Our universe is FULL of crazy, unexpected objects and events that make it such an amazing place to explore. So many of the discoveries made in space are unexpected.
Some of them are incredibly interesting while being beautiful and benign. But there are others that are extremely violent and destructive.
Astronomers’ jobs are to study what happens in the cosmos and try to explain what is happening and to PREDICT events happening in the future so they can take a closer look. Whether these events have an impact on Earth or not, understanding them more will lead astronomers to a deeper understanding of our universe.
One of the first examples of a cosmic event that humans experience were asteroid impacts. Astronomers have found that our own solar system has a LARGE asteroid belt within it. This belt sits between Juptier and Mars and contains over seven hundred thousand individual asteroids in the main section of the belt.
If an asteroid were to be hurled from the belt in the direction of Earth, a large enough impact would cause a lot of change to life on our planet, like when an asteroid impact brought the age of dinosaurs to an end. The damage from the impact would be enormous but it wouldn’t be the ONLY form of disaster due to the asteroid.
An impact big enough could send enough dust and soot into our atmosphere that the sun could be blacked out for years. If Earth is struck with an asteroid impact we can all expect life on this planet to change drastically in its aftermath. An asteroid impact would not only destroy an enormous portion of the planet but it could also black out the sun Some discoveries that astronomers make have no simple answer as to what they are. T
he instruments that we use to learn about our universe give us data that has to be interpreted in order to ascertain what it is showing us.
One type of information that gets transmitted throughout the galaxy are radio waves. Radio waves are a type of light wave that can travel vast distances through the vacuum of space and can be picked up by our instruments and can tell us a lot about what produced the signal and where it comes from. But sometimes scientists cannot figure out the origin of a signal and need to test new theories to understand what is happening.
Astronomers using telescopes like Hubble have discovered over one THOUSAND fast radio burst signals, FRBs, coming from deep space since the first discovery of one in two thousand and one. These signals are extremely powerful pulses of radio waves that can last for only fractions of a second and scientists still do not know what causes them.
The majority of the signals that have been detected only came through once. But some signals have been known to be picked up again and again, most of the time without a recognizable pattern.
However, a telescope in Canada has recently found a fast radio burst that repeats on a regular cycle that takes about sixteen days.
This type of repeating pattern intrigues astronomers because they believe they can use the pattern to help understand what is producing these bursts. Fast radio bursts have been detected coming from deep space. Astronomers don’t know the origin of these signals. Most signals are only detected once but some have been found to repeat their pattern.
These strange signals are not ONLY coming from deep space, astronomers have also found these signals coming from sources within our OWN galaxy. In twenty twenty, two separate radio telescopes on the ground detected an EXTREMELY intense pulse of radio waves. T
hese radio pulses were classified as FRBs. Scientists don’t know what or how fast radio bursts are created but they know that it must have a high-energy source.
They were able to trace back these radio bursts to a general area in space that is only thirty thousand light years from earth. This makes this FRB the closest one to Earth ever discovered. Astronomers still do not know what produces these fast radio bursts but some evidence has come out in recent years that point towards a few new theories.
One of the most promising theories that came along the detection of FRBs from the Milky Way points towards young neutron stars being a possible source.
Neutron stars are the remnants of massive stars that went supernova but did not condense their mass enough to form a black hole in the aftermath. But until they can get more data and better instruments their origins will still be a mystery.
Fast radio bursts have also been found coming from our own galaxy. These bursts were traced back and found to originate about thirty thousand light years away. These signals could be produced by a young neutron star.
Ever since scientists began to probe outer space with high powered rockets and telescopes they have been looking for other signs of habitable planets.
They look for planets that are close enough to their star to be warm as well as other features that may sustain life. Although astronomers have found a lot of planets that could be considered habitable, they have also found many more that do not fit into that description. One type of planet that is definitely not hospitable are rogue planets.
Astronomers have recently found planets that are not orbiting a star at all and are drifting through the cosmos on their own. The vast majority of planets astronomers have discovered are in orbit around the star. But these rogue planets have been EJECTED from the star system they were born in, destined to drift through the cold vacuum of space.
No one knows what has caused these planets to eject but some theories posited include asteroid impacts with enough force to dislodge them from orbit.
Another theory as to how rogue planets come about is that after their birth orbiting a star, another celestial body like a star comes close enough that its gravity pulls the planet out of its orbit and into space.
Regardless of how they became rogue, once they are on their own they will drift in the cold vacuum of space. Planets can be ejected from their star system and will float through space on their own.
They could have been thrown out by another gravitational pull or knocked out by an large impact. The discovery of black holes changed the way we look at the universe.
Knowing that there are massively dense objects out there with the gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape. But as astronomers sought out more information about black holes, they made some discoveries that shocked them even more.
They know that many galaxies have massive black holes in the center of them and that smaller black holes are not extremely rare within the greater universe. But one discovery that they did not anticipate is that black holes do not always stay in place. Rogue black holes have been discovered flying through space at mind boggling speeds.
These monsters can FLY through space devouring anything unlucky enough to be in its path. Astronomers believe the black holes can become rogue black holes after being ejected from whatever galaxy they were born in.
This could happen as the result of two galaxies colliding with each other flinging their contents into empty space. If a black hole gets ejected, the rogue black holes will barrell through space and there isn’t much that could stop it. Rogue black holes fly through space at incredible speeds.
They will devour any matter that gets in their path including light. Astronomers have a hard time detecting them so we wouldn’t know if one was coming towards us. Galaxies can combine through the process of galactic cannibalism.
The two galaxies will combine in a violent event and will result in a single large galaxy. There are all types of events throughout the universe that give off different types of energy. One of the most powerful types of energy that can be produced in our universe comes in the form of gamma ray bursts.
Events that give these energetic bursts off are some of the most powerful and destructive events in our universe. They include super novas, black holes, and a few other theoretical sources. When a star goes supernova it generates a large blast of energy that is emitted as a gamma ray burst that spreads out from the star into space.
Once the bursts are into space, they will travel at the speed of light until they run into something. If Earth is unlucky enough to be in the path of a strong gamma ray burst, we can expect to deal with some difficulties on our planet.
A burst strong enough can knock out the electronics that control our satellites as well as take much of the electrical systems on Earth.
Gamma ray bursts are some of the most powerful type of energy released during cosmic events. A star going supernova will emit gamma rays as it dies. If a strong enough gamma ray burst hits Earth, it could cause the loss of connection with our satellites and could knock out electrical systems on earth.
One of the more dire discoveries for Earth that astronomers have made has to do with our own sun. Our sun is currently classified as a yellow dwarf star. It does not have enough mass to go supernova at the end of its life but that doesn’t mean it will just go out.
When our sun begins to die it will begin to slowly expand out until it becomes a red giant. When it expands, it will get close enough to earth that it will SCORCH the earth, evaporating ALL of our surface water and killing much of the life here.
It may even get so big that it engulfs the earth as it expands. But don’t worry, this is not going to happen for at least another seven billion years so we have time to make a plan for our escape. As the sun reaches the end of its life in at least seven billion years it will begin to expand. This expansion will lead to extreme temperatures on Earth that will destroy most of the life on earth. It may expand to a size large enough to engulf the Earth entirely.
There are many planets out in the cosmos. Did you know that astronomers found a planet that is BOTH made of solid ice and is burning at temperatures over eight hundred degrees fahrenheit. It’s called Gliese 436 B and it is a Neptune sized planet discovered in 2004. Gliese 436 B has the unique properties of having a surface made up of solid ice while having surface temperatures above eight hundred degrees fahrenheit.
Astronomers believe this is possible due to the IMMENSE gravity from the core of the planet which causes the ice to be under so much pressure that it cannot melt. The surface is also covered in a layer of hydrogen and helium gas which acts as another insulator keeping the balance between fire and ice.
Astronomers discovered a planet that is made of solid ice and also has surface temperatures above eight hundred degrees fahrenheit. The gravitational force from the planet’s core puts enough pressure on the ice so it cannot melt. Everything that humans have ever seen makes up only about fifteen percent of the matter that makes up our universe.
Scientists have named the other eighty five percent dark matter because it does not interact with light making it invisible to our eyes and it does not interact with ordinary matter outside of its gravitational pull.
Astronomers know that dark matter is out there because its gravitational effects CAN be seen throughout the universe affecting giant clusters with its gravitational pull. While they don’t know what dark matter is, there is no shortage of theories taking a shot at the answer.
Dark matter has been theorized to be made up of dark bosons which form invisible “ghost stars” that float through space not interacting with any matter it touches. Another theory states that dark matter could be made up of trillions upon trillions of subatomic particles that are just too small for us to see like neutrinos. But until scientists know what dark matter is, they will have to keep observing its effects and trying to study it more.
Dark matter makes up 85% of the total matter in the universe while normal matter that everything we see is made up of only accounts for 15% Scientists do not know what dark matter is but they do have some theories.
Dark matter may be made up of dark bosons which can group together to form ghost stars. It could be trillions of subatomic particles that are too small to be detected. There are so many fascinating things to discover in our universe and astronomers keep finding new objects and events that keep giving them a deeper understanding of the universe we all live in.