Too often we find ourselves so busy with our daily routine that we stop looking at the starry skies at night. The other thing that prevents us from doing it, especially if you're living in a big city, is light pollution which prevents us from seeing the beauty of cosmic order. Eventually, we start thinking about our lives in terms of salary, the places we live, our social background etc. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest omissions that we can make, because looking at the stars can remind us of our cosmic origins and make us look at our lives in new ways. As Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist and science popularizer, said:
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
I think that if we shift our point of view on our lives in this way, many things can change. This article will uncover you the whole different world. The vast interstellar world of marvelous universal space full of indescribable beauty. You will encounter black holes, white holes, floating spoons on the surface of Mars, planets made of diamonds, mysterious nebulae and rogue planets freely roaming the universe.
Take off your warm clothes, because our trip starts with the Sun.
Have you ever wondered how the closeup photo of sunspots looks like? Finally, you have a chance to see it. Contrary to what you may have thought, it's not a scary cavern full of the lava lake, not Sauron's headquarters, not a closeup of a severe skin infection or a violated orange (interesting if you thought of any of these when you first saw this photo).
This closeup photo of the sun was taken by Randy Shivak from Arizona with Astro-Physics 152mm and DayStar Quantum PE .5 Angstrom filter and Flea2 video CCD camera. Beautiful, isn't it?
I bet many of you have heard about the mysterious faces of Mars. The red planet is a really weird place and in addition to these faces, a lot of other strange photos were made here: floating spoon, Martian Andre the Giant and several happy faces. This exact shoot was captured in 1976 but the sensation was short lived. According to NASA, it's nothing but a 'huge rock formation ... which resembles a human head ... formed by shadows giving the illusion of eyes, nose and mouth.'
Maybe you were lucky enough to observe the beauty of northern lights from Canada, Norway, Finland, Russia or another place where it can be seen from, but certainly, only a few people have seen this incredible phenomenon from outer space.
To the deep regret of flat-earthers, this photo shows us the beauty of auroras seen from outer space. Too bad we don't have the opportunity to go there and see it with our own eyes. However, the speed of scientific and technical progress gives us a promise that it will be possible in several decades.
Things start to get really spooky when you look at this photo and understand that Death Star from the Star Wars isn't just a fruit of someone's imagination. But you don't have to worry, because it's not an actual functional spacecraft. It's Saturn's moon called Mimas and it's a huge crater Herschel which makes it look like a Death Star spacecraft.
It's an interesting fact, that this crater wasn't discovered until 1980, which means that George Lucas got his inspiration from somewhere else.
Faces of Mars cease to look frightening when you are looking in the Eye of God. The official name of this nebula is 'Helix Nebula' and if you don't feel the awe while looking at it, then it would be fair to assume that something might be wrong with you.
The stunning look of this nebula was produced by a sun-like star dying over a span of thousands of years. Looking at it reminds me of how vast and incredible our universe is and how tiny we really are.
Just like the view of aurora borealis (aka northern lights) the view on the hurricane from the orbit of Earth is also mesmerizing. However, in contrast with northern lights, it's far more deadly in nature.
This photo was taken by astronaut Ricky Arnold on September 10th, 2018 from the International Space Station. The hurricane was so huge that even despite taking a picture from space, astronauts were only able to capture the storm with a super-wide angle lens.
"Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane? It's chilling, even from space," the astronaut's comment.
The last thing that comes to mind when we think of selfies is probably an astronaut. But Buzz Aldrin took the first selfie in outer space long before there the appearance of the word selfie. It was taken in 1966 and today Buzz comments on it like this:
“I took a few pictures of things as we went over. And then I thought, I wonder if this could take a picture of me with the ultraviolet film. So I turned around, clicked the camera and it turned out pretty good!”
Epic shoot, Buzz!
What an impressive piece of space art! This incredible cosmic marvel was captured by Nasa's Juno spacecraft in October 2017 when it was almost 19,000 kilometers from Jupiter's clouds.
When we study astronomy the main thing by which we remember and identify Jupiter is its size and its big red spot which is a giant spinning storm more than twice the size of Earth. This photo shows us a new way to remember this giant planet. It was color-enhanced and because of the angle the higher-altitude, clouds are seen casting shadows on surroundings.
While not a photo, but an artist's impression based on NASA's information, this one is creepy. Or at least, it seems creepy to most of us, because an enormous dark void bending the space-time continuum around it has all chances to be perceived as horrifying and dangerous. Good news is that there are no black holes close enough to us to damage our solar system.
Scientists suggest that massive black holes were common in the early days of the universe. and grew aggressive in tandem with the growth of their host galaxies. An aggressive black hole is far more dangerous than an aggressive neighbor.
We've already discussed the faces of Mars, so let's take a look at another weird shot from the red planet. What looks more like an abstract painting or even the dark trees rising from the Martian surface, are streaks of collapsed material which runs down the sand dunes because of evaporation of carbon dioxide frost. I know it all sound too difficult. To put it simply, it's just an optical illusion which makes it look like trees while being a result of chemical reactions.
In other words, just Mars being weird again.
Black holes are mysterious, but what about something even more strange? For instance, a dark region which spans 330 million light-years and contains almost no galaxies, although it looks like it contains none. This region is called The Boötes Void and scientists have absolutely no idea why it's empty.
Maybe it's not empty, but just full of something that we can not yet see? There are no answers yet. Only this colorful picture showing the contrast between the void surrounded by the myriads of galaxies and leaving us to ponder on this mystery.
Here's a stunning image which achieved an extremely ambitious goal of picturing the whole universe. This dazzling logarithmic visualization was created by Pablo Carlos Budassi. According to Wikimedia Commons, it features:
"the Solar System at the center, inner and outer planets, Kuiper belt, Oort cloud, Alpha Centauri, Perseus Arm, Milky Way galaxy, Andromeda galaxy, nearby galaxies, Cosmic Web, Cosmic microwave radiation and Big Bang's invisible plasma on the edge".
To create this logarithmic visualization the artist used images from NASA and some textures of his own creation.
Remember I told you about the floating spoon on Mars? I wasn't joking. This flying spoon is the last strange thing from Mars mentioned on the list and one more reason to take another look at this red planet.
As you may have guessed it's not a spoon. In fact, it's a cool rock formation which was formed with the passage of time due to Martian winds.
"There is no spoon. This weird Mars feature is likely a ventifact - a rock shaped by wind," NASA officials wrote in an image description.
That's how one of the largest waves ever seen in the solar system looks like. The pressure wave in the atmosphere of Venus which was captured by a Japanese spacecraft in December 2015, stretched over 10,000 kilometers and became one of the most prominent features in Venus' atmosphere for four days.
Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system with temperatures which top 460C because of a runaway greenhouse effect. Scientists suggest that this huge wave was powerful enough to affect the climate on the planet.
This image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft is the most detailed picture of Saturn's rings ever taken and it shows us how beautiful these rings really are. They consist of ice, rocks, and dust of different sizes, but these images reveal new, previously unseen features. If you look attentively, you will see structures suggesting that a constellation of miniature moons may be hidden in those rings.
Carolyn Porco from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said: “As the person who planned those initial orbit-insertion ring images, which remained our most detailed views of the rings for the past 13 years, I am taken aback by how vastly improved are the details in this new collection.”
In case you have missed it, in February 2017 astronomers discovered seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the nearby Trappist-1 star in the constellation of Aquarius. The discovered solar system is situated 39 light years from Earth and has planets which most probably contain liquid water.
This discovery increases the chances of finding alien life beyond our solar system. It's the first time in our history when so many Earth-sized planets have been found orbiting the same star. However, there's no certainty about the characteristics and possible inhabitants of these planets:
“We’ll never be 100% sure until we go there,” scientists say.
I bet you never heard that in October 2017 astronomers detected a mysterious object passing our sun. And since it was mysterious they gave it the no less mysterious name 'Oumuamua'. In Hawaiian, it means a scout or a messenger This is an extremely dark object, which absorbs 96% of the light that falls on it.
Scientists believe that there can be about 10,000 similar undetected objects like this flying around our solar system. Judging from the Oumuamua's orbit, scientist is also certain about its interstellar origin. Capturing such objects will give us an opportunity to get more information about the formation of planets around the unknown parent star.
And now a photograph of indescribable beauty taken by the Hubble Telescope. What reminds us of a beautiful cosmic butterfly is actually the death throes of a star, which exploded leaving two giant lobes of debris and hot gas.
Scientists say that the dying star was once five times the size of our sun and its explosion created not only a beautiful cosmic landscape but also one of the hottest places in the entire galaxy. Can you imagine what 20,000 degrees of Celsius feel like? I don't even want to try.
This image is called 'The Heart of Our Home', because it depicts the very center of our Milky Way galaxy. It was obtained by stitching together images from Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes and NASA’s Hubble.
Just look at this incredible picture and try to see our planet there. You won't be able to do it, because it's too small for such a scale. And now think about all your problems and imagine yourself shouting in the middle of our vast galaxy, that you're late for work today. Doesn't it feel ridiculous?
Remember this feeling next time you think about your 'huge' problems.
You may be surprised to find out but not all planets orbit stars. For instance, this image of PSO J318.5-22 depicts a 'rogue' planet wandering through the universe without a star that it can orbit around.
This wandering planet is the size of Jupiter and it is 75 light-years away from Earth. According to the in The Astrophysical Journal Letters this planet has clouds made of dust and molten iron. The temperature on PSO J318.5-22 makes Venus look like a nice place to live.
That looks even creepier than faces of Mars. The eyes of this cunning smiling face are two bright galaxies and the smile is formed by a gravitational lensing. This phenomenon happens when the gravitational pull of a certain galaxy is so strong that it warps space-time around itself.
The light travelling through this warped space-time from more distant galaxies and stars gets distorted and shows up as circles and arcs. The circle which forms the outline of this smiley face is called an Einstein ring.
An optical illusion of a universal scale.
We started the list with a closeup photo of sunspots, but this canyon of fire on the surface of the sun looks much more epic. It's a 320,000-kilometer magnetic filament of solar material erupting on the sun. This event, event happened in September 2013 and was captured on a video released by NASA.
"By comparing this with the other colors, one sees that the two swirling ribbons moving farther away from each other are, in fact, the footprints of the giant magnetic field loops, which are growing and expanding as the filament pulls them upward," NASA officials commented in a video description.
Actually, this nebula is called the Trifid Nebula, but it certainly bears some resemblance with a unicorn or a snail. It's located 9,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius. Best observed during August it can be spotted even with a small telescope. Of course, you won't be able to get such an image that NASA has created, but you can still see it with your own eyes.
The Hubble image of Trifid Nebula was colorized to indicate the presence of hydrogen, sulfur and oxygen.
While many of us know about black holes, few heard about white hole theory. This theory states that if the information is being sucked in by a black hole then it should spat back out somewhere, supposedly by a white hole. Just like the white color is opposite to black one, the white hole is the opposite to black one in every possible way.
It means that if light cannot escape the black hole, then light cannot enter a white hole, which will make the white hole very bright. Quantum physicists suggest that some of the light we thought was coming from supernovas, is actually coming from white holes.
And here's the planet made entirely of crystallized diamond. It's two times the size of Earth and if we would evaluate it in earthly terms, then it would be priced at 26.9 nonillion dollars. So, if we evaluate the wealth of a person in outdated earthly terms, then the person owning this planet would probably be the richest person in the whole universe.
The diamond planet was once a star but due to the conditions in which it was forced to resist the other celestial body trying to cannibalize it, it became a star. Now, this planet is entirely made of diamond, graphite and few other silicates.
Let me say this as a conclusion: never stop looking at the stars and remembering our cosmic origin.
References: NASA, Space, Time, Popular Science, History101, The Guardian, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Gaia, The Daily Beast, Wired, Cracked