National Space Day and National Astronaut Day are upon us! Giving us the opportunity to celebrate stars, planets, spaceships, asteroids and so much more! National Space Day was created in 1997 to observe and explore space and all the mysteries that lay within! And National Astronaut Day commemorates Alan Shepard, who was on the first human space flight in 1961.
Space is never-ending, constantly expanding, full of planets, stars, and mysteries! It is fascinating and vast – which makes learning and discovering still more fun. We’ve researched some fun and interesting facts to get you thinking about space, the mysteries within it and the incredible people who have dared to travel there!
Let’s start with the sun! The sun constitutes 99.86% of all of the mass in our solar system and has a ginormous diameter of 870,000 miles! To put this into perspective, you could fit about a million Earths inside the sun – so needless to say it’s pretty big. The sun is what’s called a sequence star, which is a sphere compost of hydrogen and helium gasses that fuse together at the sun’s core, producing a huge amount of light and heat energy; at its centre the sun’s temperature can be as much as 15 million degrees and incredibly bright even from Earth, which is over 90 million miles away!
The Hubble Space Telescope is an enormous telescope that orbits the Earth and takes photographs of our universe. Launched in 1990, it has taken some of the most detailed images we’ve seen, giving scientists a better understanding of space and time. The telescope was named after Edwin Hubble, one of the most important astronomers of all time who brilliantly discovered the existence of other galaxies! Should anything go wrong with the Hubble it’s the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts – no easy task!
Neptune is the eighth planet from the sun and the most distant in our solar system. Because it is so far from the sun, the planet is dark, cold and very windy. In fact, Neptune has supersonic winds that can reach speeds of 1,200 miles per hour! To give you an idea, this is 9 times stronger than the wind we experience on Earth! Neptune has methane present in its atmosphere, giving it a blue colour – it is a dark royal blue that looks like the ocean, which is very fitting considering it is named after the Roman god of the sea. Whilst you can’t see them in photographs, Neptune has rings – six of them - made up of small rocks and dust.
Budding young astronauts can learn more about each of the planets in our solar system, spacecraft and satellites on our learning resource page!
Did you know that space junk is any human-made object orbiting Earth that no longer serves a useful purpose? It is estimated that there are about 500,000 pieces of space junk floating around today, including fragments from satellites and rockets – and some every day items like spanners (dropped during construction of the International Space Station!).
And do you know what comets are? They are balls of gases, dust and rock that orbit the sun – they are leftovers from the creation of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago. Their size ranges from a few miles to tens of miles wide, the biggest recorded so far is Comet C.2014 UN271 which is about 85 miles across (that’s roughly the same as driving from London to Ryde on the Isle of Wight)!
The word ‘astronaut’ derives from Greek – ‘astron’ and ‘nautes’. Do you know the meaning of these words? Take a guess and then look for the answers below!
Becoming an astronaut takes an enormous amount of dedication and effort. Astronauts learn all the guidance, navigation and systems for the shuttle and space stations, orbital dynamics, geology, meteorology, oceanology, astronomy and physics (phew, that’s a lot to learn!). They are also trained in land and sea survival, scuba diving, space suits and weightlessness. It is definitely very physically and mentally challenging.
We’d like to shine a light on some of the incredible women who have gone into space. Firstly, Valentina Tereshkova who was the first and youngest woman in space – what an incredible achievement! Valentina flew a solo mission in 1963, where she orbited the Earth 48 times and spent almost 3 days in space. She remains the only woman to have been on a solo space mission.
Next, Peggy Whitson! Peggy’s first mission was in 2002 aboard the ISS as a member of Expedition 5. By her second mission, she had become the first female commander of the International Space Station! In 2017 she became the first female astronaut to command the ISS twice. She originally held the record for the longest single space flight by a woman at 289 days in orbit, but this record was broken by Christina Koch’s flight which lasted a staggering 328 days! Peggy accrued a total of 665 days in space over the cause of her career – wow! This makes her one of NASA’s most experienced astronauts to date.
But it doesn’t end with those women – there are so many incredible women who have travelled to space. Ellen Ochoa, Mae Jemison, Sally Ride, Helen Sharman, Eileen Collins, Kalpana Chawla, Jessica Meir, Kate Rubins, Christa McAuliffe, Judith Resnik and Svetlana Savitskaya - just to name a few!
If you’re a solar system whizz, moon maniac or just love watching the stars then we have some upcoming space dates for your diary!
May 4-5 - Eta Aquarid Meteor shower peaks! This will be most visible in the hours before dawn and more readily visible from the tropical and southern hemisphere regions. Learn more about this meteor shower.
May 16-17 – A total lunar eclipse, also known as a Blood Moon, will be visible form Europe, North and South America, Africa and parts of Asia. Get your telescope ready!
June 14 – The Strawberry Moon, which is the first full moon of June arrives 11.52 GMT/7.52 EDT. It will also be the first supermoon of the year!
June 21 – The Solstice! This marks the first day of Winter in the Southern Hemisphere and the first day of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit more about space and some incredible astronauts! With planets, rockets, stars and more we’ll be making the most of our space collection this week – and you can too! Enjoy 15% off all our fun and educational space themed gifts with the code SPACE15 at checkout.
From our colour-in space pillowcase with a secret trick for learning the names and order of the planets, to our colour-in planet pencil case and brand new colour and learn solar system placemat, our educational gifts for kids all come with washable fabric markers included and they’re all backed up with more space learning material for kids on our website. Perfect creative kids gifts and gifts for kids who love space exploration and discovery!
And don’t forget you can get in touch with us on social media by using #eatsleepdoodle – we always love to see what you’re up to! You can also tag us on Instagram (@eatsleepdoodle_), Facebook (@eatsleepdoodlehq) and Twitter (@eatsleepdoodle_).
Astron – Star
Naute – Sailor
Star Sailor – how cool is that?