Five things we get wrong about space

The Sun is hot, so it must be made of fire. Astronauts are so far away from Earth, they experience no gravity. Right?

Wrong. We've put together a list of five urban myths about space, and debunked them for you.

The Sun is a big ball of fire

A photo of the sunNASA
You still shouldn’t look directly at it, though.

It may be hot (15 million°C at its core, in fact), but the Sun isn’t just one massive open flame. It actually gives off heat and light through a process called nuclear fusion, where hydrogen atoms crash into one another creating helium.

You’ll explode if you go into space without a suit on

An astronaut on a space walkNASA
This DOES NOT mean you can take your helmet off on a space walk!

It’s a commonly peddled myth, especially in old science fiction movies, but it’s actually completely false. The nitrogen in your body would expand and you’d bloat severely, and you'd eventually die. However, your skin is far too tough to let everything explode out of it.

The first animal in space was a dog

A fruit fly and a dog separated by an orange line
Laika (not pictured) was a stray that was found on the streets of Moscow.

Laika was an adorable Russian dog that launched on Sputnik in 1957. It was the first animal to orbit the Earth, however it wasn’t the first animal in space. This title is reserved for the humble fruit fly. A few were launched into space by American scientists in 1947, to help them study radiation.

Astronauts experience zero gravity because they are far away from the Earth

Astronaut Mae C. Jemison, in the Space Shuttle Endeavour.NASA
This is Mae C. Jemison, photographed in 1992 on board the science module in the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

You’ve probably seen videos of astronauts like Tim Peake floating around the International Space Station, and you may think this has something to do with being so far away from Earth’s gravitational pull. However, 90% of the Earth’s gravity actually reaches the ISS. So why do they float? It’s because they’re in what’s called ‘free fall’. This means that in a vacuum, all objects fall at the same speed, regardless of their mass. Astronauts therefore are falling towards Earth at the same speed as the space station, so look like they are floating inside of it.

There’s a dark side of the moon

The moon, half is in darknessNASA
An award-winning album, but not a real place.

There is a side of the Moon that, from Earth, we can never see. This much is true. However, it’s a complete myth that it is in complete darkness all the time. The Moon has daytime and night-time just as the Earth does, though each lasts two weeks, so both sides get sunlight at some point. The reason it’s been historically called the ‘dark side’ is because it’s mysterious, and until recently, not much was known about it. This year, China launched a probe to explore the far side of the Moon, to learn more. However, the first images of the far side of the moon were taken in 1959.

Written in collaboration with the education team at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre.

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