Space is all about the great unknown. It’s where one can “boldly go where no man has gone before” or a mysterious place in, “a galaxy far, far away”. The possibilities of what is out there are endless, since so much has gone unexplored by us earthlings. As technology, time, and human curiosity increases, our travels take us further into the discovery of what lies beyond our planet and solar system into the depths of deep space.
For as long as travel on earth has been common, becoming an explorer doesn’t have the same cache, particularly since there aren’t too many unclaimed lands for someone to plant their flag on. What makes the life of an astronaut so appealing, beyond the wicked cool space suit, is the sense of adventure as a universal explorer seeing things no other human has.
So what is really out there? Scientists spend their entire lives theorizing and exploring space. Some make amazing discoveries, whereas others turn up very little more than some ideas about what might exist on a planet that may never be reached in their lifetime or even this century. NASA and other federal agencies have been making out of this world discoveries since the 1950s. NASA’s annual budget was 19.4 billion dollars in 2016, so what was this money spent on? What have they and other space cowboys and scientists found in the years since space exploration began. Buckle up, cause it’s time to blast off and discover 15 unbelievable things found in space, and beyond.
15. Space Unicorn
There’s a real unicorn in outer space! Okay it’s not actually a unicorn, but it certainly looks like one. There is a galaxy where this pretty pony prances, dances and sparkles! A massive cloud of gas called the Trifid Nebula looks strikingly like a unicorn. But before we all celebrate that majestic and magical creatures that poop rainbows exist, be warned this is really just an example of the human impulse called ‘pereidolia’ of seeing patterns we recognize in clouds, on wallpaper, or in outer space. The mythical creature of the unicorn is often depicted as a white horse-like animal with a long horn. It has been described as extremely wild and is often used as a symbol of purity and grace, which in some myths can only be captured by a virgin. But not to worry, you only need to be pure at heart to catch a glimpse of this gassy, cloudy, wonder.
14. A Shooting Star With Seedlings
What we grow up believing to be shooting stars across the sky aren’t actually stars, they’re meteorites. This somehow seems far less romantic because rocks just don’t have the same cache as stars. Real stars are enormous which means they don’t shoot as much as they sit there. If a star really started plummeting through the sky, it wouldn’t be something pretty to make a wish on, it would be more like an Armageddon-level freak-out. Sometimes it does happen, for instance there’s a huge red star named Mira nearing the end of its life who wanted to go out with a bang rather than a whisper. This star is rushing through the galaxy at a speedy 291,000 miles per hour and moving fast enough to create a tail that is 13 light-years long. In addition to this spectacular finale, Mira is exfoliating material that will help create future planets and stars: that’s right it’s spreading its space seed everywhere. That’s one heck of a bow!
13. Interstellar Raspberry Space Booze
There is a gigantic cloud called Sagittarius B2. It’s enormous, and a few million times the mass of our sun and calls the centre of our galaxy its home base. What’s special about this cloud is that scientists have discovered that it contains billions and billions of litres of boozeohol. The chemical in this cloud smells like rum, and is the same stuff that makes the super fruit raspberries taste so darn good. The density of this party cloud is about 20-40 times greater than a typical molecular cloud. The cloud also contains ethanol, vinyl, and methanol in addition to its alcohol enhanced properties. Cocktails made from this cloud could vary in temperature, so you may want to request a raspberry daiquiri with plenty of ice, as within the cloud there’s a variance of 27 degrees Celsius in some sections and -233.3 Celsius in other areas.
12. Lucy In The Sky With Real Diamonds
For anyone who has ever wondered why some stars shimmer like a multi-carat, show-stopping diamond, get ready to hear about the ultimate hope diamond of the sky named, 55 Cancri e. In 2010, astronomers discovered this white dwarf star with temperatures so cold the carbon atoms have crystallized the carbon into something quite similar to a massive diamond. Although cold is all relative since cold temperatures for a star are a whopping 2,700 degrees Celsius. 55 Cancri e is the coldest star ever detected, and is situated about 900 light years away from us on planet earth. The star is about the size of earth and despite being diamonds these stars are very difficult to locate because they are so dim. It’s believed that this gem frosted planet is roughly the same age as the Milky Way, making it 11 billion years young!
11. A Suicidal Six-Tailed Asteroid
The Hubble telescope discovered something pretty amazing, an asteroid that really wants to be a comet when it grows up. Comets are usually recognized because of their bright streaming tails and since asteroids are comprised of primarily heavier components and rock they don’t usually get a luminous tail because they weigh too much. When an asteroid boasting six glorious tails was spotted, people were naturally surprised and excited. Asteroid P/2013 P5 blows material into space while rotating at such a furious pace that it’s recklessly destroying itself. The gravity is has can’t compete with the rotational forces that are tearing it apart. Astronomers have determined that P5 is a leftover chunk from a past collision. The tails of the little asteroid are believed to contain no ice whatsoever since P5 has already exploded to 800 degrees Celsius.
10. Dead Skin And Tall Astronauts
Space travel can do some pretty crazy things to the human body. While these real life space problems are rarely seen on Star Trek or on other space themed programming, astronauts face strange things when it comes to how the human body adapts to gravity-free living. In the micro-gravity life, astronauts don’t ever use their feet to walk. This means the skin on their feet, which was previously calloused from wear and tear, begins to soften and eventually flake off. Because there are no laundromats in outer space clothes will be worn for several days before taking them off. When removing socks there needs to be extra care taken as dead skin cells will fall off and float around the spaceship like gross confetti. Another notable change to the human body is the straightening of the spine. Astronauts don’t need yoga to get better posture as their spine will straighten out in space since gravity is no longer weighing them down. Astronauts can get up to two inches taller in space compared to their height on earth.
9. A System So Bright It Needs To Wear Shades
Castor is one of two dazzling stars within the constellation known as Gemini the Twins. Although it appears as a solo sparkler it’s a multiple star system containing three pairs of stars that revolve around one common centre of mass (each of the stars named Castor A, Castor B, and Castor C also double). This double star phenomenon cannot be seen through a telescope, but can be using a spectroscope (a device that splits starlight up into its fundamental colours). This bright star is actually like six stars in one! It is a part of the brightest pair of stars within our view on earth. Castor sits near its twin star Pollux. To tell the sibling stars apart one should note that the star with a fainter whiter appearance is Castor, whereas the star that is brighter and golden in colour is Pollux. The Castor system is more than 54 times brighter than the earth’s sun.
8. Walt Disney Is Famous, Even In Space
The first man to walk on the moon managed these steps on July 20, 1969, but what about other creatures making an appearance on the face of the planets in our solar system? Everyone’s heard of the man in the moon, but what about the mouse on Mercury— Mickey Mouse that is. A NASA spacecraft was able to snap a fantastic photo of craters on the surface of Mercury that resemble the Disney icon mouse. The image was taken on June 3, 2012 and released to the public on June 15. NASA has said that the image is “created by the accumulation of craters over Mercury’s long geologic history”. The massive craters that make up Mickey are around 65 miles wide and have been flecked with other impacts to the surface of the planet to make up what looks like the ears.
7. Wet Space
Water, particularly fresh drinkable water, is believed to be one of the biggest emerging commodities on our planet and may become a big source of struggle and value for the near future with predictions leaning towards, by 2030, half of the world’s population residing in areas of high water stress. Does this mean, in addition to creating more ways to clarify our own water that space exploration could involve looking for water? Most people don’t think about spaceships floating through a spring shower, because we don’t talk about space rain. Scientists discovered a giant mass of water just chilling in outer space. This intergalactic water-cooler is a floating supply of space water vapor and is the largest discovered collection of water in the entire universe. Well just how big is it? It’s HUGE! It’s 100,000 times bigger than the sun and the vapor cloud is so enormous it contains 140 trillion times more aqua than all of the world’s oceans.
6. A Planet Something Like The Biodome In The Hunger Games
There is a strange planet that could potentially be inhabitable by life called Gliese 581 c, but only a small portion of it could really house life. This planet is the confirmed most likely contender for colonization, however there are a few bumps anticipated with life on this planet. It has extremes that could be parallel to the game maker’s world in the book series The Hunger Games. This planet is much closer to its star and light source than the earth is. This means it doesn’t rotate, but is in a constant state of what’s known as tidal locking. So one side faces the star all of the time while the other faces away, much like the earth and our moon. If you took a misstep onto the wrong side of the planet by being either too close to the sun, you’d cook and your face would melt off, or away from the sun you’d be deep frozen in an instant. There is a small band of area where it is believed life could exist, so long as there isn’t a misstep everything should be okay.
5. Voyager 1 & 2
Since man has been travelling into the depths of space for some time now, it only makes sense that we’ve left some of our “stuff” lying around. Voyager 1 and 2 launched onto a mission to Jupiter and Saturn in 1977. Voyager 2’s mission kept going on, visiting Uranus and Neptune while, Voyager 1 continued into interstellar space. Voyager 1 is now very far away from earth, in fact it’s now at a greater distance away from earth than Pluto is from the sun. Both Voyagers have a golden record on board, which is essentially a time-capsule of earth. The golden record has recorded audio sounds of animals, music, people talking, and a lot of images to represent life on earth just in case aliens want to check it out. At the time of the launch US President Jimmy Carter said of the record, “This record represents our hope and our determination, and our good will in a vast and awesome universe.”
4. Black Holes
Black Holes, or the concept of Black Holes are pretty terrifying. Much like “The Nothing” in The Never Ending Story, a black hole is an area of space-time with such an enormous gravitational pull that nothing (not light, not particles, or anything else) can escape from being sucked inside of it. The concept of the black hole has existed for centuries, but it took scientists some time to prove they really existed. In 1990, when the Hubble telescope was launched into space, it was meant to record photos of the deepest parts of space, including proving that black holes really exist. While the Hubble can’t see black holes, it is able to see where a black hole has sucked in matter surrounding it. It is believed that black holes are dying stars that are collapsing inwards and pull in matter from the area surrounding it.
3. White Holes
Welcome to opposite land from black holes, the theorized sibling of the scary space-sucking vacuum. White holes only exist in our minds, for now, and cannot be entered from the outside. Similar to black holes, white holes attract matter but objects travelling towards a white hole are not believed to ever reach the point of no return or “event horizon” where no light or radiation can escape of the white hole. White holes appear in the theory for eternal black holes, and a solution of the Einstein field equations has a white hole region within its history. The really exciting thing about white holes is that they are believed to be the key to amazing discoveries like time travel. Some research by Steven Hawking is believed to imply that white holes and black holes are actually the same object, evil twins from bizarro land anyone? The first mention of the possibility of white holes was queried by I. Novikov in 1964.
2. Thousands Of Other Planets
Space movies have done us all a bit of a disservice by only providing examples of a few different planets in the universe that vaguely and uncreatively are fairly similar to various locations around the world as we know it: Forest Planet of Endor, Swampy Dagobah, the desert planet of Tatooine. Scientists have discovered planets that are far more interesting than the landscapes we so often see in movies and TV shows about outer space. There are eight planets in our solar system and thousands of other unchartered planets awaiting human discovery are hot gas giants, and would not be able to sustain life as we know it, but we’re still searching. Most of the planets discovered to date are hot gas giants, but further exploration is leading to more and more discoveries. For example, scientists have discovered a planet known as Gliese 436 b is a scorching 439 degrees Celsius, but it also has a watery surface that doesn’t evaporate, instead the liquid molecules pull together forming “hot ice”.
1. Moon Junk
The moon feels like a second home to many astronauts. Perhaps that’s why humans have left so much stuff there. I’m pretty sure some of this counts as littering. In fact it’s estimated that man has left around 41,000 pounds of stuff on the moon’s surface. There are 60 unmanned space vehicles on the moon. These lunar probes are used to take pictures of the moon and retrieve samples of moon soil. Astronaut Alan Shepard went into the history books as the first person to tee off on the moon. He left behind two golf balls that he hit across the moon, which remain there awaiting the moon’s first ball boy. A contraband item of a small sculpture of a fallen astronaut was smuggled aboard by astronaut David Scott and was left on the moon as a memorial for astronauts and cosmonauts who had lost their lives. Charles Duke thought he’d leave behind a family photo on the surface of the moon in 1972, however some believe the photo may now be blank because of exposure to space and its intense conditions. Another really notable and pretty gross type of memento left on the moon by astronauts includes human refuse. It’s estimated that there are 96 bags containing human pee, poop, and vomit just awaiting to be discovered. Gross!