It can be easy to get so wrapped up in the day to day that we lose sight of how small we are when measured against the earth, time, and space. It’s a leveler that we can look up at the sky and admit that we don’t know it all, that the answers don’t come neatly packaged, and that we as a species have to get out there and work for them. Once in a while, we get news from the astronomical distance, and get the idea that the universe is bigger, stranger, and more complex than we ever knew. Here are a few of the phenomena that will keep you wondering.
- Surprise Galaxy! Even if it is a dwarf galaxy, our new neighbor is still a sizable companion in our orbit. This intergalactic traveler is not even visible to the naked eye despite being a galaxy 380,000 light years off. The dimness is what prevents us from seeing it at all, but there are even more galaxies hiding behind the Milky Way – approximately 883 of them!
- Supermassive Black Holes: These are huge black holes that can hold in excess of 10 billion suns, and are normally found in the cores of large galaxies. However, a recent discovery has found a binary supermassive black hole in a relatively small cluster. Nobody knows what happens to the stars and planets that fall into a black hole – not even light escapes – but they do emit periodic bursts of radiation.
- Gravitational Waves: Albert Einstein predicted gravitational waves a century ago, but until this year the theory remained unproven. The collision of two black holes warped space and time, and set off two interferometers that just happened to be facing the right way at the right time.
- Dark Matter and Dark Energy: Much like the surprise galaxy, we can’t see them, but we know from their effects that they have to exist. What we can see and touch in our universe is a very small part of what is there. These invisible forces are called dark matter and dark energy, and they may be the glue holding the universe together as it expands.
- Deep Space Calling: When it comes to weird phenomena, FRB – Fast Radio Bursts – are both weird and incredibly rare. Given the short period of time that we’ve listened for them, and the small area of space that we’re listening in, there have been very few of them. Usually, there’s just one and then it’s done. But it seems that one recent signal got put on a loop – repeating ten times. There is speculation that the signal could be from a rotating neutron star.
What we know about the universe is always changing with new discoveries from Higgs Boson to discovering far away galaxies only just a little older than the Big Bang. What we know tomorrow could change on the next new discovery, and even show us not only other life forms in our own galaxy, but even other universes.