon is visible here on Earth. But just like Earth, both of the moon’s sides get an equal amount of sunlight.
Myth 5: Earth gets closer to the sun in the summer.
Some people think that Earth gets closer to the sun in the summer and farther away in the winter. That’s not true.
We have seasons because Earth is tilted on its axis. When the tilt of Earth’s axis is closer to the sun, we get summer. That’s why the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere have opposite summers and winters.
Myth 6: Venus is Earth’s twin.
As we discussed earlier, Venus may look like Earth in pictures, but the planets are not the same at all.
The atmosphere on Venus is a dense carbon dioxide that makes the planet extremely hot, and it has clouds of sulfuric acid floating around that makes taking pictures of its surface impossible.