Have you ever looked at the night sky and marveled at the stars? Here, circling our lonely star in our lonely galaxy, we gaze past the bright lights, imagining the wonders they conceal. These tiny specks contain secrets about the universe we can only begin to imagine—truths that challenge our understanding of space and time themselves. Below are a few mind-bending facts about outer space and the universe. Feel free to leave discoveries that peak your interests in the comments section below. Click here for numbers 5-1!
Space and time are relative
If there’s one thing that’s absolute in this world, it’s time, right? Well, not quite. While we see time and space as constants, they are actually relative to the observer. What does this mean? According to Einstein, if you were to fly past the Earth at 10% of the speed of light, you would see some strange things. Everybody on Earth would slow down and contract—yes, actually become shorter. You could watch them age for years, but from their perspective they would only have lived for a fraction of that time. In fact, from their reference frame, Earth would be normal and these things would be happening to you. The craziest part of it all? You would both be right.
The sun will eat the Earth
You’ve probably heard that our sun is a perfectly typical star, just a normal, run-of-the-mill fireball fusing hydrogen into helium. But do you know what will happen to it as it ages? Scientists predict that in approximately 5 billion years our star will become a Red Giant, a cooler, much more voluminous ball of flame fusing helium into carbon. Our friend in the sky will expand rapidly, consuming Mercury, Venus, and most likely the Earth. During this time the sun will rapidly lose mass, eventually shedding its shells to reveal a white hot carbon core. Now a small white dwarf, it will continue to glow for billions of years. Isn’t that nice?
Supernovae: stars go boom
Our sun will become a white dwarf, but not all stars have the same fate—more massive stars explode in sparkly fashion. Bigger stars must burn at extremely high temperatures to avoid collapsing under their own gravity. Once they run out of fuel, the stars can no longer support themselves, causing an immediate free fall towards the core. The star’s layers bounce off of each other, unleashing their gravitational energy in a spectacular explosion. Called a supernova, the explosion releases more energy than entire galaxies.
Neutron stars: 33 kiloton marshmallows
Lying at the site of a supernova lies a small, dense object. Crushed by the pressure of the implosion, the atoms in the star’s core can no longer support themselves—only their neutrons can stand up to such force. This ball of neutrons, appropriately labeled a neutron star, is no wider than the island of Manhattan. Here’s the catch: it is about 100 trillion times as dense as water. A neutron star’s gravity is so strong that dropping a marshmallow onto its surface would release over 33 kilotons TNT worth of energy—about 1.7 times as much as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Originally a formulaic quirk of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, black holes proved difficult to detect because they cannot be seen. A single point of zero volume and infinite density formed during the explosion of a supergiant star, a black hole’s gravity is so strong that not even light can escape it. This property makes them invisible to direct observation. Even more mind blowing is that any events that take place within the black hole’s event horizon (the radius past which light cannot escape) will never be detected and thus, as far as any observer can tell, never happened.
Were you to watch someone fall into a black hole, you would have to wait a long time—infinitely long, in fact—to see her complete her journey. A black hole’s gravity slows down time so dramatically that from your perspective your unfortunate friend would slowly drift towards the black hole until she reached the event horizon, where she would remain for perpetuity (though the light carrying her image would be drained of its energy until she faded into darkness). The good news is that from your friend’s perspective this would only last a matter of seconds, after which she would be pulled apart atom by atom and compressed into the black hole.
So what do you think of these wonders of the universe? Do they challenge the way you understand space and time? Let me know in the comments section below! As always, please like, share, or reblog this post if you enjoy it. Be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday! IT’S FREE! Click here for numbers 5-1!
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Comment question of the week
What’s the coolest thing you learned in science class? Anything mind-blowing?