Maybe William Shatner was part right, when he voiced the intro to Star Trek, by saying, "Space, the final frontier." For nowhere but space are revealed the biggest mysteries of the universe, such as exactly when did the universe become a creation. What happened before the theoretical big bang, and how and where will it all end?
While cosmology is a fascinating field of speculation about things such as multiple alternative universes and the like, there are plenty of out-and-out weird things that are already known about outer space that make the most bizarre episode of Rod Serling's Twighlight Zone seem like a child's nursery rhyme.
Here are a few:
We're all familiar with the fact that on earth, most things are in liquid form, a solid form, or a gas. Water is a prime example, where water (h20) can exist as a liquid that we drink, as ice, such as at the North or the South Pole, or as a gas, such as in clouds. However, in space, there is a fourth element, called plasma, which is stripped of an electrical electron, or one is added. On earth, we rarely see plasma except in lightning or in neon signs, but in space, plasma makes up 99 percent of the entire energy of space.
Plasma is like a gas, but it operates with significantly different properties. Since all the stars in the universe, including our own sun, are constructed of plasma, it's a field of tremendous interest to cosmologists.
#2. Extreme Temperatures
On earth, high temperatures have been recorded at 134 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as -129 degrees. However, just in our own solar system, Mercury experiences lows of around -275F, and around 840 degrees during the day. In deep space, the temperature may drop to just a tad above absolute zero, typically minus 455F, and our very own sun, at the surface level, gets as hot as 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are known materials of any kind that withstand the sun's heat other than plasma, so don't hold your breath that you will ever be able to take a tropical vacation to the sun.
Science hypothesizes that approximately 1 second after the big bang, fusion began in all the stars and supernovas in the universal galaxy. And there are estimated to be 200 billion trillion stars, and there have been plenty of stars that have died.
In fact, when you look up in the night sky to see stars, many of them may have died millions of years ago, but they were at such a distance from the earth that it took their light a long time to arrive.
Anyway, stars are made mostly of helium and hydrogen, which are packed so densely in their core, that hydrogen atoms merge together to form helium, and in the process, emit tremendous amounts of energy.
Most people are familiar with the term a watt of energy, and it is estimated that the sun's fusion power produces over 38,000 septillion watts of energy per second. A Septillion, by the way, is a billion multiplied by 16 zeros.
Certainly, on earth, it is doubtful that even in the distant future, that we will be able to power the energy needs of the entire earth, but since fusion potential is inexhaustible, will not cause meltdowns, and will tend to produce about 4 times the amount of power of a fission reactor, future residents of earth can look for a lifetime of affordable, green energy that will make running cars, trucks, buses, running air conditioners and heaters forever, for pennies.
The world will certainly be different when fusion is mastered, although when that will occur, nobody knows. After all, generally, temperatures of around 100 million degrees are required to create the plasma to power a nuclear fusion reactor.
In the meantime, we can just marvel at the fusion reactions of the stars, particularly our own sun, and hope science is able to figure it out soon enough.
#4. Magnetic Explosions
The Earth, (as well as all the planets in our solar system, are continually being bombarded with plasmic energy known as the “solar winds”. The outer temperature of the sun reaches a temperature of up to 2 million degrees Fahrenheit. The sun's gravity is unable to control these extremely fast-moving particles of plasma and magnetic particles, and they travel towards earth at speeds of up to one million miles per hour. Were there nothing to stop these solar winds, all earth plant and animal life would be eradicated due to the high amount of radiation that is included in the solar winds.
Fortunately, there is a level of protection in the form of the magnetosphere, which is around 310 miles above our earth's surface. Where the solar winds collide with the magnetosphere, an explosion takes place, called a bow shock which deflects most of the harmful radiation. So solar winds are being deflected all of the time in our atmosphere, and the same effect happens throughout the universe.
#5. Dark Matter and Dark Energy
Dark matter and Dark energy are two of the most intriguing concepts in all of cosmology. Put simply, dark matter is composed of particles that do not emit or reflect light and dark energy is normally detected by the way gravitational interactions take place.
Less than 5 percent of the known universe is available for detection by light instruments such as a telescope. Dark matter makes up around 27% of the entire universe, while dark energy makes up an astounding 68 percent. Generally, the difference between dark matter and dark energy is that dark matter tends to slow down the expansion of the universe while dark energy does not.
Why are understanding dark matter and dark energy important? Simply because these two, in particular dark matter, tend to hold the keys to how fast the universe is expanding, and the universe's ultimate fate.Still, it's a very murky subject to research, because there are of yet no instruments to detect dark energy or dark matter. Everything is based upon the observation of other effects. It may be another 40 years ago before the mystery of these two are effectively solved.