As many of you would have heard by now, the universe is huge. So insanely huge that if we were to take a break from our mundane lives and just think about the sheer scale of things out there, we’d likely go crazy. That’s the reason most of us don’t bother with anything outside our immediate surroundings, as our brains are simply not equipped to handle thinking about stuff like that.
If we did think about it, as many people – like scientists, astronomers and stoned college students – do, we’d realize that the universe is full of scary things you’d probably never put in a children’s book. If we ventured into its darkest corners, we’d find it hiding many fascinating – and concerning—mysteries we’re yet to uncover.
We have a lot of doomsday scenarios going around, depending on where you are in the world. Many cultures believe that the end of the world would be dramatic, which is cool by us as long as we get to see some cool visuals.
The most dangerous and plausible doomsday scenarios, however, come from actual scientists themselves, the Higgs Boson Doomsday being one of them. Many of them – including Stephen Hawking – believe it could happen, or is already happening. It’d start with a bubble filled with fluctuating Higgs energy, which should remain consistent for the universe to stay stable. The bubble would spread like the vacuum, fundamentally reprogramming – and in some cases, disintegrating – atoms as it goes.
Some scientists think that it has already started, and the bubble may be on our way from the dark parts of the universe soon. Though others say that it’s well into the future, and we may be long gone before it makes its way here.
Galactic cannibalism is the last type of cannibalism we want to hear about, even if general cannibalism is pretty gross, too. Just the idea that there are some bigger galaxies out there gobbling up other, smaller ones, and the possibility it may happen to us, is quite scary. There’s nothing to worry about, though, as it’s not going to happen in the near future. Many other galaxies out there, however, are currently being eaten up by a bigger one just because it had nothing better to do that day.
It’s not that far away from us, either. Andromeda – the galaxy most familiar to the layman and a part of our Local Group –actually devoured a sister galaxy of the Milky Way around two billion years ago. It’s also expected to do that with the Milky Way in around 4.5 billion years, but by that time humans would hopefully have developed travel between galaxies, or would have long died out. Whoever decides to stay, though, would be subjected to one hell of a light show.
If we knew about all the massive things going on in the universe, our lives may start to look a bit tiny. Some of those things, though, are so massive that they truly demonstrate how insignificant we actually are. One of them is a supermassive blackhole ejected from its galaxy.
Scientists calculated that it would have taken the same amount of energy as 100 million supernovas to throw a black hole into space. It’s not just any black hole either, but by far the biggest black hole on the move we’ve ever recorded. The energy came from the merger of two black holes at the center of the galaxy, because of course that’s a thing that keeps happening in space, too.
Out of all the things that can potentially go rogue, a black hole seems to be the worst. Black holes, as we all know, are super dense parts of space with unimaginably-high gravitational fields, so much so that even light can’t escape them. They eat up everything in their gravitational field, which is why it’s a good idea to stay away from them.
It’s a problem, though, when it starts moving. You see, much like everything else in the universe, black holes can find their own motion trajectories. In some instances, they start moving at immense speeds, eating up everything in their path.
It’s not a distant phenomenon, either; a black hole as big as Jupiter is currently dashing across the Milky Way. It was earlier assumed to be stationary, though according to some recent research, it’s really not.
Whatever is alive has to die at some point, something that applies to everything in the universe. The death of stars – as you may remember from science class – is one of the most interesting phenomena in the known universe. Every star we see in the sky is already dead and the light hasn’t reached us yet, or will die at some point in the future, including our sun. That’s the natural way of things, except when they decide to not do that.
In rare cases, stars may die and come back to life like nothing happened, something that baffles us as well as the scientists. They recently discovered zombie stars that should have died in their supernova stages but somehow survived, and are now hurtling across space with a renewed sense of life and adventure. We don’t quite understand them, which is why we hope they stay away from us.
If you’ve spent your fair share of time on the internet and science forums, you’d know that the visible universe is a tiny fraction of the whole thing. An overwhelming majority of it is made up of something called dark matter. We could have come up with a more scientific name, but as we know absolutely nothing about it, ‘dark’ matter is the most accurate description of what we think it is. We know that it permeates through everything, and huge swathes of the universe are made up of it, though that’s about it.
Even more mysterious, however, is the galaxy without any dark matter. It was earlier postulated that whatever dark matter is, the universe needs it to keep things together. The galaxy, along with others like it, proves that dark matter isn’t essential to keep galaxies glued together, further deepening the mystery of the whole thing.
No matter how boring our lives are, we can take some comfort in the fact that something interesting is going on in the universe at all times. From massive shows of light to dying stars, it’s certainly not a boring place. Some of those events, though, are so mind-bogglingly humungous that we’d rather get bored on a lazy afternoon here on Earth than find ourselves anywhere near them.
One of them is the rare collision of three galaxies, like the one we observed in 2007. While two galaxies collide with each other more often that we’d think, it’s rare to see three of them do it. What looks like just a blob of light in the photos is three massive clusters of stars merging with each other, all the while forming stars at a rapid rate (around 200 solar masses per year at the center).
There are quite a few things in the universe we don’t understand, which is cool, as we can’t know everything. It’s a real setback, though, when we think we have figured something out, only to later find out that we hadn’t figured it out at all. Case in point; the brightest and biggest black hole found in the early universe.
It’s at the center of a quasar (bright huge thing with a black hole at its center) scientists only recently discovered. Known as SDSS J0100+2802, it’s as bright as 420 trillion Suns, and by far the most massive quasar we have ever discovered. We don’t know how it formed, as nothing in the early phase of the universe should have got so big, which also makes it the most mysterious black hole we know of.
The universe is quite a cold place, as the heat of the stars is only enough to affect a tiny part of it. We know that it’s cold, though we don’t know the extent of how cold it can get. According to some scientists, the absolute coldest place in the known universe is the Boomerang Nebula (a nebula being a giant mass of gas and dust in space).
It’s so cold – clocking in at -457.87F on an average – that scientists have been trying to understand exactly what happened to it for a while now. And as per a recent study, there’s a perfectly good explanation for it. Apparently, it was ejected out after a star threw itself into another bigger star going through the last stages of its life, causing most of its matter to be ejected out as a cold burst. While it’s still quite a bit away from us to be of any danger, it’s one place we should all agree to never explore in case we do figure out interstellar travel.
For something named as inconspicuously as ‘strange matter’, you wouldn’t think that it’d mean much. It sounds like something scientists came up with when they couldn’t explain something and wanted to keep it for later. Look it up online, though, and you’d realize it’s by far one of the weirdest parts of theoretical physics.
In essence, strange matter – which may contain a lot of types of particles – isn’t like anything we have seen before. You see, usual matter is made up of atoms with a nucleus, which contains the protons and neutrons. They’re in turn made up of quarks, which stay neatly packed in, give everything around us their unique properties. In strange matter, though, the quarks run free, with seemingly no boundaries or rules on what they’re supposed to do. It’s a completely different type of matter, and scarily, could turn everything it comes in contact with to its own properties. Yes, a tiny lump of strange matter anywhere in the universe could be on its way here now, completely changing – and essentially destroying—the very nature of matter around it.
Fortunately, strange matter hasn’t been proven to exist anywhere in the universe, so it’s only on paper for now. Unfortunately and more recently, though, scientists did find something very similar to what they think strange matter would be like.