10 Little Known Solar System Facts

Astronomers learn new facts about our solar system every single day. However, with every discovery, we realize just how little we actually know about our Earth’s neighbors. No wonder that we can’t keep up with the advancements in the field. So here are 10 little known solar system facts that kids who are passionate about astronomy may find interesting.

1. Venus is hotter than Mercury

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One would expect the closest planet to the Sun to be the hottest, but this is not the case. Mercury has no atmosphere to retain the heat provided by its powerful neighbor. On the other hand, Venus has a very thick atmosphere that keeps most of the heat on the planet.

2. There is ice on Mercury

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Cool fact: because the planet has no atmosphere, it hosts ice in its polar regions. Although the planet can witness up to 800 °F during the day, some crater floors are not directly hit by light. Consequently, temperatures do not rise beyond the freezing point. Because Mercury’s polar areas highly reflect radar, scientists strongly believe that Mercury has frozen water. The red areas in the picture signal the deepest craters.

3. Our solar system hosts five dwarf planets

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We have our answer, Pluto is not a planet. After being relegated to the status of dwarf planet, Pluto joined other four celestial bodies in our solar system: Ceres, Haumea, Eris, and Makemake. Ceres, the largest one, makes up about a third of the mass of the asteroid belt. However, astronomers believe that the solar system could contain thousands of dwarf planets.

4. Eris is the largest dwarf planet

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Eris, the largest dwarf planet, was discovered almost 10 years ago. This celestial body was close to receiving its planet title, but researchers changed their minds, taking Pluto down in the process as well. Eris revolves around the Sun three times further away from the star than Pluto.

5. Ceres has plenty of fresh water

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Although Ceres has a surface area about the same as India, the dwarf planet is estimated to hold 200 million cubic meters of fresh water, which is more than Earth’s reserves. Moreover, recent hypothesis include the possibility that life on Earth originated on Ceres.

6. The Sun makes up more than 99 percent of the solar system’s mass

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More precisely, the Sun represents 99.86 percent of the mass. Jupiter and Saturn stand for most of the rest, while the inner solar system planets have a negligible impact from a purely statistical point of view. When you are talking about solar system facts, this could actually be the most important one.

7. The solar system ends much further away than Pluto

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We live in the hip central part of the neighborhood. Taking into account the huge Oort cloud, the edge of the solar system lies is 1,000 further away than Pluto.

8. Saturn has 62 moons

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If you ever thought that our Moon obscures the view, imagine the crowded, yet amazing panorama you’ll enjoy while trying to gaze at the stars. Titan, the largest and most famous one, is bigger than Mercury. Fun fact: astronomers named just 53 of all the 62 Saturnian moons.

9. Jupiter has the largest ocean

One would expect the largest planet to host the largest ocean, but then again, Venus is the hottest planet, although Mercury sits closer to the Sun, so expect surprises. Jupiter’s ocean, which is basically liquid hydrogen, is estimated to be around 25,000 miles deep.

10. Mars has the highest mountain in the solar system

Olympus Mons is about 17 miles high, which is roughly three Everests placed on top of each other. Curiosity rover, the most advanced NASA machine on the red planet, just started climbing and investigating Olympus Mons.

There are plenty of space missions that will soon provide new data about Pluto in 2015 (New Horizons probe) and Jupiter in 2016 (Juno probe), so be prepared to update your knowledge of solar system facts in a very short time.

4 Cool & Fun Games for Kids

It used to be the case that parents worried if their children spent too much time on the computer, playing video games, as they perceived them as poor alternatives to the social, outdoors fun games for kids that they used to enjoy in their time. With the rise of video games towards the mainstream in the last few years, however, acceptance grew and today we are not going to try to compare the inherent qualities of playing online or playing outside, but rather establish which games are the more appropriate for what situation. There are birthday parties, Christmas and Easter holidays, Thanksgiving with the whole family, and learning time, each with corresponding games that are super fun to play at any occasion. That is to say, just because your hands are on the wii console now and again, that doesn’t necessarily imply cancelling your gym card, fitness membership, running, or summer camping altogether. So here are 4 ideas of cool and fun games for kids, depending on the occasion.

 

1.     Outdoors

Stock Photo of the End of a Soccer (Football) Game

Now, this all depends on how the weather is where you live, but let’s assume you’re going to save the quality outside play time for dry and sunny days – tough luck, Scottish parents – where you will be able to teach your kids any of the classic games you used to play when you were their age. These pretty much includes all the ball sports we all know: some easy table tennis, basketball, volleyball, soccer, you name it! These games benefit from the patience and care of adults. Other outdoor games, however, thrive when they are played among other children, due to the levelled field being among the highlights of the game. Games such as this, all highly active, include hopscotch, hide and seek, jumping rope, tag and any variations of the marbles game.

 

2.     Indoors, analogue

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Rainy, cold day and yet you feel like the computer could use a rest? There are so many elementary indoor activities to entertain your children at home during a sleepover on a school day. Board games are great for any kid, boy or girl, as they have been shown to increase brain power and speed. Depending on their age you can either go for some older icebreaker games like Chutes and Ladders, Scrabble, Monopoly and the like, or go for more complex one, such as Clue, Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne (which are great for all ages). If you want to stay dry and warm, yet not miss the opportunity for some physical activity, there is always the really interactive Twister to make the living room come alive, as well as any iteration of games where the children need to dance before coming to a halt when the music stops, such as Musical Chairs or Freeze!

 

3.     Indoors, digital

Children playing computer game on an iPad

This is a tricky one, since your children are more likely to find websites full of fun games for kids online than you, out of both sheer determination, as well as different search methods. But maybe you want them to play specific stuff, in which case games like Cartoon Cove Mini Golf, where each round of mini-golf takes place in the world of a different Cartoon Network show, from Dexter’s Laboratory to Powerpuff Girls, also giving the option for a two player show-down. Ice Breaker is another fun Flash game, but having the extra advantage that it relies more on thinking, than dexterity, while the player tries to free a number of frozen Vikings through as little moves as possible.

 

4.     Party Games

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The sort of games that you are looking for in a party game is the sort of activity that can keep a lot of kids busy, without giving them the opportunity to get in too much trouble. The above-mentioned Twister can be used for this as well, but other games, specifically designed for large groups can prove even more entertaining. Any list of fun games for kids needs to include “Pin the tail on the donkey”, a timeless classic, as well as “Red light, green light”, “Duck duck goose” and any form of treasure hunt game, all of them having the advantage of being able to accommodate any number of, as well as allowing late-comers to just drop in, without much preamble or needing to start over.

 

Delicious Baked Sweet Potato Recipes for Xmas

The baked sweet potato chips hold a strange place in the pantheon on food, without which not even popular nutrition icons such as Martha Stewart or Paula Deen could go. It’s the slacker food par excellence, not taking long to cook, yet it’s a delicious and a really healthy meal, being a savory source of fiber, potassium and vitamin A.

If food were people, the sweet baked potatoes would be the unassuming and lazy flatmate that seems to never get off the couch, yet somehow does keep fit and is quite the sweet-talker too when you get to know him. The Christmas meal is notoriously high in calories and heavy food, so the baked sweet potatoes can work as a more light-weight, yet still delicious side-dish, among the piles of other stuff, especially since you cook them so many different ways.

We managed to avoid the store bought, microwaved meal options this season, and went for a few simple dishes to make from scratch at home in no time! So here are what we found to be 4 delicious baked sweet potato recipes showing you how to prepare a perfect homemade meal this Christmas.

1. The Plain Baked Sweet Potato

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This is the basic version of the baked sweet potato: easy, cheap, delicious and popular. It also the basis of pretty much every other derivative recipe, so it’s important to get it right. Luckily, that’s incredibly easy. All you need is a bunch of whole sweet potatoes, some salt and some butter. Wash the sweet potatoes well and dry them off. Then, using a fork, stab a few holes in them, so they can bake properly. Pre-heat the oven at a 350 degrees temperature and place the potatoes directly on the grilled rack of the oven. While you can also do this using a microwave oven, it’s really not the same thing. After 45 minutes or so, pinch them with a fork and if they seem soft take them out and let them cool before cutting a slit on top of them. Dress them with butter and a sprinkle of salt and eat while warm.

2. Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

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This version has so many different options that they’re impossible to count and are only limited by your imagination and taste: to go with crispy fried chicken, crunchy bacon, or a spicy sauce, you name it. Go through the same actions as in the basic version but, while the sweet potatoes are in the over start mixing a topping. This can consist of everything that you think would taste good on top of a baked sweet potato, from jam to sliced pickles and everything in between, but, if you can’t be bothered to think of anything right now, you can try this first. Make a spread by mixing sour cream, chilli powder, paprika and salt in a bowl and, in different bowls, place toppings such as diced tomatoes and peppers, spring onions, salsa, grated cheese and black beans. After taking out the potatoes form the oven, instead of butter, apply the spread and let the bowls on the table, so everyone can apply their favourite mixture.

3. Baked Sweet Potato Fries

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Same idea, different way to cook. Wash the sweet potatoes and peel them. Slice them into the regular fries shape and sizes.  Place the slices of sweet potatoes in a large bowl and add 1/3 cup olive oil, a teaspoon of rosemary, a pinch of salt and some ground pepper, and let them fry. Toss them around so the fries will be coated in the mix of oil and spices. Place in a baking sheet and place into the pre-heated oven where they should stay for around 15 – 20 minutes before being removed, stirred so they flip on the other side, and returned for another 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Honey

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For an extra-Christmasy recipe based on the baked sweet potato, try the above fries recipe, but with a few differences. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes, instead of fries. Place them on a roasting tray and drizzle each one with a mix of ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup honey, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, salt and pepper. Place in the pre-heated oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until tender. Before serving, it’s best to drizzle with a bit more olive oil.

The World’s Strangest and Most Interesting New Year Traditions

All across the planet people celebrate strange and interesting New Year traditions every year.

These range from cramming grapes into your mouth to giving people pieces of coal and believing the color of your underwear dictates your destiny. Which ones of the following have you seen or taken part in?

Eating 12 Grapes – Spain

Most Interesting New Year Traditions

One of the most exciting things about being in Spain when the clock strikes 12 is that you get to cram a dozen grapes in your mouth. They even sell little tins with exactly 12 little peeled and seedless grapes in the supermarkets. You then stuff one in your mouth with each chime of the clock. This is either easier or more difficult than you think, depending upon how big your mouth is and how hard you think it is.

Colorful Underwear – Latin America

Strangest New Year Traditions

If you take a trip to a clothes market in a Latin American country just before New Year you might be surprised at the unusual New Year tradition you see starting to take shape. You will see a sea of yellow and red underwear laid out in front of you. This is because these colors are seen as bringing you good luck in the New Year. Yellow undergarments will bring you success and money. If you slip on some red underwear then you can expect to be lucky in love the following year. Which color would you go for?

The First Footer – Scotland

Strangest New Year Traditions

As a kid growing up in Scotland I learned to be very nervous about the first person to step into our house after the bells had struck. Traditionally that person would bring a gift such as coal with them, which was great until we moved onto an electric fire in our house. You will be hoping for a tall, dark male to be your first visitor, as he will bring you the best luck.

The Lowering of the Possum –USA

Most Interesting New Year Traditions

We might as well start this one with the bad news; you are highly unlikely to see a lowering of the possum in New York City, Washington DC or even Hollywood. This is a New Years tradition that doesn’t cover the whole of the USA. Instead, it is carried out in the town of Brasstown in North Carolina. You probably already know that this is the possum capital of the world, don’t you?  To celebrate this exciting fact a possum is lowered over a crowd on New Year in a transparent box. No, I don’t know why.

A Giant Kissathon – Italy

Most Interesting New Year Traditions

If lowering a possum doesn’t light your fire then what about a giant kiss-in without any marsupials in sight at all? Every year in St Mark’s Square, Venice a big group of (presumably) couples get together at midnight for a big kiss. Apparently this place holds the record for the biggest group kiss when 70,000 smooched at the same time during this strange New Year tradition.

Throwing Dishes – Denmark

Strangest New Year Traditions

Wouldn’t you just love to start the New Year by throwing dishes at your neighbors’ front doors? You’re darned tooting you would. Well, you want to get your sorry butt over to Denmark then, don’t you? This is apparently a Danish New Year tradition and it sounds pretty interesting.   

Wearing Polka Dots – Philippines

Most Interesting New Year Traditions

If you believe that polka dots are the work of Satan (and you really should) then you don’t want to pass New Year in the Philippines. An interesting New Year tradition here is to wear a lot of polka dots. It sounds like something worth seeing if everyone takes part in it but I guess that watching a crowd of people walking down the street like this would give you a headache even before you started drinking.

The Creepy Santas You Don’t Want to Let Down Your Chimney

Santa is one of those cheery characters who add a bit of joy, mystery and charm to the world. Err, except when he goes all weird and creepy.

Here are some of the most creepy Santa pictures to make you think twice about leaving out milk and cookies for the chubby chap this year.

The Stern Santa

Creepy Santas

Isn’t Mr Claus meant to be unfailingly cheery? This guy looks like he should be working in a post office and frowning whenever you ask for another stamp. Don’t build your hopes up on this stern Santa bringing your kids the gifts they asked for this year.

The Toothy Santa

Creepy Santas

Is it just me or should be there some unwritten rule that Santa shouldn’t ever bare his teeth? Maybe there is and this wacky Father Christmas was just being rebellious.

The Crying Santa

Creepy Santas

The interview for a role as Santa should be quite simple really. You’ve got the gut, red looks good on you and you aren’t allergic to fake beards. The job’s yours. Hang on though; a couple of screaming brats aren’t likely to reduce you to tears, are they?

Creepy Santa and the Big Kid

Creepy Santas

There are at least 3 questions that came rushing urgently into my mind when I first saw this photo. First of all, why is a grown man sitting on creepy Santa’s knee? Secondly, why did he choose to take a woodwind instrument into the grotto with him? Then there is the third point, about the weirdly skimpy clothing the man-child has on.

The Young Santa

Creepy Santas

There’s something not quite right about this photo, isn’t there? Is it maybe the fact that Santa looks younger than the person sitting on his youthful knees? This baby faced bringer of Christmas joy looks as though he should be writing his own list of things he wants.

The Really Creepy Santa

Creepy Santas

What in the name of Rudolph is going on here? That isn’t just the creepiest Santa I have ever seen, it is also the creepiest thing in general I have had the blinding misfortune to set my eyes on. Speaking of eyes, since when did Santa Claus not have any?

The Shifty Santa

Creepy Santas

This is a festive cheer bringer I wouldn’t trust to get within a million miles of my chimney. Apart from the downright shifty eyes you only have to look at the rakish angle of his wrist to see that this is a Santa not to be messed with.

The Dangerously Unbalanced Santa

Creepy Santas

If Jack Nicholson were to play Claus this is the kind of dangerously unbalanced look he would bring to the role.

The Snarling Santa

Creepy Santas

I honestly don’t know where to start with this creep Santa. Well, let’s see; why are the two girls apparently so much taller than him? And why is he grimacing or snarling? The girl with the puzzled look is definitely on the Naughty list this year, I reckon.

Sleepy Santa

Creepy Santas

Here’s a tip for any Santas this year; take a nap before meeting the kids. It’s a long shift picking up children all day long and listening to their long lists of unnecessary things they want. It’s enough to send anyone off for a quick nap.