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Space Trivia

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Aristarchus, a Greek astronomer living about 200 B.C., reportedly was the first person to declare that the Earth revolved around the Sun. His theory was disregarded for hundreds of years.

Arthur C. Clarke, in 1959, made a bet that the first man to land on the moon would do so by June 1969. United States' astronauts landed July 20, 1969.

As an astronomical observing site, Mauna Kea in Hawaii is ideal. Its atmosphere above the mountain is extremely dry, important in measuring infrared and submillimeter celestial radiation. It is also cloud-free. Its proportion of clear nights is among the highest in the world.

As of 1978, there were approximately 4,500 pieces of equipment revolving around the earth. About 900 of these pieces were satellites, and the rest were added bits of debris.

As of May 2000, forty planets outside our solar system have been discovered since 1995. Most of these planets are as large as or larger than Jupiter, our solar system's biggest planet. Only three have been found smaller than Saturn, the second largest planet orbiting our Sun.

As recently as half a century ago, there was no clear understanding as to why the Sun shines. The discovery that it is due to nuclear-fusion reactions was not made until the 1930s, by Hans Beth and Carl von Weizsacker.

Asteroids smaller than 600 feet across entering Earth's atmosphere burn away and lose most of their energy before hitting our planet. But even these smaller objects can cause devastation. A small asteroid exploded in the air in 1908 near the Tunguska River in Siberia. The resulting shock wave flattened 800 square miles of forest. The detonation's force was estimated to have been 1,000 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb.

Astronaut and moon-walker James Irwin's NASA name tag, coated with lunar dust, sold at auction for $310,500. The cloth keepsake, a 6- by 12-inch rectangle, was cut from the insulated jacket worn by Irwin during the 1971 flight of Apollo 15. Lunar dust, which created a dark gray tint around the tag's edges, became embedded into the tag during three separate moonwalks Irwin took. His jacket and other equipment were left on the Moon to lighten the spacecraft's load on the return trip home, but Irwin cut out and kept his NASA tag as a memento.

If you attempted to count the stars in a galaxy at a rate of one every second, it would take around 3,000 years to count them all.

If you drove a car from Earth at a constant speed of 100 miles per hour, it would take about 221,000 million years to reach the center of the Milky Way.

If you traveled to Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to Earth (outside our solar system), the Sun would appear to you to be a bright star in the constellation of Cassiopeia.

In 1066, Halley's comet appeared shortly before William the Conqueror invaded England. The Norman king took it as a good omen; his battle cry became "A new star, a new king."

In 1845, the third Earl of Ross, a wealthy amateur astronomer, built the world's largest telescope on his Ireland estate. The earl's reflecting telescope had a 72-inch metal mirror, and was suspended between two ivy-covered stone walls.

In 1937, the tiny asteroid Hermes passed uncomfortably close to Earth, at a distance of less than twice that of the moon.

In 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, married Andrian Nikolayev, also a cosmonaut. Their daughter, Elena, born in 1964, was the first child in history born to a mother and father who had both traveled in space.

In 1977, the Voyager 1,2 photographed the first images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

In 1981, "M&M's Chocolate Candies were chosen by the first space shuttle astronauts to be included in their food supply. "M&M's are now on permanent display at the space food exhibit of the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C..

In 1984, Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan became the first woman astronaut to walk in space.

Astronaut John Glenn ate the first meal in space when he ate pureed applesauce squeezed from a tube aboard Friendship 7 in 1962.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon with his left foot

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