Eclipsing Belief: 8 Rare and Amazing Astronomic Objects & Events
By SA Rogers, Web Urbanist, 21 August 2017.
By SA Rogers, Web Urbanist, 21 August 2017.
We don’t even need to go searching for signs of aliens to find incredibly bizarre and unexplainable objects and events in outer space, from a ‘black widow’ pulsar that’s devouring its own mate to a lonely rogue planet doomed to wander alone for all eternity. Now that we’ve witnessed 2017’s much-hyped total solar eclipse, which crossed the entire United States for the first time since 1918, let’s take a look at some other amazing astronomic phenomena that remain mysterious to science.
1. The Black Widow Pulsar
Officially known as Pulsar J1311-3430, this pulsar weighs as much as two suns, yet it’s only about the size of Washington D.C.
It’s getting heavier because it’s feeding on its ‘mate,’ a normal star, stripping layers away from it with its powerful beam. Eventually, it will devour it.
2. The Boötes Void
Image: Zeryphex/Wikimedia Commons
Discovered in 1981 by astronomer Robert Kirshner and his team, the Boötes Void is a massive expanse of empty space about 700 million light years from Earth. The largest known void in the Universe, it measures an incredible 250 million light years in diameter and contains just 60 galaxies, which is incredibly sparse for its size.
Astronomers aren’t sure why the void exists, though some theorize that supervoids are caused by the intermingling of smaller voids.
3. Gamma Ray Bursts
The most powerful explosions in the universe, gamma ray busts are usually associated with the collapse of a massive star and the birth of a black hole (how metal.)
These bursts of high-energy light typically last a minute or less, and occur every couple of days.
4. Lonely Rogue Planet
This wandering planet known as CFBDSIR2149 separated from its parent star and wanders around the universe alone.
Astronomers believe that it’s just one of billions of such ‘castaway planets,’ which are ostracized from their solar systems during their formative years when other plants’ orbits are establishing themselves.
5. The Boomerang Nebula
Meet the coldest place in the Universe, about 5,000 light years away. The Boomerang Nebula is a cloud of gas and dust emitted by a dying star about the size of our sun. The highest the temperature ever gets within it is -458 degrees Fahrenheit.
This frigid reality comes courtesy of the cloud’s own rapid expansion at 367,000 miles per hour. In June 2017, scientists finally discovered why the Boomerang is colder than empty space itself: another star dove into it and died.
6 & 7. Dark Matter and Dark Energy
Theoretically, as much as 27% of the Universe is made up of dark matter, but we don’t even know what it is and it’s never been directly observed - we just know that it doesn’t emit or interact with electromagnetic radiation like light, so it’s invisible. Physicists can guess at its existence and properties based on how it affects visible matter. Experiments with the Large Hadron Collider may be able to provide us with some clues.
Dark energy, on the other hand, makes up about 68% of the Universe - and it’s just as mysterious. Does dark energy increase the expansion of our energy, while dark matter slows it down? It seems that way, according to studies of the Cosmic Microwave Background, thermal radiation that occurred about 380,000 years after the Big Bang. But some scientists believe dark energy is no more than an illusion.
8. The Great Attractor
Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA
What’s pulling our entire galaxy and everything near us closer and closer to it from the deepest reaches of the cosmos? This unknown force is known to astronomers as The Great Attractor, and we can’t just look at it through a telescope because the disk of our own Milky Way is blocking our view. The Milky Way and our nearest moderately sized neighbors, Andromeda and the Virgo Cluster, are all heading toward the Great Attractor as they cluster together (in fact, the Milky Way and Andromeda are headed for a collision in about 5 billion years, effectively giving our solar system an expiration date.)
Most likely, the Great Attractor isn’t so much a thing, as a place, explains Space.com: “the focal point of our patch of the universe, the end result of a process set in motion more than 13 billion years ago, and the natural result of the flows and buildup of matter in our universe.”
Top gif image: Black Widow Pulsar PSR J1311-3430 consuming its mate. Credit: Image created from NASA Goddard/YouTube.
[Source: Web Urbanist. Edited. Top image and some links added.]