Our universe is an amazing place full of amazing facts. Every day new discoveries are made and we’ve come so far in a relatively short period of time toward understanding our surroundings, where we originated from and where we may be heading. Even quantum physics has been scaled to layman’s terms. Lively discussions take place around the world on everything from String Theory to Dark Energy. All we need to do is look up at the night sky during specified times to see constellations of stars, alignments of planets, meteorite showers, eclipses of the moon, visiting comets and so much more. Gravitational telescopes have made so many more observations possible for us. This list attempts to bring just a few fascinating facts to light. Hopefully it’s enough to whet your appetite and encourage you to learn more about the wild and beautiful place we live in known as our universe.
10. There Are Most Likely More Than 500 Million Planets Able to Support Life in Our Galaxy
Scientists call planets that are located within a star’s habitable zone, “Goldilocks Planets”. These planets are most likely to have the exact conditions necessary to support life, meaning the temperature is acceptable as well as water existing in both liquid and gas forms and of course there must be the right combination of chemicals present to build life. It is estimated that there are 500 million or more Goldilocks planets right here in our own Milky Way galaxy. If that is correct just think about the possible potential for life existing in the rest of the universe.
9. It Takes Our Solar System 225 Million Years to Rotate Around the Milky Way.
The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy resembling a pinwheel and is always spinning. The galaxy is spinning at roughly 168 miles per second or about 600,000 miles per hour. Our solar system is approximately 28,000 light years away from the center of the Milky Way. Since it takes 225 million years for our solar system to rotate around the Milky Way galaxy, the last time Earth was in the position it’s in now dinosaurs roamed the planet.
8. All the Galaxies, Planets and Stars Only Make Up 4 Percent of the Universe
With all that we can see in space there is 96 percent of it that we can’t see. We can’t even identify or understand what that 96 percent is made of. Some scientists call it dark energy or dark matter. Unfortunately there is no way of really deciphering what this dark energy or matter is. We can work mathematical formulas and estimate the gravitational pull of these entities, but there is no sure way of proving what the invisible part of our universe is made up of. The majority of the universe may remain a mystery forever.
7. There Is Such a Thing as Cosmic Cannibalism
The definition of cosmic cannibalism is the act of one galaxy colliding with and swallowing another. It doesn’t have to be a whole galaxy; it could be partial parts of it such as stars or planets. Our neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy has been suspected for some time of being a predator gobbling up smaller galaxies that got too close. According to Alan McConnachie of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, “there has been proof found, spotted leftovers in Andromeda’s wake including half a dozen remnants of stars and dwarf galaxies that got too close to the giant.
6. The Sunlight Touching Your Face Is Over 30,000 Years Old
Our sun is estimated to be about 4.6 billion years old and should keep shining for 5 billion more years. The rays of the sun take about 8 minutes to make the journey across 93 million miles between the surface of the sun and that of the earth. Those rays though began their life over 30,000 years ago at the core of the sun through an intensive nuclear fusion process in which the sun consumes helium and hydrogen. Once our sun runs out of hydrogen to burn it will begin utilizing helium alone, which will cause it to become a “Super Nova”.
5. Days on Earth Are Getting Longer
Do you ever wish there was more time in the day? You may not know it, but you are getting your wish. When Earth rotates completely around on its axis, we measure that time period as a day. On average our days on Earth have been increasing a few milliseconds per year but the Earth’s rotation is affected by many things, including the moon’s gravitational effects. Surprisingly, major events can also affect the rotation of our planet. Events such as earthquakes and tsunamis can add or delete milliseconds from the day. The earthquake, a few years ago in Japan, was of such a magnitude that it shortened our day by 1.8 microseconds. It effectively shifted the Earth’s figure axis. Since the days have been continually lengthening this means when dinosaurs roamed the Earth their days were probably only about 22 hours long.
4. There Are Most Likely Many More Universes
It’s become a much more accepted idea that we live in a universe that is one of many. It originates from the theory of eternal inflation. The theory states that after the Big Bang, space and time expanded at different rates and in different places. This allows the opportunity for bubble universes to exist, each one functioning with its own set of physics. Imagine two soap bubbles colliding; where they intersect with each other, there exists another circle that could be according to the eternal inflation theory, a bubble universe.
3. There Are Up to 4,800 Stars Born Every Second
In our galaxy, the Milky Way, the star formation rate is about 3 solar masses per year. As one solar mass is equal to the mass of our Sun, there is enough material to construct about three suns every year. What does that mean? Well astronomers use this logic to apply it to galaxies as well. So if we have enough for three stars per year and we multiply that by the estimated number of galaxies in existence, which is 50 billion, which equates to 150 billion or 400 million stars, born per day! That’s 4,800 stars born per second!
2. Looking Into the Night Sky Gives You a View Back In Time
When we look up at the night sky, the star light that we are able to see has taken a long time to travel across space. That means each time we look at the stars we are actually seeing the way they looked in the past. For example, some stars located in the constellation of Orion are located approximately 640 light years away so when we look at those stars we are actually seeing into the past, to a time when the light left those stars, which for us is about 1370 A.D. The further away the star, the deeper into the past we are looking. Time and space are inextricably connected.
1. We Are Made of Stardust
The elements found on Earth come from the stars. That means all the things that make up the earth including the life present is comprised of stardust. According to Carl Sagan, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, all made from the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star-stuff”. If you take time to think about that, it’s absolutely mind-blowing to think we are so deeply connected with the stars in the sky that we look out on. If not for the death of stars we would not have life.