Stellar Stories: 92 Surprising Tidbits About Our Vast Universe

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1Graham's number

Graham's number

Graham’s number is a number so large that the observable universe is far too small to contain an ordinary digital representation of Graham’s number, assuming that each digit occupies one Planck volume (smallest meaningful measurement).

2. Galileo was placed under house arrest by The Holy Office until his death in 1642 for defending his views about the Earth not being the center of the universe. The Vatican formally acknowledged they were wrong and Galileo was right in 1992.

3. There is a large area of space that is devoid of any galaxies that have been theorized by cosmologist Laura Mersini-Houghton, to be the imprint of a parallel universe.

4. There is a “one-electron universe” hypothesis which proposes that there exists a single electron in the universe, that propagates through space and time in such a way that it appears in many places simultaneously.

5. According to Article VIII of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, you can be arrested for a crime committed anywhere in the known universe.

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6Observable universe thickness

Observable universe thickness

If you could fold a piece of paper in half 103 times, it would be as thick as the observable universe.

7. Our current model of physics only works for 4% of the matter/energy in the universe.

8. Over time a white dwarf will cool into a black dwarf. Given the length of time it takes for this to happen (10s-100s of billion years) and because our Universe’ age (13.8 billion years old), none are expected to exist yet.

9. The common spiral depiction of the Milky Way Galaxy used in media is actually another galaxy: Messier 74. Because we dwell within the Milky Way Galaxy, it is not yet possible for us to take a picture of its spiral structure from the outside.

10. The largest galaxy in the observable universe is an elliptical galaxy, IC 1101. It has 100 trillion stars and is 6 million light years across. By comparison, the Milky Way has a mere 100 billion stars and is 120,000 light years across.

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11Black hole

Black hole

If you watched an object slip into a black hole, no matter how long you watched, you would never actually see the object enter it due to time dilation.

12. A region near a black hole is called a photon sphere where the gravitational pull is so strong that light photons orbit it, meaning if you were at that point and turned to the side, you could see the back of your own head.

13. The fastest spinning Neutron stars known to man, rotate at 716 complete rotations per second.

14. The largest known black hole (Holmberg 15A) has a diameter of 1 trillion km, more than 190 times the distance from the Sun to Pluto.

15. The Oh-My-God particle was an ultra-high-energy cosmic ray that was detected on 15 October 1991 by the University of Utah. It was traveling so absurdly fast that time dilation dictates that it would have experienced only 16 days of time since the beginning of the universe.

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16Boomerang Nebula

Boomerang Nebula

The coldest known natural place in the Universe is the Boomerang Nebula. At −272.15°C it is 1°C warmer than absolute zero, and 2°C colder than background radiation from the Big Bang.

17. The Pillars of Creation, a nebula 7,000 light years away, was destroyed by supernova 6,000 years ago. In a thousand years, we will see it destroyed as it takes 7,000 years for the light to reach Earth.

18. The SN 1006 supernova was the brightest star event in recorded human history. It was widely seen on Earth beginning in the year 1006. Some historical sources state that it was bright enough to cast shadows.

19. A neutron star is so dense that if an object was dropped from one meter above the star’s surface, it would hit the surface at a speed of 7.2 million km per hour.

20. Not only are there rogue planets floating through space completely alone, not orbiting any stars, but it is possible that these pitch-black lonely planets can support life.

21Sun's brightness

Sun's brightness

The sun is brighter than about 90% of the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.

22. On May 20, 1964, two astronomers named Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson working at a New Jersey laboratory turned a giant microwave antenna toward what they thought would be a quiet part of the Milky Way. When they heard static, they thought they were hearing interference from pigeon poop on their antennae. They were actually hearing microwave background remains of the beginnings of the universe.

23. According to the string theory, black holes have the potential to be shaped like rings, helices, or even like the planet Saturn, but no one actually knows their true shape.

24. Hubble has captured a set of galaxies that have such a strong gravitational pull that they warp time and light, an effect known as gravitational lensing and this specific set of galaxies creates the appearance of a smiley face.

25. Mira, a dying star zipping through our universe is shedding its matter, each bit of which may one day grow into a new, individual star of its own. NASA has called it “The Johnny Appleseed of The Universe.”

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