As a species, we are obsessed with the Universe, with space and what might exist beyond our own understanding! However, that doesn't mean we always get it right, and there are common misconceptions about space that we get wrong all the time, things that just don't make sense to people who actually know what they're talking about. Whether this is down to word of mouth or popular entertainment implanting these misconceptions, they're pretty common when it comes to space!
What we've done is pull together some of the more popular misconceptions, the ones that people are always getting wrong, so that we can lay everything out for people. This way, people will be able to get it right when it comes to space and our general understanding of the universe will expand.
So, is everyone ready to have some space misconceptions changed? We want to make sure that everyone knows what they're talking about when it comes to the universe! Well then, we better get started!
25 Misconception: Asteroid Belts Are Dangerous
This is one that we all get wrong due to the way that movies and television shows make asteroids such a dangerous concept when travelling in space, and yet this just isn't true.
BusinessInsider claim that "the asteroid belt — a zone 200 million to 300 million miles from the sun — is an incredibly lonely and desolate void. In fact, if you pulled all the asteroids in that belt together, they'd be only about 4% of the mass of Earth's moon."
It would seem that if we were all travelling in space, we'd be able to get through the asteroid belt just fine!
24 Misconception: The Earth Is A Perfect Sphere
Every image that we're shown of the Earth seems to suggest that we're inhabiting a perfect sphere, but that just isn't true, as BusinessInsider point out.
"Earth is slightly flattened at the poles and bulges at the equator, giving it an oblong 3D shape called a spheroid. This is because the planet rotates, and its rock behaves kind of like a merry-go-round."
Yes, we need to start thinking of the Earth as being an imperfect shape, one that isn't perfectly round at all!
23 Misconception: Space Isn't That Big
As technology moves forward, human beings continue to push their way into the rest of the universe, which sometimes makes it seem a little small. However, we shouldn't forget that space is pretty big, or as Forbes puts it, "space is really, really big. A lot of people seem to think that going to Mars would be a lot like going to the moon, just a little longer. It's much, much longer and different in many ways."
22 Misconception: Interstellar Travel Is A Possibility
"Interstellar travel is not going to happen in our lifetimes and may never happen at all. We know of no technology that would permit it, period."
There you have it people, straight from Forbes. Seriously, we know that it might seem depressing to some of you, but it means we can focus on things that are actually possible in our universe!
There's always a chance, but let's not waste time thinking about something that seems impossible.
21 Misconception: Microgravity Is Fine For The Human Body
"It's not only the bone loss. Throwing off all that calcium gives you kidney stones. It messes with your eyesight. It messes with your metabolism. Even exercising two and a half hours a day, you still experience muscle atrophy."
Wow... When Forbes puts it like this, it sort of makes it seem like floating around in a spaceship wouldn't actually be that much fun.
Thanks for changing all of our childhood dreams guys!
20 Misconception: Space Makes You Weightless
"Most scientists agree that space begins 62 miles up, where the Earth's atmosphere is more or less a vacuum. Yet going past this point does not magically make you weightless. If you were in an accelerating rocket, you would feel many times Earth's gravity."
Yes, so this one is more of a technicality, but it's important to get this sort of stuff right when it comes to science!
It's all about making sure that every single mathematical issue is sorted out ahead of time so that we get this stuff right the first time round, something that BusinessInsider clearly understand!
19 Misconception: Nuclear Arms Could Take Down An Asteroid
Okay, so this is definitely something that the human race believes because of the big screen and how movies look at space, but it's not true! As Business Insider puts it, "nuking an asteroid would not vaporize the rock. Most asteroids are heaps of rubble, so a powerful explosion would probably just break everything apart further. That's like turning a single bullet into an explosion — not a good idea if you're trying to save the planet." Best to leave the nukes at home when trying to take down an asteroid then clearly...
18 Misconception: Space Suits Are Easily Gotten Into
When we take a look at the space suits in footage from the moon, in television, and on the big screen, they actually don't look that clunky. Sure, they're big and they don't look like you could move fast in them, but they can't be that difficult to get in and out of right?
"Space suits are difficult and uncomfortable to use, and you can't get into or out of one by yourself."
Forbes have laid out for us exactly why we shouldn't bother trying to buy a legitimate spacesuit if we ever find ourselves in a financial position to do so!
17 Misconception: The Space Shuttle Made It To The Moon
"The Space Shuttle was not designed for, could not, and did not go to the moon. A surprising number of people apparently think this is how we got to the moon."
As Forbes points out here, no, the space shuttle did not make it all the way to the moon.
If you want to actually see what did get the human race to the moon, then it's easy enough to just google image it right now, rather than think something this huge could actually successfully make it to the moon and properly land!
16 Misconception: Calling Someone Bounces A Signal Off A Satellite
BusinessInsider put it best with the statement, "the military uses satellite phones every day, but your mobile phone works in a much different way. Mobile phones broadcast a wireless radio signal and constantly look for, ping, and relay data to and from land-based cellular towers." So, that idea you have in your head of everything you're saying pinging off a satellite in space and making its way back down to Earth, sadly just isn't true, no matter how cool it might make you feel at the time...
15 Misconception: The Great Wall Of China Is The Only Man Made Structure Visible From Space
Rather than it being a case that nothing can be seen from space, it all depends on where your concept of space begins and where you're looking from, as BusinessInsider points out.
"From the International Space Station, 250 miles up, you can see the Great Wall and many other man made structures. Tiny satellites that orbit even closer than that can see objects like Apple's spaceship campus."
Yes, many man made structures can be seen, it just depends on where you're looking from!
14 Misconception: The Moon's Gravitational Pull Causes The Tides
"Each molecule of water is pulled by the moon's gravity. But alone, that gravitational acceleration is so weak it isn't noticeable. Because ocean water covers about 71% of Earth's surface and connects as one liquid body, however, all of those tiny forces add up to form a significant pressure."
Okay, so technically it does, but technically it doesn't either!
This is BusinessInsider pointing out exactly why people like us aren't in charge of working out the finer details in science...
13 Misconception: Jupiter Circles The Sun
"When a small object orbits a big object in space, the less massive one doesn't travel in a perfect circle around the larger one. (In fact, no object in space has a perfectly circular orbit.) Rather, both objects orbit in ellipses around a combined center — or halfway point — of gravity, called a barycenter." BusinessInsider are pointing out here that, while it may move in unison with the sun, Jupiter does not actually circle the sun, not in the way that we picture it within our heads, the sun at the centre of our universe.
12 Misconception: There's A Dark Side Of The Moon
"When there's a new (and very dark) moon on the near side, for example, that means there's a full moon on the far side. We just can't see it from our vantage point. So yes, there is a "dark side" of the moon — but it's always moving and sometimes faces Earth directly."
Another misconception that works on the fact that most of us will never truly understand space, but BusinessInsider seem to understand it!
So it does exist, but not in the way that we understand it?! Yes, we're getting that complicated right now folks.
11 Misconception: Summer Is Hotter Due To The Sun Being Closer
"When it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth is not closer to the sun. In fact, it's quite the opposite: The planet is at its farthest point from the sun during the summer. It is warmer during the summer because Earth is tilted. During its orbit, our home planet's tilt allows the sun's energy to hit us more directly." So, it's less about vicinity and more about the way the energy is able to travel to our planet according to BusinessInsider.
10 Misconception: The Moon Is Close To The Earth
We see the moon pretty much everyday, so it can't be that far away from us in space, can it?
"The moon sometimes looks so close you could reach up and grab it. In reality, the moon orbits about 239,000 miles from Earth. If you could somehow hop in a Boeing 747 and cruise to the moon at full speed, the journey would take about 17 days."
Wow... That is a real surprise to us if we're honest... How can something look so close and yet be so far away from our grasp?!
9 Misconception: Nothing Can Go Faster Than Light
"Unimpeded, light can move at 299,792,458 meters per second in a vacuum. But it slows down when it travels through different substances. For example, light moves 25% slower through water and 59% slower through diamond."
As BusinessInsider has pointed out here, within certain circumstances, light can be outpaced by other things.
Electrons can actually be seen to move faster than the speed of light when seen through water or diamond!
8 Misconception: Space Is Always Cold
We just often think about deep space as being cold, that the universe outside of us is freezing, but BusinessInsider say that just isn't true.
"If you're in total darkness at the coldest spot in the known universe, the vacuum of space can get down to -454 degrees Fahrenheit. Brr! But in sunlight near Earth, temperatures can swing to a boiling 250 degrees Fahrenheit. That's why astronauts wear reflective white spacesuits."
Look as if space can be both cold and warm!
7 Misconception: There Are Only Three Phases Of Matter
"There's another big one: plasma. It's easy to assume solids are the most abundant form of matter in the cosmos, since we all live on a giant rock. But plasma is vastly more abundant — stars, including our sun, are gigantic orbs of glowing plasma."
It's no surprise that we don't often think about plasma, but BusinessInsider points out that this doesn't mean it no longer exists!
In fact, outside of our Earth, plasma makes up a huge amount of everything else in the ever expanding universe!
6 Misconception: The Van Allen Radiation Belts Are Impossible To Pass Through
Radiation is one of the scariest things out there to the human body, as it can make us incredibly ill if we're not careful, which is why many people think these radiation belts would take them out.
Forbes points out that this just isn't true. "The Van Allen radiation belts are not solid objects, nor are they zones of sudden passing on. You can choose a path through them that minimizes exposure, especially if you go fast."
None of us will ever experience them, but that doesn't mean we should be ignorant about them!