WTF Fun Fact 13677 – A Day on Venus

A day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus. Yes, you read that right. But before your brain does a somersault trying to wrap itself around this fact, let’s break it down into bite-sized chunks.

A Long Day on Venus

First off, let’s talk about planetary rotation. A rotation is how long it takes for a planet to spin once around its axis. For Earth, that’s what gives us a 24-hour day. Venus, on the other hand, takes its sweet time. It rotates once every 243 Earth days.

That’s right. If you were standing on Venus (ignoring the fact that you’d be crushed, suffocated, and cooked), you’d experience sunlight for about 116.75 Earth days before switching to an equal length of pitch-black night. That’s one slow spin, making its day extraordinarily long.

Orbiting on the Fast Track: Venus’s Year

Now, flip the script and consider how long it takes Venus to orbit the Sun, which is what we call a year. Venus zips around the Sun in just about 225 Earth days. This is where things get really interesting. Venus’s year (its orbit around the Sun) is shorter than its day (one complete rotation on its axis).

Imagine celebrating your birthday and then waiting just a bit longer to witness a single sunrise and sunset.

The Why Behind the Sky: Understanding the Peculiar Pace

So, why does Venus have such an unusual relationship with time? It all comes down to its rotation direction and speed. It’s is a bit of a rebel in our solar system; it rotates clockwise, while most planets, including Earth, rotate counterclockwise. This is known as retrograde rotation.

Scientists have a few theories about why Venus rotates so slowly and in the opposite direction. One popular theory is that a massive collision early in the planet’s history could have flipped its rotation or altered it significantly. Another theory suggests gravitational interactions with the Sun and other planets over billions of years have gradually changed its rotation speed and direction.

Regardless of the cause, Venus’s leisurely pace and quirky orbit give it the unique distinction of having days longer than its years. This fact not only makes Venus an interesting topic of study for astronomers but also serves as a fascinating reminder of the diversity and complexity of planetary systems.

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Source: “Interesting facts about Venus” — Royal Museums Greenwich

WTF Fun Fact 13676 – We Can’t Burp in Space

People can’t burp in space.

Now, you might wonder, why on Earth (or rather, off Earth) can’t astronauts do something as simple as burping? It boils down to gravity, or the lack thereof.

Why We Can’t Burp in Space

Here on Earth, gravity does a lot of work for us without us even noticing. When you eat or drink, gravity helps separate the liquid and gas in your stomach. The solids and liquids stay at the bottom, while the gas, being lighter, floats to the top. When there’s enough gas, your body naturally expels it as a burp. Simple, right?

But, take gravity out of the equation, and things get a bit more complicated. In space, there’s no up or down like here on Earth. This means that in an astronaut’s stomach, gas doesn’t rise above the liquid and solid. Instead, everything floats around in a mixed-up blob.

If an astronaut tries to burp, they’re not just going to expel the gas. No, they might bring up some of the liquid and solid matter too. Not exactly pleasant, and definitely something you’d want to avoid.

NASA Burp Training

NASA, being aware of this, actually trains astronauts on how to eat and drink in a way that minimizes the chances of needing to burp. They choose foods that are less likely to produce gas. Also, space food is designed to reduce crumbs and loose particles, which can be a nuisance in microgravity. Even with these precautions, though, the human body can still produce gas, thanks to the digestion process.

So, what happens to all that gas if it can’t come out as a burp? Well, it has to go somewhere. The body adapts in interesting ways. The gas might get absorbed into the bloodstream and expelled through the lungs. Or it might travel through the digestive tract and leave the body as flatulence. Yes, astronauts can still fart in space, which, without gravity to direct the flow, might be a bit more… interesting.

This isn’t just a quirky fact about space travel; it has real implications for astronaut health and comfort. Gas build-up can cause discomfort, bloating, and even pain. In the confined, zero-gravity environment of a spacecraft, managing these bodily functions becomes crucial for maintaining the well-being and harmony of the crew.

Bodies in Space

It’s funny to think about, but this no-burp scenario highlights a broader point about space travel. Living in space requires us to relearn and adapt basic bodily functions. Everything from sleeping to eating to going to the bathroom is different up there. Astronauts undergo extensive training to prepare for these challenges, learning how to live in a world without gravity’s guiding hand.

In the grand scheme of things, the inability to burp is just one small part of the vast array of adjustments humans must make to thrive in space. It serves as a reminder of how finely tuned our bodies are to life on Earth, and how much we take for granted the invisible forces that shape our everyday experiences.

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Source: “Ask an Explainer” — Smithsonian Institution

WTF Fun Fact 13629 – NASA’s Lost Tool Bag

In the vast emptiness of space, a lost tool bag from a NASA spacewalk has become an unlikely stargazer’s delight. On November 9, 2023, the bag became untethered from astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara during repairs on the International Space Station (ISS). Now orbiting Earth, the tool bag presents a unique sighting opportunity, shining bright as a star in the night sky.

Astronomical Mishap to Stargazing Marvel

What began as a minor mishap has evolved into a spectacle for amateur astronomers and curious onlookers alike.

The tool bag, initially following close behind the ISS, has started to lose altitude and drift ahead. Observations on November 11 showed the bag five minutes ahead of the ISS. Predictions suggest it will soon be nearly ten minutes in the lead.

Catching a Glimpse of the Celestial Tool Bag

This orbital oddity offers a new kind of sighting challenge. It can still be spotted with the aid of binoculars, appearing around magnitude +6. Those hoping to witness this sight should plan to observe the trajectory of the ISS, and then shift their gaze ahead of its path. With careful timing, the tool bag will make its journey across the stargazing canvas.

Despite its current visibility, the tool bag’s time in orbit is finite. As it continues to descend, it is expected to reenter Earth’s atmosphere between March and July of 2024, ultimately disintegrating. This event will mark the end of its accidental journey and remind us of the delicate nature of space operations.

The incident has sparked a renewed conversation about space debris and its implications. While the bag of tools poses no immediate threat, it underscores the broader issue of objects lost in space, highlighting the need for meticulous practices during extravehicular activities.

The Skyward Saga of a Tool Bag

From a practical instrument for space repairs to an object of curiosity circling our planet, the tool bag’s story captivates the imagination.

It serves as a reminder of our reach into space and the traces we leave behind. For now, as it glides silently above, the tool bag offers a fleeting connection to the vastness of space, a tiny beacon reminding us of humanity’s continuous quest beyond Earth’s bounds.

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Source: “Lost tool bag from spacewalk caught on video” — EarthSky

WTF Fun Fact 12993 – Point Nemo

Point Nemo is a cemetery you can’t visit. It lies in the ocean’s “point of inaccessibility” because it lies over 1,600 miles from any land mass. In fact, it’s the furthest point from any land mass on Earth, which is a “fun fact” in itself. But our point is that Point Nemo is a special kind of burial ground – it’s a space cemetery under the sea.

Point Nemo the space cemetery

At the end of the journies to the farthest reaches of space, satellites, rockets, space stations, and the “junk” that comes down with them end up in this lonely spot deep in the Pacific Ocean.

It’s named not for Disney’s fishy character but for a more distinguished fictional Nemo – the submarine captain in Jules Verne’s classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Someday, when it’s no longer a bastion of the latest space technology, it is where the International Space Station will be laid to rest.

The land of “space junk”

According to The Guardian (cited below): “When spacecraft die, they become a danger to everything else in orbit. Space debris is rapidly clogging up space, and at orbital speeds of up to 17,500km/h even tiny flecks of paint can cause serious damage to other spacecraft.”

According to science writer Jessica Baron the ISS itself is in danger from “space junk”, noting that “Even as far back as 2013, NASA reported that it was monitoring over 500,000 pieces of debris, 20,000 of which were larger than a softball. Because the “space junk” can travel at speeds of up to 17,500mph, even a small piece can pose a major collision risk for future missions and the ISS.”

This possibility is called the ‘Kessler Effect,” and The Guardian says “The Kessler Effect, or Kessler Syndrome, is the potential for the amount of debris in orbit to reach a critical mass where each collision creates more pieces of debris in a cascading way, to the point where the orbit is no longer usable.”

While some have considered building a giant space harpoon to catch this trash, most pieces are too small, so “To prevent such a disaster, anyone launching something into orbit these days has to have a plan to either send it into a graveyard orbit, or send it back down to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere,” NASA says.

And that’s where Point Nemo comes in.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Thousands of kilometres from anywhere lies Point Nemo, a watery grave where space stations go to die” — The Guardian

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 12567 – The Origin of the Countdown

3…2…1…we have liftoff. NASA may not have stolen the words for their spaceship launches, but they did lift the idea from a sci-fi film.

Of course, countdown clocks allow everyone involved to ensure they’re on the same page at the same time, but a big part of the countdown is building suspense for those watching. And that’s why NASA decided to make the final countdown a major part of their televised launches.

But they didn’t come up with the idea on their own. Like so much technology, the concept originated in a 1929 sci-fi film titled Frau im Mond by Fritz Lang. Even more unexpected – it was a silent film!

The idea for the story came from the novel Die Frau im Mond, by Thea von Harbou (Lang’s wife at the time). According to Atlas Obscura: “The book, which follows a group of backstabbing moon prospectors, is a rollercoaster ride of love triangles, business intrigue, and lunar gunfights…” 

Lang needed the film to be a hit. The “talkie” was becoming more and more popular, so he needed a way to make his silent films just as engaging. That’s when he settled on the countdown. (Another fun fact: before Die Frau im Mond, books and movies that involved a shuttle launch usually used countUPs.)

Atlas Obscura explained further how this influenced NASA: “The film’s space advisors brought lessons they learned from the film set back with them to the Society for Space Travel, where they found that loudly timing launches to the second was not only dramatic, but helpful. When NASA launched its first successful satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958, newsreels broadcasting the event breathlessly announced, ‘the moment is at hand, the countdown reaches zero!'”

The breathless countdown worked for Lang – his was the highest-grossing film of the year in 1929. And we can’t imagine a NASA launch without the countdown (something we completely took for granted). – WTF Fun Fact

You can check out the film scene yourself (and no, that’s not the original music!):

Source: “NASA Stole the Rocket Countdown From a 1929 Fritz Lang Film” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact – Sex On The Moon

WTF Fun Fact - Sex On The Moon

In 2002, NASA intern Thad Roberts stole a safe full of moon rocks so he and his girlfriend could have “sex on the moon.” After their romantic night at a hotel, they tried to sell the $21 million worth of moon rocks. He was caught and sentenced to 8 years in prison. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: NASA news| Thad Roberts – the NASA intern who stole lunar rocks to ‘have sex on the Moon’ | Trending & Viral News (