The universe is a big place, maybe infinitely so, and chances are we will probably never uncover all of its deepest secrets. What the heck is dark matter? Are we alone in the universe? If not, what would life on other planets look like? Is time travel possible? Who knows? The questions that emerge from looking up at the stars are numerous, and we don’t know which ones will be answered.
The list of crazy stuff that goes on up there is long, so of course, we can’t hope to cover all of it. So we decided to select a couple of the whackiest bind-mending phenomena out there and discuss them a little. Strap in, get ready for lift-off and enjoy the ride. If you’re still curious, in the end, we recommend a couple of sources for further reading. Enjoy!
And You Thought Rock ‘N’ Roll Was Heavy?
The first crazy phenomenon we’ll consider is the neutron star. These are not your “ordinary” run-of-the-mill, make-life-possible burning balls of gas. Nope, these things are special. They are the collapsed cores of giant stars, and besides black holes, and a couple of other whacky things, neutron stars are some of the densest objects in the universe. Let’s consider what we mean when we say “collapsed.” The weight of the giant star becomes too much for the structure to stay intact, so it collapses into itself.
Basically, you have the weight of a star (some multiple of 2×1030 kg, for you math geeks out there) that collapsed and condensed itself into a sphere of about 10 km in diameter. A 10 km sphere kind of sounds big, but think of our sun, an average star, and you’ll see that 10 km is nothing. The kicker here is that, in accordance with the laws of physics, the collapsed giant star doesn’t lose any of its weight.
That means you have billions and billions of kilograms all packed into one ball. It’s so dense it’s hard to imagine. Let’s put it this way: if you were to take a teaspoon of neutron star, it would weigh about 10 million tons! One teaspoon! Imagine putting that in your coffee…
The question of whether or not we are alone in the universe has been around for a while, and it’s a really fascinating one. Either we are alone or we’re not. Either answer is just as terrifying in some ways. But some scientists say that because there are so many billions of planets out there, in terms of pure numbers, chances are we’re not alone.
But if we’re not alone, where would these other lifeforms live? They probably wouldn’t live in stars or black holes, right? They would probably live on what we call “exoplanets.” Some people also call them “extrasolar planets.” These terms simply refer to planets that are beyond our solar system. They are naturally mysterious simply due their distance from us. They are just too far to even try and study.
Our planet is pretty much a bunch of huge rocks sticking out from the water. A few factors, like distance from the sun and others, have made it possible for life to emerge on Earth. We breathe oxygen, drink water, and eat things that grow here. The same goes for all other animals. What would life look like on other planets though?
Maybe lifeforms on exoplanets would breathe sulfur. Maybe they would have two heads. Maybe instead of two genders (in the biological sense), there would be seven genders? Maybe these creatures could live for millions of years. Or maybe they would only live for a few minutes. Would they still perceive time the same way? Who knows? Once we start talking exoplanets, the possibilities are endless, maybe infinite.
The Universe Is Your Space Oyster
As we mentioned at the beginning, space and its contents is a huge field of study, and the things we know about are mind-bending. Seriously, a lot of this stuff sounds like fiction, but it’s not – it’s good old science. Anyway, our goal here was to barely scratch the surface of these crazy and complex phenomena. If you’re interested in learning more, we recommend a few places to start.
First of all, YouTube has got your back. Look for any space phenomenon and you can freely watch documentaries on any topic. If you want to really get deeper into it, we recommend Brian Greene, Sean Carroll, and of course, the late king himself, Stephen Hawking. And there are many, many more. After reading these guys, you won’t look at the sky the same way ever again!