WTF Fun Fact 13549 – Australia is Wider than the Moon

It’s hard to get a handle on just how big some land masses are – but while we know the land down under was big, we were still surprised to find out that Australia is wider than the moon! Of course, they’re not the same shape, so that makes a difference in terms of their size.

Australia is Wider than the Moon – With a Caveat

When discussing Australia’s vastness, people often mention its sweeping deserts, extensive coastline, and large metropolises. But a fact that frequently catches many off guard is that, in terms of width, Australia is wider than the moon.

The moon’s diameter measures about 3,474 kilometers. It might seem massive when you gaze up on a clear night, especially considering it’s over 384,400 kilometers away from Earth. But in terms of sheer size, it’s modest compared to some of the celestial bodies in our vast universe.

Australia’s Impressive Span

Stretching from its westernmost point of Steep Point in Western Australia to its easternmost tip at Cape Byron in New South Wales, Australia boasts a width of approximately 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles). This makes Australia over 500 kilometers wider than the moon. It’s an astonishing fact, given that the moon appears so dominant in our night sky.

Drawing from NASA’s data, the moon’s equatorial diameter measures at 3,476 km (2,159 miles). But this comparison demands further nuance.

The moon’s form is spherical, making it a three-dimensional entity. Australia, while vast, exists more like a two-dimensional plane on the surface of the Earth. This distinction is crucial. While Australia’s width might surpass that of the moon, the moon’s total surface area, encompassing 37.94 million square kilometers (14.65 million square miles), vastly exceeds Australia’s land area.

Perception vs. Reality

One might wonder, if Australia is wider than the moon, why does the moon appear so large in our sky? The answer lies in perception. The moon orbits Earth at a relatively close distance, making it appear larger to us. Additionally, phenomena like the “moon illusion,” where the moon appears larger near the horizon than when higher in the sky, can further skew our perceptions.

On the other hand, it’s challenging for our minds to grasp the true expanse of Australia. Most people experience countries piece by piece, city by city, or via maps that sometimes distort scale due to their projection. Thus, the full breadth of Australia’s landscape is not always immediately evident.

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Source: “Is Australia Wider than the Earth’s Moon?” — Snopes

WTF Fun Fact 13494 – John Wilkins’ 17th-Century Moon Mission

The first “moon mission” was dreamed up in the 17th century by a clergyman named John Wilkins.

Though the technologies of his time were rudimentary, Wilkins’ imagination and theories displayed a unique combination of audacity and scientific curiosity.

Early Life and Philosophical Leanings

John Wilkins was born in 1614. He was an Anglican clergyman and a founding member of the Royal Society, a body dedicated to the promotion of natural science. Wilkins was a polymath with interests ranging from theology to mathematics and cryptography. These varied interests equipped him with a unique perspective when it came to observing and understanding the cosmos.

John Wilkins’ Plurality of Worlds

Central to Wilkins’ astronomical ideas was the belief in a “plurality of worlds.” This concept was embraced by several thinkers of the era. It postulated that planets and celestial bodies, including the moon, were worlds much like Earth.

By this logic, the moon wasn’t just a shining orb in the sky. It was a place with landscapes, atmospheres, and perhaps even inhabitants. This revolutionary idea was radical and contrary to the predominant geocentric worldview upheld by many in the church.

In 1640, Wilkins published “A Discourse Concerning a New World and Another Planet.” In it, he explored the feasibility of humans traveling to the moon and other planets. He argued that if the moon were a world similar to Earth, humans should be able to travel there. Given the technological constraints of the 17th century, this was a bold proposition. His methods, in hindsight, were understandably primitive.

John Wilkins and the Flying Chariot

Wilkins believed that a “flying chariot” could take humans to the moon. This vehicle would be propelled by wings attached to it, a bit like the way birds fly. He theorized that the chariot’s wings would require less flapping the further it got from Earth due to the thinning atmosphere.

Additionally, he speculated on the absence of gravity in space. He noted that as one ascended, the pull of Earth’s gravitational force would diminish, making it easier to move around. Though rudimentary, such thoughts were a precursor to our modern understanding of the vacuum of space and microgravity environments.

Of course, not everyone was taken in by Wilkins’ ideas. His contemporaries raised various objections. Some focused on the theological implications. If there were beings on other planets, how did they fit into the Biblical narrative? Others doubted the physical feasibility. How would one breathe? How could wings work in the vacuum of space?

Wilkins tackled these questions head-on. He hypothesized that space wasn’t entirely devoid of air. Instead, the atmosphere thinned out but never completely disappeared, providing just enough air for breathing.

Legacy and the Dawn of Space Exploration

Though Wilkins’ moon mission ideas were not actualized in his lifetime, his speculations played a pivotal role in sparking interest in interplanetary exploration. His works represented a significant shift from purely observational astronomy to a more practical, exploration-driven approach.

Space exploration took another three centuries to become a reality. However, the philosophical and theoretical foundation was set in Wilkins’ era.

His thoughts, radical as they were, underscore the human spirit’s relentless quest for knowledge and exploration.

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Source: “The 17​th​-Century Moon Mission That Never Got Off the Ground” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13373 – Moon Garden

Sometimes it takes shedding a little moonlight on your garden to give it a magical quality. To fully appreciate the ethereal allure of the night, garden enthusiasts have embraced the concept of the moon garden.

These specially designed spaces are adorned with a selection of plants that come alive in the moon’s gentle glow, offering a captivating sensory experience after dusk.

Why build a moon garden?

The idea behind moon gardens is to create a place outdoors that naturally shines under the soft light of the moon. Sure, sunlight showcases vibrant colors, but moonlight can reveal delicate hues, silhouettes, and textures that go unnoticed during the day.

Moon gardens capitalize on subtleties, creating a serene and contemplative atmosphere for those seeking a different kind of garden experience.

When planning a moon garden, it’s essential to consider plants that thrive in low light conditions and reflect the moon’s glow. White or pale-colored flowers, for instance, take center stage in these nocturnal spaces.

What to plant in your nighttime landscaping

There are plenty of plants to choose from for a night garden. Blossoms such as white roses, moonflowers, evening primroses, and jasmine emit a sweet fragrance to enhance your sensory journey.

The foliage in moon gardens is equally important, as it provides contrasting textures and shapes. Plants with silver or gray leaves, like lamb’s ear or dusty miller, stand out under the moonlight. Other options include plants with variegated foliage, which adds visual interest even when the moon is hidden behind clouds.

To enhance the atmosphere, moon garden enthusiasts often incorporate plants with night-blooming flowers. One such example is the night-blooming cereus, a cactus species that displays stunning white flowers only after the sun sets. Another favorite is the angel’s trumpet, a fragrant flower that releases a sweet scent in the evening hours.

Adding more senses

Besides the visual and olfactory delights, moon gardens also embrace the symphony of sounds that come alive at night. The gentle chirping of crickets, the occasional hoot of an owl, or the rustling of leaves can all contribute to the ambiance. So, including elements like a small water feature or wind chimes can amplify the auditory experience, creating a soothing and meditative environment.

Moon gardens are not limited to plants alone. The hardscape elements play a crucial role in enhancing the overall atmosphere. A white or pale-colored pathway, for instance, provides a radiant contrast against the dark soil, guiding visitors through the garden. Stone or marble sculptures, strategically placed under moonlight, evoke a sense of mystery and invite contemplation. Another popular feature is the inclusion of reflective surfaces, such as mirrors or metallic accents.

These elements capture and amplify the moonlight, adding a touch of shimmer to the garden. Illumination through softly lit lanterns, solar-powered lights, or strategically positioned candles can enhance the dreamlike quality of the moon garden.

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Source: “Night Blooming Plants for Moon Gardens: White Flowers That Shine in the Moonlight” — The Spruce

WTF Fun Fact 13369 – Bombing the Moon

During the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, when tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were at their peak, a truly audacious plan was proposed: bombing on the moon. This controversial proposal was known as “Project A119.” It was a testament to the extreme lengths humanity was willing to go to demonstrate power and assert dominance during this era.

The origins of Project A119

Project A119 was a top-secret plan devised by a group of American scientists. They were led by physicist Leonard Reiffel, who worked under the direction of the United States Air Force. The primary motivation behind the project was to showcase American technological prowess and military superiority to the world, particularly the Soviet Union.

The plan involved launching a nuclear bomb toward the moon, targeting its unexplored far side. The idea was to create a massive explosion visible from Earth, serving as a display of military might. The bomb would have been equivalent in power to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Why bombing the moon didn’t work out

Despite the audacity of the plan, scientists involved in Project A119 recognized the potential scientific value of the lunar explosion. They believed that the blast could reveal valuable information about the composition of the moon’s surface and the nature of lunar craters.

Although Project A119 was seriously considered, it never came to fruition. Concerns over the potential risks associated with the mission played a significant role in the project’s abandonment. No one knew what the consequences of bombing the moon might be.

The proposal to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moon speaks to the extreme mindset prevailing during the Cold War. It reflects the fervent desire of both the United States and the Soviet Union to showcase their technological advancements.

The plan’s abandonment highlights the importance of responsible decision-making. It’s also a testament to considering the potential environmental impacts and long-term consequences that such actions could have on Earth.

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Source: “The crazy plan to explode a nuclear bomb on the Moon” — BBC

WTF Fun Fact 12665 – The Initials On the Moon

Eugene Cernan walked on the moon twice, during the Apollo 10 and Apollo 17 missions. The Apollo 17 mission, which took place from December 7–19, 1972 was NASA’s final Apollo mission and the last time a human was on the moon. Cernan boarded last, making him the last man to set foot on the moon’s surface.

During Apollo 17, Cernan and his fellow astronaut, Harrison Schmitt spent 22 hours and 6 minutes outside, and they still hold the record for the longest extravehicular activity on the moon.

Cernan then drove the lunar rover about a mile away from the takeoff site so it could photograph the ship’s take-off the following day. Before he walked back to the lunar lander, he wrote in his autobiography that he knelt by the rover and drew his daughter Tracy’s initials into the moon dust.

Cernan spoke these words as he climbed into the lunar lander and left the moon:

As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

The crew returned safely to Earth on Dec. 19, 1972. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Eugene Cernan: Last Man on the Moon” —

WTF Fun Fact 12639 – Prosecuting Space Crime

Pretty soon, it may be illegal for Canadian astronauts to go on crime sprees in space.

Now, we’re pretty sure that’s not why Canadians become astronauts in the first place, but apparently, you can never be too careful.

So, what’s this all about? Well, Canada just proposed an amendment to the country’s Criminal Code in their no-doubt riveting 443-page Budget Implementation Act in the House of Commons. It basically states that any crime committed in space by Canadians will be considered to have been committed on Canadian territory and punished accordingly. In other words, if you commit moon murder as a Canadian, you better not come back.

Interestingly, Canada has been preparing for space crime for a while now. Their Criminal Code already lays out prohibitions on crimes Canadian astronauts may commit during space flight to the International Space Station. accounts for astronauts who may commit crimes during space flights to the International Space Station.

Canada is part of the Lunar Gateway Project, a NASA-backed orbiting space platform. Part of that plan includes a trip to the moon, and apparently, the government wants to make sure Canadians maintain their reputation for being polite even among extraterrestrials.

The proposed code change reads:

“A Canadian crew member who, during a space flight, commits an act or omission outside Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an indictable offense is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada.”

There are two interesting questions at play here – 1) who controls space justice, and 2) what gives a country the right to say space in their territory for prosecutorial purposes?

If you think space crime is absurd, there have already been accusations that have raised questions (however, no crime actually occurred). In 2019, astronaut Anne McClain was accused by her estranged spouse, Summer Worden, of improperly accessing bank records from the International Space Station. But McClain was later cleared after her spouse admitted to lying.

Still, it made people wonder how we might prosecute crimes in space, where no one technically owns territory (yet) and no one has jurisdiction.

Now, we already have some guidelines for international space law, believe it or not. According to CBC News:

“‘There are five international treaties governing activities in space but the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, ratified by Canada and more than 100 other countries, is the most relevant when it comes to dealing with alleged crimes in space, wrote Danielle Ireland-Piper, an associate professor of constitutional and international law at Australia’s Bond University. ‘As for the question of who prosecutes space crimes, the short answer is that a spacefaring criminal would generally be subject to the law of the country of which they are a citizen, or the country aboard whose registered spacecraft the crime was committed.'”

But things might be different if the astronaut-on-astronaut crime occurs between two different nations. In that case, there might be some disagreement about which country is able to prosecute the space offender. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Crimes on the moon could soon be added to Canada’s Criminal Code” — CBC News

WTF Fun Fact 12451 – The Bishop of the Moon

Archbishop William D. Borders was the founding bishop of the Diocese of Orlando, established in 1968. It covered 13 counties and nearly 10,000 square miles of central Florida. And possibly the moon.

Now, the Catholic Church has made no claim at all to the moon, but Borders’ territory happened to include Brevard, Florida, home to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that is where the U.S. launches its space missions.

At the time of the moon landing in July of 1969, many religious leaders praised the space program, seeing it as proof that God’s creation was neverending.

But for Borders, the moon landing was a little more personal. According to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (aka The Pio-Benedictine Code), which was in effect until 1983, any newly discovered territory was to be placed under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the expedition that discovered that territory originated.

In other words, since the Apollo 11 mission launched from Cape Canaveral and that was in Borders’ territory, it was technically under his jurisdiction. A couple of other bishops joked that they might have dibs, but it was all in good fun.

In fact, to keep the joke going, Bishop Borders mentioned this to Pope Paul VI on a visit to the Vatican in late 1969. The pope had watched the moon landing with great interest (the Vatican has one of the best observatories in the world), but we’re not quite sure what he thought of the claim.

The story of their meeting comes to us via Renae Bennett, Orlando’s diocesan archivist, who wrote:

During his visit, Bishop Borders mentioned to the pope that he was the ‘bishop of the moon.’ Responding to the pontiff’s perplexed reaction, Bishop Borders explained that according to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (in effect at that time), any newly discovered territory was placed under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the expedition that discovered that territory originated. Since Cape Canaveral, launching site for the Apollo moon missions, was in Brevard County and part of the Diocese of Orlando, then in addition to being bishop of 13 counties, he was also bishop of the moon,” Bennett wrote. That would add more than 14.6 million square miles to the Diocese of Orlando, making that diocese the largest in the known universe.”

Of course, it all means very little, but that’s what makes it a fun fact.

Another fun fact: This would all make the current Bishop of Orlando, John G. Noonan, not only bishop of the moon but also of the International Space Station, which launched from Kennedy Space Center. – WTF fun facts

Source: “A Catholic bishop of the moon?” — The Catholic Weekly