STRANGE THINGS ABOUT THE UNIVERSE
Added on: 27th Aug 2016
THE SUN BOILS
With the right telescope, you can see the Sun boiling. Just as
warm water rises in a cookpot, cools, and falls down the sides
via the process of convection, the Sun transfers energy to its
surface via millions of cells called granules which live for
at most 20 minutes.
Albert Einstein reported on the existence of gravitational
waves back in 1916, a century before their existence was
confirmed. The science world was elated by their ultimate
discovery in 2015, revealing that space-time could actually
ripple just as the still water on a pond ripples when
a stone is tossed into it.
INTERPLANETARY TRANSPORT NETWORK
Though it sounds like a science fiction writer’s creation, the
Interplanetary Transport Network is one of the coolest facts
about the universe on our list. Originally named the
Interplanetary Superhighway, the ITN is a set of pathways
through our Solar System based on the competing gravity
of celestial bodies. Satellites and other spacecraft can use
it to slowly move between objects while using very little energy.
Most of us were taught in science class that there are three types
of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. But there’s a fourth: plasma.
Made by heating a gas or applying a strong electromagnetic
field to it, plasma is the most plentiful form of matter in the
universe. It can be seen in neon signs and in this picture as the
Space Shuttle Atlantis re-enters the atmosphere in 2012.
A unique phenomenon that can only be seen from space,
airglow is the release of energy by atoms and molecules high
up in the atmosphere. Releasing their energy after a day of
excitation by the Sun, the molecules can produce visible light,
such as the green given off by oxygen molecules.
One of the strange things which continues to baffle astronomers
is dark matter: a “maybe it exists, maybe it doesn’t” hypothetical
substance that makes up over 80% of matter in the universe.
Scientists are currently smashing particles together in the
Large Hadron Collider to understand more about it. (So far,
the science world has broken dark matter up into different
varieties such as light dark matter, cold dark matter
and warm dark matter).
Light travels almost 6 trillion miles (that’s 6,000,000,000,000 or
about 9.5 trillion kms) in one year. To compare, the light from
our Sun reaches us in only 8.3 minutes.
THE SUN SELF-REGULATES
The Sun is actually a self-regulating entity. When too many
hydrogen atoms are colliding and fusion is happening at too
high a rate, the core heats up and slightly expands onto
the outer layers. The extra space created decreases the
density of atoms and thus the collision/fusion rate.
When this happens, the core cools and shrinks, carrying
on its ever-present balancing act.
INFINITESIMALLY SMALL CHANCES
The chance any hydrogen atom on the Sun will collide with another
hydrogen atom and produce nuclear fusion is estimated at
only one in every five billion years. Thankfully, there are plenty
of hydrogen atoms in the Sun’s core to test those odds so we
don’t need to worry about the Sun dimming out anytime soon.