Space has stirred the curiosity of scientists such as Hawking since the beginning of mankind. Indeed, the Universe is incredible. It’s astounding to consider that the more we learn about space, the more there is to learn. Some scientific discoveries lose that initial spark of intense curiosity as more information is uncovered – the Universes’ origin, function, and complexity have not. These space oddities prove why.
Speaking personally, this writer has often reflected on the complexity and sheer magnificence of the Universe. Anyone who ever studied space – formally or informally, inside or outside of the classroom – will state that the breadth of knowledge about space and the passionate inquiry it elicits are unmatched. The human brain is probably the only other entity that invites such intense interest.
Fortunately for us, technological advances have made space more identifiable than any other time in history. Telescopes such as the Hubble have led to breakthrough discoveries in the fields of astrophysics, astronomy, and cosmology. The Hubble Telescope helped determine the age of the universe (13-14 billion years), discover new galaxies, and gave us – for the first time – detailed visual information from billions of years past.
The Hubble telescope is now over 25 years old and there now exists imaging technology that far exceeds the Hubble’s capabilities. Of course, this development led to many asking: ‘What next?’
The simplest answer: some pretty amazing stuff.
Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. – Stephen Hawking
Some of the knowledge obtained about space was quite unexpected, as one would assume. Then there are discoveries that flat-out stumped some of the most brilliant scientists, researchers and academics in the world.
Here are 10 facts about space that will change your perspective about life:
10. Triangulum II
Researchers at Caltech, one of the most prominent universities in the country, were enthrallingly astounded concerning the speed with which the stars of our ‘galactic neighbor’ moved.
The main reason is that for such a ‘tiny’ galaxy, Triangulum contains a huge amount of hidden mass. Consider this: our galaxy contains at least 100 billion stars, while the Triangulum has only about 1000. So this discovery left scientists intrigued on what one this galaxy was composed of, as the size of a galaxy is somewhat proportional to its number of stars.
What scientists found was the highest concentration of dark matter – lightless, non-observable matter – of any galaxy ever discovered.
9. Tanya The Firstborn
Astronomers employed the combined powers of both the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to capture images of the dimmest galaxy ever. ‘Tanya’ is not only the dimmest galaxy ever, it’s one of the earliest (hence, ‘Firstborn’) – forming between approximately 12.6 to 13.4 billion years ago.
Launching in 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope – NASA’s ‘premier observatory of the next decade’ – will allow astronomers to explore some of the earliest galaxies in far more detail.
8. Breast-Feeding Galaxy
Astronomers can tell us a vast amount of information about space. One discovery that has eluded them so far is how galaxies are formed. Currently, there are two predominant hypotheses: (1) hydrogen and various gasses gather with massive clumps of dark matter, or (2) a long filament feeds gas into forming galaxies through a webbed pipeline.
Caltech used their Cosmic Web Imager to spot a baby galaxy ten billion light-years away that was being ‘breast-fed’ a hydrogen mixture via an expansive filament of gas – a filament that is part of a cosmic web of stellar-forming material. This was the first significant discovery of the 2nd hypothesis.
7. A Cryptic Galactic Ring
Using the juxtaposition of seven observable gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the most violent collisions in space, astronomers discovered a structure so massive it shouldn’t exist.
This unnamed entity is insanely massive: a formation of galaxies over five-billion light-years in width, stretching across an area over 70 times greater than that of a full Moon.
6. Hercules A
Hercules A is one of the brightest conglomerations in space. At the center of Hercule’s pinkish-red mixture of magnetic fields, subatomic particles and plasma is a black hole that contains a mass comparable to 2.5 billion suns.
The energy that Hercules emits is astonishing: its central black hole discharges energy with one billion times more power than our Sun.