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Amazing facts about stars, space, planets and Universe:
• Twice during Mercury’s orbit, it gets so close to the Sun and speeds so much that the Sun seems to go backwards in the sky.
• Nicolaus Copernicus was the astronomer who first suggested that the Sun was the centre, and that the Earth went round the sun.
• The ideas of Copernicus came not from looking at the night sky, but from studying ancient astronomy.
• As the earth turns, the stars come back to the same place in the night sky every 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.09 seconds. This is a sidereal day star day).
• When Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon for the first time, he said these famous words: “That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.”
• From the moon, astronauts brought back 380 kg of Moon rock.
• During the moon landing, a mirror was left on the Moon’s surface to reflect a laser beam which measured the Moon’s distance from the Earth with amazing accuracy.
• The stars in each constellation are named after a Greek alphabet.
• The brightest star in each constellation is called the Alpha Star, the next brightest Beta, and so on.
• The distance to the planets is measured by bouncing radar signals off them and timing how long the signals take to get there and back.
• Spacecrafts have double hulls (outer coverings) which protect them against other space objects that crash into them.
• Manned Spacecrafts have life support systems that provide oxygen to breathe, usually mixed with nitrogen (as in ordinary air). Charcoal filters out smells.
• Spacecrafts toilets have to get rid of waste in low gravity conditions, Astronauts have to sit on a device which sucks away the waste. Solid waste is dried and dumped in space, but the water is saved.
• A comet’s tail is made as it nears the Sun and begins to melt. A vast plume of gas millions of kilometers across is blown out behind by the solar wind. The tail is what you see, shining as the sunlight catches it.
• The Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet smashed into Jupiter in July 1994, with the biggest crash ever witnessed.
• Giant stars have burned all their hydrogen, and so burn helium, fusing helium atoms to make carbon.
• The constellation of Cygnus, the Swan, contains the very biggest star in the known universe – a hyper giant which is almost a million times as big as the sun.
• Planet Uranus was discovered by William Herschel, who wanted to name the planet George, after King George III, but Uranus was eventually chosen.
• The first rockets were made 1,000 years ago in China.
• Robert Goddard launched the very first liquid-fuel rocket in 1926.
• Over 100 artificial satellites are now launched into space every year, a few of which are space telescopes.
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