Space is pretty cool, and a lot of it is pretty weird. Planets orbit around stars, which die and are reborn, and everything in the galaxy orbits super-massive black holes that slowly pull everything to their doom. But every now and again, space throws a curveball our way so bizarre that you’ll twist your mind into a pretzel trying to figure it out.
The Red Square Nebula
Things in space are fairly rounded, for the most part. Planets, stars, galaxies, and the shape of orbits are all at least somewhat circular. Then there’s the Red Square Nebula, a cloud of gas shaped like, well, a square.
Understandably, this made astronomers do a bit of a double take, because things in space aren't supposed to be square. But it’s not really a square, either.
If you look closely at the image, you can see that the cross shape really forms the sides of two cones with their tips touching, but there aren’t exactly tons of cones in the night sky, either. The hourglass-shaped nebula is so brightly lit because there’s a star at the very center—that is, where the tips are touching. It’s quite possible that this star could eventually detonate into a supernova, making the rings at the base of the cones glow with blinding intensity.
The Pillars Of Creation
As Douglas Adams once wrote, “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is.” We all know that the unit of measurement used for distances in space is the light year, but think about what that means.
A light year is a distance so enormous that it takes light—that thing that moves faster than anything else in the universe—an entire year to traverse it.That means that when we look at objects in space that are really far away, like the Pillars of Creation (a formation in the Eagle Nebula), we’re really looking back in time. How is that possible?
Well, it takes light 7,000 years to reach Earth from the Eagle Nebula, and we see things by perceiving the light that bounces off of them. The light that we perceive as the Eagle Nebula is 7,000 years old by the time it reaches Earth.The implications of this glimpse into the past can be pretty weird.
For example, astronomers think that the Pillars of Creation formation was actually destroyed by a supernova about 6,000 years ago. Since it takes light so long to reach us, you can still see the pillars if you look up into the night sky, even though they no longer exist.
Things are constantly moving around in space—orbiting, spinning, and hurtling through the void. Because of this—and the enormous gravitational pull between them—galaxies tend to collide with one another on a regular basis. That’s probably not too surprising—all it takes is one look at the moon to realize that space tends to grab things and slam them together.
When two galaxies containing billions of stars collide, it’s got to be complete turmoil, right? Actually, in galactic collisions, the probability of two stars colliding is practically zero. How can that even happen?
Apart from being really big, space’s other defining feature is that it’s pretty empty. It’s called space for a reason, after all. While galaxies might look solid from a distance, remember that we’re in a galaxy right now, and the nearest star is 4.2 light years away. That’s a lot of space
How A Black Hole Kills You
Black holes are so massive that stuff gets really weird in their general vicinity. It’s easy to imagine that getting sucked into one would mean spending the rest of eternity (or your air supply) screaming in lonely torment into a funnel of blackness.
But never fear—the immense gravity of a black hole solves that problem for you. The force of gravity is stronger the closer you get to the source, and when there’s such an enormous force to begin with, the amount can change greatly over a short distance—say, the height of a human being.
Assuming you fell in feet-first, the force of gravity on your feet as you approached the black hole would eventually be so much stronger than the force on your head that it would stretch your body out into a spaghetti-like line of atoms before it ultimately crushed you at the center. You might want to keep that in mind before you get any ideas about spring boarding into the nearest black hole.
The Eridanus void
The Hubble Deep Space Field is an image we obtained by pointing the Hubble telescope at “empty” space, and it contains thousands of distant galaxies. Whenever we look at an “empty” space in the Eridanus constellation, though, we see nothing. At all.
It’s just a black void spanning a width of over a billion light years. Almost any other patch of “emptiness” in the night sky will return an image of galaxies with about the same dispersal, but this immense void is bizarre. We have several methods for detecting what we expect to be dark matter, but even those have come up empty when we peer into the Eridanus void.
One controversial theory is that the void contains a super-massive black hole that all of the nearby galactic clusters orbit around, and that this high-speed orbit accounts for the “illusion” of an expanding universe.
A counter-theory suggests that all matter eventually clumps together, forming galactic clusters, and this drift forms voids between those clusters over time.But that doesn't explain the second void astronomers found in the southern night sky, and this one is 3.5 billion light years wide.
This is so wide that it’s difficult for the big bang theory to explain, as the universe hasn't been around long enough for such an enormous void to form through standard galactic drift. Maybe there’s something to this enormous black hole thing after all.
This post was written by Usman Abrar. To contact the writer write to email@example.com. Follow on Facebook