Astronomical Factoids

Bob Berman (Photo credit: Phil Kamrass, c. Albany Times-Union) - RF CafeMost people reading this article are engineers, technicians, academics, and hobbyists who appreciate the sciences and how they categorize, define, and explain the world around us. I think it not inappropriate, then, to present on occasion a few 'factoid' type pieces on topics not directly related to RF and microwave engineering. Many, if not most, nay, if not all modern discoveries are aided in part or in whole by the advent of electronics - even if that bit of electronics is a computer that crunches numbers for analysis, simulation or processing words in a technical paper. Accordingly, you will probably appreciate these few short tidbits of astronomical information which überprolithic astronomy author and practitioner Bob Berman wrote for the 2015 edition of The Old Farmer's Almanac (aka OFA).

Mr. Berman, with his story-telling, one-on-one conversational style of prose has long been one of my favorite authors in the monthly Astronomy magazine. He has a unique way of presenting astronomy subjects in familiar terms while still including relevant technical data. These interesting factoids are included in a larger list in the OFA (pp114-120):

  • The longest star name still in common usage is 'Zubeneschamali.' The shortest is 'Sun.'
  • The sun's energy output is equivalent to the explosion of 91 billion, 1 megaton hydrogen bombs each second.
  • Mar's moon Phobos will crash into Mars' surface in 10 million years. He didn't say how long until its other moon, Deimos, will suffer the same fate.
  • The first person who said Earth moves through the heavens was Aristarchus of Samos, not Copernicus or Galileo.
  • The most abundant type of massive (although miniscule) object in the universe is the neutrino. A trillion neutrinos pass through your fingernail each second.
  • While the number of stars seen in a truly dark sky seems, well, astronomical, in actuality, given the average person's ability to see stars down to around magnitude 5.8 (naked eye), the most any observer can see at one time is about 2,600. You could count them all in 20 minutes at the rate of two each second.
  • In addition to white, stars are also colored red, blue, violet, yellow, brown, even black. The single missing hue is green (see, though, 'Zubeneschamali').
  • The universe's second most abundant element, helium, is the only one that never freezes solid.



Posted on June 24, 2015