Moon jupiter and venus alignment smiley face

Space Oddities – Part II

By Anupum Pant
pat on the back self
Self-administered pat on the back to me.

A few days back, in the month of December I had compiled a list of 6 space oddities that really interested me. At that time, I was pretty sure I would stumble upon a few more odd/interesting things about space within a month or two. With that in mind, I had decided to suffix the heading with “Part – I”. Four months have passed. That was a very thoughtful thing I did – thinking 4 months into the future. I have to appreciate my forethought (with a self-administered pat on the back) for doing that because today I’m back with a few more of these odd / interesting things about space and I’m still not embarrassed about the heading for the post.

So, here is the part II of space oddities (read the part I here):

1. A Hole in the Universe

Space Dust Image Gallery

About 7 years from now, researchers from University of Minnesota found out about a really huge void in our universe. The abnormal hole measures approximately sixty billion trillion miles. In easier words, it is about 10 Billion light years wide. Imagine! A beam of light would takes 10 Billion years to travel through that empty place. How lonely would it be at the centre of it. The void is bigger than anything else scientists have ever seen in space.

The whole volume of space shows no sign of any stars, planets, asteroids, gases, clouds, dust. The volume doesn’t even have any signs of dark matter (95% of our universe is dark matter) too. [read more about it]

2. Costliest thing ever built

Think of a huge 5 bed room house floating in space that can be seen moving from the surface of the earth with the naked eye! Yes, I’m talking about the International Space Station. It is a whooping 200,000 kg object that is 171 feet long, 240 feet wide and 90 feet high.

When it comes to the price of building something this huge in space, it beats everything from the most lavish sky scrappers to the most largest dams  ever built. The price of building it is estimated to be about $160 Billion and fortunately the cost is shared by Canada, the European Union, Japan, Russia and the US. It is officially the most expensive object ever constructed, and it is NOT on earth! – Guinness book of World Records.

3. The Cosmic Smile

On 16th May, 2010 the heaven smiled at us. The Venus, Jupiter and the moon aligned together to form a smiley face. The image that circulated on the web was this. But It is said that it was most likely a hoax. Still, I think it is not impossible that the event actually happened.

Moon jupiter and venus alignment smiley face

Another picture that looked pretty real had one eye missing probably because the small size and lower brightness of the planet (seen above). But at least it was better than the confirmed recorded image of a 2008 event and it looked as sad as this.

4. The Brightest Known Things in the Universe

It is widely known, that probably the darkest things are the black-holes – which don’t even let the light escape. On the other hand, the brightest things are Quasars. They are so bright that they make it hard for us to see other things around them.

But, did you know? The brightest things – Blazars and Quasars are caused by black-holes, which are the darkest things in our cosmos. The fact that brightest things are formed out of darkest things has some sort of a yin-yang profoundness to it!

5. A huge star

Based on this image by Dave Jarvis

Things can get huge in space. Well, the number 1 void was pretty huge. But it was empty. What if, there was a huge ball of matter burning in space. Something much larger than our sun.

Think of this red giant called, Betelgeuse. It is one of the brightest starts in the sky found in the Orion constellation.  It has shrunk a lot. But when its size was at the peak it was huge. So huge that if the sun were replaced with it, the end of it would reach Jupiter’s orbit! Obviously, in that case, there would have been no life here.

Still that isn’t even the largest known star. The diameter of Betelgeuse is about half of a star known as UY Scuti. This one is so huge that no monitor can show to scale, both, it and the sun in a single image. Here is a comparison of how the sun would look around it. It isn’t visible in the first image, but a small pixel appears when it is zoomed by 7x.

File:UY Scuti size comparison to the sun.png

6. Face of the moon we know

Several years from now, the moon used to show the earth all its faces as it moved and spun around. But gradually, due to a thing called tidal locking, the moon started showing a single face of it to us. From earth, you can no longer see the moon spinning and the side of it which faces us, always faces us now. We never see the far side of the moon.

This happens because it takes the the time taken by moon to spin around itself (on its own axis) and to spin around the earth is exactly the same. Both of these spins take equal times to complete. As a result, we see only one face of the moon. [Read more]

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