20 Interesting Space Facts

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1. Oldest Known Galaxy

The oldest and therefore furthest known galaxy we have discovered is over 13.7 billion light years away. It’s called z8_GND_5296. The light has taken so long to reach us that the star which collapsed to form the gas that Sun is made out of wasn’t “born” yet. Galaxies this far away help astronomers understand the very early universe and how it has evolved over time. Due to the expansion of space, the distant galaxy pictured here technically wouldn’t be there anymore and would actually be “currently 13.1 gigalight-years away from us. or 4.0×109 pc.” 

2. First Imaged Exoplanet

Fomalhaut b is a confirmed, directly-imaged first extrasolar object and candidate planet orbiting the A-type main-sequence star Fomalhaut, approximately 25 light-years away in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus. The object was initially announced in 2008 and confirmed as real in 2012 from images taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on the Hubble Space Telescope and, according to calculations reported in January 2013, has a 1,700-year, highly-elliptical orbit. 

3. Death Star Galaxy

Whilst scientists were perusing some data, they noticed a pair of galaxies circling each other. This was not uncommon. What was interesting though was that they noticed there is a highly energetic blast coming from the main parent galaxy and travelling straight at its orbiting companion. They christened the bigger galaxy the “Death Star” galaxy. It is likely that any life that may have existed in the smaller of the two was completely wiped out by this jet. 

4. Earth to Moon

The distance from the Earth to the moon is sometimes underestimated. The image here shows a more accurate representation of the distance. 

5. Aurora

Auroras seen at the earth’s poles are an almost elastic snap back of the magnetic fields created by the earth. In simple terms, the Sun bombards the earth with high energy solar winds smashing against this magnetic field.

For night time aurora, the field stretches out to a point where it cannot maintain anymore and then snaps back to the Earth. The bounce back flings high energy particles at the Earth’s atmosphere, causing it to glow.

The aurora of the day are more difficult to see, but are caused by the energetic particles from the sun ‘breaking through the gap’ of the Earth’s magnetic field as it stretches. 

6. Our Solar System is Flat Because…

When the solar system was born it was a dense cloud of gas and dust swirling in all directions orbiting the new star. As the clouds particles crashed into each other the momentum they carried cancelled out. The direction with the most momentum managed to keep going. Over time this caused the cloud to flatten out into a disk through which the planets formed.

Interestingly though Pluto actually angled at around 20 degrees offset. This could possibly be due to its distance from the Sun or its mass.

7. Black Holes Are Aligned

European astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have found that the rotation axes of quasars are parallel to each other over very long distances and tend to be aligned with the so-called large-scale structures in which the quasars reside. Quasars are galaxies with very active supermassive black holes at their centers. These black holes are surrounded by spinning discs of extremely hot material that is often spewed out in long jets along their axes of rotation. When astronomers look at the distribution of galaxies on scales of billions of light-years they find that the galaxies form a cosmic web of filaments and clumps. This intriguing arrangement of material is known as large-scale structure. 

8. Titan’s Atmosphere

Saturn’s moon Titan is the one of the few bodies in Solar System that has land, liquid oceans and atmosphere. One of the most interesting things about Titan is its atmosphere, which comprises of 90-95% Nitrogen. This is comparable to Earth’s 80% Nitrogen. Titan may look similar to earth, but it is different chemically. Titan’s oceans are made up of liquid methane. Titan may seem similar to Earth due to its features such as rivers, lakes, dunes and seasonal weather patterns. Titan is uninhabitable because it is inside the Saturn’s magnetosphere. Temperature on the moon is cold enough that it rains liquid Methane. Enceladus, which is another one of the Saturn’s moon also probably, has liquid oceans and solid ice.

9. Super Earth

A super-Earth is an classification given to any extrasolar planet with mass higher than Earth’s, but substantially below the mass of the Solar System’s smaller gas giants Uranus and Neptune, which are 15 and 17 Earth masses respectively. The term super-Earth refers only to the mass of the planet, and does not imply anything about the surface conditions or habitability. 

10. Andromeda’s Vengeance

Analysis of data taken from studies into Andromeda’s red-shift (the term referring to the devolution of light as it carries over time, warping its frequency/color) states that Andromeda is heading right for us. The Milky Way and Andromeda will one day collide with one another and the supermassive black holes at their cores will merge. The collision will burst billions of stars into existence and force supernovae onto millions of others. Due to the relative position of the Earth in the Milky Way at that point, probably nothing will happen or it’s going to be armageddon. It’s likely that the Earth and Sun won’t be around by this point anyway. The event sits right on the cusp of when we expect the Sun to be dying. In either case, there’s still going to be a ‘collision’.

11. Heliosphere

The heliosphere is a vast region of space surrounding the Sun, a sort of bubble filled by the interplanetary medium and extending well beyond the orbit of Pluto. Plasma “blown” out from the Sun, known as the solar wind, creates and maintains this bubble against the outside pressure of the interstellar medium, the hydrogen and helium gas that permeates our galaxy. . The magnetic fields generated by the plasma in the sun protect the solar system from cosmic radiation of the outside galaxy.

12. Supernova

During nuclear fusion in a star, hydrogen fuses into helium. When the whole hydrogen fuel is used up, gravity starts winning against exploding force, and the star contracts. When it starts falling (contracting), it heats up and this heat generates enough energy for Helium to fuse together. This process continues and goes from Helium to Carbon to Oxygen etc. until it reaches Iron. When all of the star’s mass is fused into Iron, it marks the end of the star’s life. The heavier elements come from Supernova. During a supernova heavy elements rapidly fuse during the explosion. Also, not all stars produce Iron in their sequence. The duration is so small and tiny that the elements you see after Iron are very rare in Universe. Eg: uranium, Plutonium etc. Higher you go in Periodic Table, rarer it is to see that element in Universe.” The element Gold might actually require the merger of two neutron stars.

Basically, anything in your body that is not hydrogen was created in a star. Anything in your body that is heavier than Iron was made during a supernova.

13. Cosmic Microwave Background

The Cosmic Microwave Background is the radiation left over from what can only be assumed is the Big Bang. When the universe was very young, it was very dense and small. It would have also brightly glowed from the heat. The light from this primordial universe has been propagating ever since. Over time the colors have red-shifted into the microwave band. The radiation itself is a massive deal for astrophysicists because it provides a brief fleeting glimpse into the very early universe.

Today, the observable universe extends 13.8 billion years away from us, in all directions. Before cosmic inflation that same space and all the matter in it would have fit into a volume much, much smaller than a proton. We have no reason to believe space does not extend beyond that – the light has not had enough time to travel farther, and back then light could not travel in a straight line because space was so dense and hot that all photons kept colliding with matter and being scattered in different directions. 

14. Hawking Radiation

Hawking Radiation is the theoretical disintegration of black holes over time. The premise goes that throughout the universe there are ever constantly appearing particle and anti-particle pairs. They suddenly exist, attract one another and then destroy one another. The anti-particles have a negative mass. Stephen Hawking (for whom the radiation is named) surmised that the particle could escape the pull of a black hole but its anti-particle twin could not. The negative mass would gradually lower the incredible mass of the black hole to the point of dissipation. The particles that escape could then be measured as basically heat. 

15. Neutrinos

This is an image of the Kamioka Observatory in Japan. It was built underground so that other background radiation sources cannot affect the experiments it conducts. This observatory measures Neutrinos. Neutrinos are particles which barely interact with matter. They fly past/through solid objects and are incredibly difficult to detect. Billions fly through every square inch of you coming from the Sun and cause you no harm whatsoever. It’s theorized that to catch and detect Neutrinos from the sun for certainty you would need a light year long strip of Lead. In astrophysics, neutrinos allow us to make some assumptions about the chemical/atomic processes that are going on in certain astronomical events. This is because they are only created under certain conditions such as fusion. Neutrino detectors like this are basically huge underground pools surrounded by photomultiplier tubes that can detect photons emitted by interactions between neutrinos and water.

16. The Fermi Paradox

The Fermi Paradox is a paradox of essentially what we have calculated and what we actually perceive in regards to extraterrestrial life. The general premise is that there are estimated billions and billions of sun like stars in the Milky Way galaxy and trillions of planets sometimes billions of years older. If the Earth is typical, then by odds alone there should be millions of potential advanced civilisations out there. A civilisation just 1000 years ahead of ours should be capable of space travel.

So where is everyone? Why can’t we detect energy signatures from communications or evidence of Aliens anywhere we look? There are a number of potential explanations:

· The Earth could be considered a nature reserve or there could be a non-interference policy that is shared.

· One dominant species has conquered and destroyed all the others.

· Humans are the intellectual exception to the evolution of life.

17. The Big Bang

At some point 13.8 billion years ago the universe was compressed into an area smaller than an atom. We know this because the fabric of the universe is expanding and stretching (galaxies are red-shifting further away all the time). What is interesting is that not only was space “born” at that single point but also time. In essence, there was no “before.” There exists a fixed point where general relativity breaks down. This is because general relativity relies on space and time being interwoven and if space didn’t exist until after the bang then neither did time. So how can causality apply? In this prevailing theory, the Big Bang just happened spontaneously. This is only one theory of the origins of the universe. Another prevailing theory is that at some arbitrary point the universe begins to contract greatly (The Big Crunch) before it begins expanding again. This would make the universe a circular process with a continuing flow of time.

18. Protoplanetary Disks

This image is the first direct image ever taken of a Protoplanetary Disk. The line gaps represent ares where the gas/dust has started to clump together and form planets. HL Tau, the star in the picture, is only around a million years old. It has stunned scientists that there are already planetary bodies big enough to cause such large rings. The image is important because it confirms what was, up until now, merely strong hypothesis about the birth of our own solar system.

19. Voyager 1

Voyager 1 is the first man-made object to have officially left the Solar System. Launched in 1977, it was originally intended to explore the outer solar system but once its job was done, it was directed to simply keep going. Voyager 1 is actually responsible for the famous image “Pale Blue Dot” made famous by Carl Sagan in this video. If it was to turn around and head back towards Earth at the speed of light, it would take over 34 hours to reach us. Voyager 1 has a sister traveller named Voyager 2. Sooner or later this will also leave the solar system.

20 Largest Ever Image of the Milky Way

This is the largest most detailed image of the Milky Way ever taken from Earth’s perspective. It is 9 gigapixels in size. On it you can see upwards of 84 million stars.

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