10 mind-blowing secrets of outer space Part II

Back by popular demand! (Click here for numbers 10-6!) 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 five more mind-bending facts about outer space and the universe. Feel free to leave discoveries that peak your interests in the comments section below.

The stars unveil the past

You’ve probably heard that the stars are far away, beacons of light shining from the depths of our galaxy. But how distant are they? Distant enough to exist in the past. Stars and galaxies sit so far apart that it takes their light years—often millions or billions of years—to reach one other. Many of the stars we see at night have long since faded or died in spectacular explosions. In fact, the farther away we look the deeper into the past we explore. As technology progresses we will be able to witness events from the early stages of the universe. If that’s not mind-boggling enough, think about this: were someone 200 million light years away to look at the Earth right now, she would see dinosaurs running around Pangaea.

A close-up view of the Omega Nebula, a stellar nursery approximately 5,500 light years away. Most stars in the region fly business class to avoid sitting next to these protostars during their orbits.

Airplanes make you age faster

Planning your next vacation? You can save time by sticking to the road. According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, gravity slows down time—the deeper you travel into a gravity well, the more slowly time will pass. Climbing in altitude brings us away from the Earth’s center of mass, lessening the pull of its gravity and accelerating the passage of time. This means that people in airplanes age more quickly than people on the ground. From the passengers’ point of view, however, time would be passing normally for them and more slowly for everybody else. The craziest part of it all? Once again, they would both be right.

Andromeda: galactic collision course

In the center of the constellation of Andromeda lies the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way’s galactic neighbor. Significantly larger than the Milky Way, Andromeda is bright, spiral in shape—and heading right toward us. Scientists predict that in approximately four billion years our galaxy and its neighbor will collide head on, merging into a new galaxy with a larger core. That said,our solar system will most likely survive the crash unscathed. Stars in both galaxies are spaced so far apart that the chances of any two hitting one another are next to zero. The most noticeable result of the merger will be a prettier, more populated night sky.

A NASA illustration of what the merger might look like from Earth. Insurance agents agree that under current law Andromeda would be held at-fault in the collision.

Titan: rain falls near Saturn

When the Cassini–Huygens probe first flew by Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, it sent back images that shocked the world: lakes and rivers of liquid methane decorated the moon’s surface, flowing freely down hills of water ice. Just as Earth’s atmosphere contains a hydrological cycle, Titan has a methanological cycle. Liquid methane evaporates off lakes and rains down from the moon’s thick atmosphere. Colder parts of the moon are thought to be covered in methane snow. Next time you listen to the rain outside your window, remember that it could be falling on Titan as well.

An artist’s impression of Saturn as seen from Titan. In addition to investigating the moon’s methane lakes, future missions will seek to confirm that Titan is rocky and cold.

Mass warps space and time

We experience gravity every day—it makes the Earth orbit the sun and apples fall from trees. But what is gravity? The best way to understand it is to think of the universe as a trampoline and mass as a bowling ball. Placing the bowling ball on the trampoline creates a dip in its surface, curving the path of anything traveling along it. Objects moving quickly can continue along new trajectories, but objects passing too slowly will spiral into the well.

Mass acts in a similar fashion, distorting the fabric of the universe and bending the motion of anything around it. When a gravity well becomes so steep that not even light can escape, it turns into a black hole, sucking in all nearby matter. What happens inside a black hole? Nobody knows. Maybe it teleports matter to another part of the universe. Maybe it rips through the fabric of spacetime itself. The question remains one of the greatest mysteries of modern science.

So what do you think of these new 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! Click here for numbers 10-6!

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Click here to read last week’s post: The Art of Failure

Other cool science articles:

Three Amazing Facts About the Quantum World

What is Dark Matter?

Four Crazy Mysteries of Science

The Road to the Multiverse

Don’t Click This Link

 

Comment question of the week

If you could hop in a spaceship and travel anywhere in the universe, where would you go? What would you see?

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