10 Strange Historical Ideas About Aliens

Right now, the best candidates we have for finding alien life are some sort of fossilized bacteria on Mars. If we’re lucky, there might be microbes on Europa, though it won’t be easy to get to them.

In centuries past, people knew a lot less about space, so they came up with significantly more elaborate possibilities about the aliens we might find there.

10Camille Flammarion’s Alien Afterlife

French astronomer Camille Flammarion supported Percival Lowell’s theories about canals on Mars. When some scientists did an experiment suggesting Lowell was seeing an optical illusion, Flammarion repeated the experiment to try and prove them wrong.

He believed Martians would be superior humans, due to how low a bar we’d set through our habit of war and how “we cannot even agree on a universal calendar.” He suggested creatures on the red planet may have tried to communicate with us when we were still hunting mammoths, but they got no response and gave up. He concluded, “I would like to go to Mars, it must be an interesting place.”

He believed the Moon was likely inhabited. He speculated about aliens in light of Darwin’s groundbreaking theories and came up with the idea of a race of sentient plants that combine digestion and respiration into one process. A mystic, he believed that after death, the soul would travel from one planet to another in pursuit of perfection. That belief had started in the Enlightenment, and Flammarion kept it alive into the 20th century.

This belief is reflected in a piece of fiction he wrote, in which he describes a dead man named Lumen finding himself on a far world. Lumen arrives at a mountain, covered with palaces woven from trees, from which he can see the Sun and planets as distant stars. At the summit of the mountain town, 20 or 30 old men stand staring into the sky, criticizing the terrible human violence their magical eyes can see going on in Paris.

9Mormon Moon Men

Many tales relate to Mormon beliefs of life on other worlds, some more reliable than others. The most common, often put forward by critics of the church, is that Joseph Smith claimed that the Moon was inhabited. These Moon-men dressed like Quakers and lived for 1,000 years. The story was first told by a Mormon named Oliver Huntington, who’d written it in his journal in 1881.

It’s not a reliable record of what Smith believed, but it’s not implausible. Sermons from Joseph Smith’s brother Hyum in 1843 said: “Sun and Moon is inhabited.” Brigham Young, the church’s second president, preached in 1870 that there was “no question” that the Sun was made to give light to its own inhabitants, as well as to those on Earth and elsewhere.

8William Herschel

British scientist William Herschel is one of the most important astronomers in history. Among his discoveries were Uranus, several of Saturn’s moons, infrared radiation, and binary star systems. He was also obsessed with the idea of extraterrestrial life, particularly on the Moon.

In the 1770s, he wrote in his journal that he’d seen forests and pastures on the lunar surface. He later believed he’d seen canals and patches of vegetation. Yet it was craters that most caught Herschel’s imagination. He built the largest telescope in history to that point, and he saw perfectly round structures unlike anything anyone had seen before. He called them “circuses” and pondered “perhaps, then on the Moon every town is one very large Circus?”

Herschel’s thoughts on Lunarians (as he called them) weren’t known until after his death. Some of his contemporaries were less shy. Franz von Paula Gruituisen published three papers in the mid-1820s detailing the colossal buildings, animal tracks, roads, cities, and temples he’d found. Yet they all paled in comparison to the discoveries attributed to William Herschel’s son John, himself a famed astronomer, who was said to have built a telescope powerful enough to study lunar insects. Sadly, those claims were part of one of history’s most infamous hoaxes.

7Islam’s Cosmological Doctrines

Extraterrestrial life was a subject of speculation for scholars during Islam’s golden age. The famous philosopher Avicenna wrote a tale about a hero named Absal, who journeyed to worlds beyond Earth. There are nine realms of the heavens, each with a different type of inhabitant.

The Moon is home to fast-moving people with short trunks. The trunks of Mercurians are shorter still, and they move more slowly. Venus, naturally enough, is ruled by a woman. The people are beautiful, refined, and carefree—the opposite of the brutes on Mars. Martians are ruled by a red king, and they love to kill and mutilate. Jupiter’s inhabitants are wise and compassionate. The people of Saturn tend to be evil, but can be extremely good if they feel like it.

Sadly, we know nothing of the people on Uranus or Neptune, as those planets weren’t yet discovered. However, the Heaven of the Zodiacal Signs (or stars) are full of cities. Even the Sun has a kingdom of very handsome, large-bodied people, who desire things that are distant from them. Such as, presumably, air conditioning.

6Cusa And Bruno

Nicholas of Cusa, or Nicholas Cusanus, has been called “the man who invented extraterrestrials.” While that isn’t quite true (Avicenna’s planet-hopping story had him beat by centuries), he was the first prominent scholar to discuss the idea in Christian Europe. In 1439, he wrote “we will suppose that in every region there are inhabitants, differing in nature by rank and all owing their origin to God.”

Cusanus suggested that inhabitants would reflect the worlds on which they lived. Residents of the Sun would be “bright and enlightened,” while those on the Moon would be “lunatics.” He didn’t give his fellow humans much credit, suggesting they may be “of an inferior type.” He had little influence until his work was rediscovered in the 19th century, except for on one other man: Goirdano Bruno.

Bruno, born more than 80 years after Cusanus died, was burned at the stake in 1600 for heresy. Much of this was due to his manuscript On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, published in 1584, which argued the universe was infinite and inhabited by alien life.

5Jewish Theology

One common Jewish narrative not only says aliens exist but tells us how many planets they inhabit altogether: 18,000. This is based on a quote from the Talmud, which says “God flies through 18,000 worlds.”

Yet Judaism also teaches that the universe in its entirety was created for man. That leaves the question of why God would fill worlds with intelligent creatures, if we can’t interact with them. The answer is that the worlds have been put in place for the most righteous, spiritual masters from humanity—Tzadiks—to rule over when Earth becomes too limiting for their continued spiritual growth. As a result, interstellar space travel may be a prerequisite to achieving a messianic age of universal peace.

4The Adventures Of Lucian

While a work of fiction, True History by the second-century satirist Lucian is the oldest surviving tale of traveling to other worlds. In the story, Lucian and a group of men set out to cross the Atlantic, but they are brought to the Moon by a 550-kilometer-high (350 mi) water spout. Lucian meets Endymion, king of the Moon, who rides on a giant vulture. He asks Lucian and his company to help in their war against the king of the Sun, whose troops ride giant ants.

A battle scene describes spectacular inhabitants of both worlds. On the side of the Moon are giant birds with feathers of herbs and wings of lettuce. A contingent of archers ride on fleas with the mass of a dozen elephants, supported by skirmishers who fly through the air by using their shirts as sails. The Sun’s archers were mounted on great gnats. They also had troops that slung giant radishes, “a wound from which was almost immediately fatal.” Their heavily armed troops used mushrooms as shields and asparagus as spears.

While people say there are no winners in war, this particular salad-fueled nightmare ends with the victory of the Moon people. They negotiate a peace treaty telling the Sun-dwellers to stay away. Lucian returns to Earth and continues his adventures inside a 320-kilometer-long (200 mi) whale inhabited by intelligent sea creatures even more horrifying than even those from space.

3Fontenelle’s Speculations

A Plurality Of Worlds is the most famous work of French scientist Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle. Published in 1686, it’s best known for helping to popularize the Copernican idea that the Sun is at the center of the solar system. Yet it also speculated about inhabitants on Venus.

Fontenelle reasoned that since Venus is close to the Sun, it is likely hot. Therefore, its inhabitants would be like those found in the hotter parts of Earth. He guessed they would resemble “the Moors of Granada, who were a little black people, scorched with the Sun, witty, full of fire, very amorous, much inclined to music, and poetry, and ever inventing masks and tournaments in honour of their mistresses.”

He says Earth would look bigger to Venusians than Venus does to us so would not be assigned the name of the mother of love, “for such names are only proper for a little brisk airy planet, bright, and shining as the goddess herself.” That honor would go to Earth’s moon, leading Fontenelle to ask our satellite “how happy art though to preside over amours of those inhabitants of Venus, who must be such masters of gallantry!”

Fontenelle’s speculations on Mercury said that, being even closer to the Sun, its inhabitants would be “so full of fire, that they are absolutely mad: I fancy they have not any memory at all, no more than most of the Negroes.”

2Eastern Folktales

The oldest surviving folktale from Japanese history, the 10th-century “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” tells of Princess Kaguya from a kingdom on the Moon. An old man discovers Kaguya as a miniature baby in a stalk of bamboo. The man and his wife raises Kaguya before finding out she is obliged to return to her lunar city.

Yet it’s not the princess, but animals, that have dominated the Moon residents in East Asian folklore. In both Japanese and Chinese traditions, a starving old man asks the animals of the forest for food. The monkey gives nuts and the fox gives fish, but the rabbit is forced to offer itself as a snack. It turns out the old man is actually a god, and he rewards the rabbit with eternal life on the Moon.

Later, a girl was banished to accompany the rabbit after she stole an immortality pill from her husband. When the Apollo 11 crew were informed of this legend on their way to the Moon, Michael Collins quipped, “We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.”

1Emmanuel Swedenborg

You may recall Emmanuel Swedenborg from his bizarre visions of Hell. Yet he didn’t receive knowledge only of the underworld. His many communications with spirits also taught him about inhabitants of all the planets in the solar system—except for Neptune and Uranus, which weren’t discovered until after Swedenborg’s death, and which the spirits didn’t think to mention.

Swedenborg claimed that all planets and moons were populated by human-like inhabitants. On the Moon, these were about the size of children. He compared their voices to thunder, made so loud because of the immense lungs needed to suck enough air out of the Moon’s thin atmosphere. Inhabitants of Mars, by contrast, were telepathic, which allowed them to speak with angels.

People from other planets are generally better than humans. Those on Saturn are “upright and modest,” while also being much closer to God. Jupiter’s people live in isolated family units where their main concern is the education of their children. They have no jealousy, theft, or war—and find such human traits unbearable to even hear about.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/05/17/10-strange-historical-ideas-about-aliens/

Top 10 Problems with Interstellar Travel

The stars above us are a beauty that men have fashioned whole mythologies around. They are truly a sight to behold, and now that we have extended our reach to the moon, the natural progression is that we might want to travel to the stars. Such travel is a basic part of countless science fiction stories and films, and many might come away with the impression that interstellar travel is an easy task, perhaps just around the corner for the wit of man. Sadly, there are a few serious problems which must be addressed first.


Many stories include zany explanations of how faster-than-light travel is possible. The reality is that physics prevents this. There are no cheats. Even close-to-light travel runs into all sorts of interesting relativistic problems involving mass and energy. Our only possibility is to use wormhole portals. Such a wormhole would have to be carefully controlled, which is beyond our present capabilities, and we would have to somehow manage to create a twin wormhole far off at our desired destination, which might require someone else at the other end. Needing someone else to be there beforehand is not feasible for the first interstellar flight. Worse, the physical effects of traveling through a permanent or semi-permanent wormhole would warp and destroy any matter. You would arrive at your destination as a plasma.

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Classic teleportation involves a person activating a device and vanishing only to reappear simultaneously at their destination. This is not quite as straight-forward as it first appears. The teleported person’s atoms are disassembled in the teleport machine, physically transferred to their destination, and reassembled. The reassembly alone requires a machine to already be at the location, as there are physical laws which do not permit us to manipulate matter at such a fine level over the vast distances between stars. So teleportation could only be to places which had already been visited. The reassembly is currently beyond us, but might be possible. The atoms would still have to travel to another star, which might be faster than traveling as a body, but would still take years at least. The closest star to the sun is four light years away, so anything sent would take longer than four years to get there. Alternatively, the reassembling machine could have a store of atoms from which to assemble the person, but this is in essence creating a copy and destroying the original. Many people would not be comfortable with this.


If faster-than-light travel is impossible or impractical, we might look towards generation ships. Even though our nearest star takes light only four years to reach, heavy objects would take much longer. Most stars would take hundreds of years to reach at least. Generation ships are designed for a population to live in for generations until the destination is reached by the descendants many years later. There are several problems with a generation ship. The descendants might forget the original purpose of the mission as it fades into legend over the years. A cleverly-designed computer system might be able to educate people born on the ship to avoid this, but it still becomes increasingly difficult to predict what might occur as the generations pass. If there is a problem with the ship, a population which has descended into savagery over the centuries will be helpless.


To remove as much uncertainty as possible in generation ships, egg ships could be used. These would carry frozen fertilized human eggs which would be nurtured by carefully designed machines, acting as wombs, parents, and educators. The eggs would be grown into humans when the distant star or planet is reached, and computers would teach them all they needed to know about their mission, how to survive, and what to do. Designing care-giving machines that would not emotionally stunt the new humans is well beyond us at the moment, but perhaps not impossible in the future. However, like the generation ship, an egg ship does not help the individual who wants to travel to the stars himself or herself. Waiting for artificially-raised humans to live the dream of reaching the stars long after you have died is unacceptable to many people.

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An alternative to a generation ship is to genetically enhance people to live for hundreds or thousands of years so that they could make the journey in their lifetime, assuming the current problems of living in space were solved. Longevity and immortality are both subjects of much scientific research, but their biggest obstacle is telomeres. Telomeres are sections on the ends of your DNA which are cut slightly shorter each time your cells divide. Eventually the telomeres’ lengths are eaten away, and your cells begin damaging their own vital DNA as they divide. This means that our own DNA limits the number of cell divisions we can make. Cells divide to replace old or damaged cells, such as when you brush your skin on something or the constant replacing of your stomach lining cells due to the high acidity in the stomach. The answer seems to be in keeping telomeres long, but generally the only adult cells which can do this are cancerous.


When longevity and using another generation are not possible, many films and stories use humans kept in suspended animation to explain long trips. People would not be able to age in such a state, or would age very slowly, and it would be much like hibernation. Unfortunately, telomeres again present a problem. Our bodies always contain a small number of radioactive elements. These emit tiny amounts of radiation, which are harmless because our cells continually replace damaged ones. If a person does not age in stasis, then their telomeres cannot be shortening and so their cells cannot be dividing. It follows that any radioactive elements would cause permanent damage to the body, and if given enough time, could result in death. Even slow aging would not keep up with radioactive damage over long periods of time. We need our cells to divide at a normal rate.

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Even if the human problems of traveling to other stars were solved, there remains the issue of propulsion. A traditional system involves burning fuel or reaction mass, but to reach another star, impractically vast quantities would be needed. One solution is to pick up fuel along the way. In the space between stars, there are not convenient asteroids and planets to land on and mine for fuel. Luckily, space is not quite a vacuum, and there exist tiny atoms scattered far apart, mostly hydrogen. Going at a fast speed, these atoms could gathered and used at fuel in an efficient reaction such as fusion (presuming we achieve fusion someday). To collect them, a huge scoop is needed, and conservative calculations put it at least 2000 square km in area, which would cripple the ship with its drag and limit the speed to being slower than the space shuttle. This system is also calculated to be horrendously inefficient and not viable considering that our sun is placed in a sparse region of space, providing a poor fuel source.

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Our closest stars are Alpha Centauri, four light years away. Traveling at standard car speed, 60km/h, this would take 72 million years to reach. Even overcoming all of the above arguments, such a time frame is impossible due to natural wear and decay, let alone the almost zero probability of arriving at all after such a long time. Speed is needed, even if it is limited by the speed of light. Due to the tiny atoms scattered throughout space, any ship traveling at speed will be impacted by them with such force that they would tear through even the strongest steel. Tiny pinholes going right through a ship are hardly a good thing. Two options remain: humans or machines constantly patch the damage, which would require impractically large amounts of repair material to be brought, or the ship is made of elastic material which self-heals. The good news is NASA has done research into such materials. The bad news is that they do not think them feasible.


The structure of our bodies actually depends on gravity. When humans do not live in normal Earth gravity, our bodies begin to suffer. After a few weeks or months our bones become brittle and our muscles fatigue, with much more unpleasant long-term effects. These can be combated somewhat with various exercises and diets, but after years or decades in space the human body becomes permanently damaged. Even for relatively short flights, eyesight deteriorates so badly that NASA consider it a major boundary needed to be overcome before undertaking manned missions to Mars. Rather than living in weightlessness, acceleration from gravity can be induced by rotating the spaceship quickly. Unfortunately, this requires huge amounts of energy and fuel, and causes nausea in the short-term. The long term effects have not been studied but are considered poor.

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Any humans living on a ship for long periods of time need life-support. They need to eat, drink, breathe, urinate, excrete, wash, and sleep. Many of these have been addressed in space flights already made. However, on longer journeys, the amount of food and water needed becomes too large to take. The most probable solution is to make the ship into a self-contained ecosystem. Plants could produce air, be eaten, and consume human wastes. Any ecosystem is slightly inefficient, but it could still possibly sustain itself long enough to reach the destination. The ship’s equipment would gradually decay from the various gases being recycled, but clever maintenance or new materials might circumvent this. The most efficient system would involve a single plant. Algae have been greatly researched for their potential, with the spirspiralingae being looked at most closely. It would take care of air, wastes, and food. It is not a complete source of nutrition in itself, and becomes toxic if contaminated or when eaten in large quantities, but genetic engineering could change that in the future.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2012/02/27/top-10-problems-with-interstellar-travel/

10 Terrifying Planets You Don’t Want To Visit

Space exploration is a grand adventure. Its mystery has always captivated us and the inevitable discoveries to come will add to the many cosmological insights we already have. But let this list serve as a warning for any weary inter-solar travelers. The universe can be a very frightening place. I hope no one should ever find themselves stuck in one of these ten worlds.


Our planet maintains a high ratio of oxygen to carbon. Carbon actually makes up only about 0.1 percent of earth’s bulk (hence the scarcity of carbon based materials like fossil fuels and diamonds). Near the center of our galaxy however, where carbon is more plentiful than oxygen, planet formation is very different. It is here that you find what cosmologists call carbon planets. The morning sky on a carbon world would be anything but crystal clear and blue. Picture a yellow haze with black clouds of soot. As you descend farther down into the atmosphere you find seas made of compounds like crude oil and tar. The surface of the planet bubbles with foul smelling methane pits and black ooze. The weather forecast doesn’t look good either: it’s raining gasoline and asphalt (…no smoking). But there would be an upside to this “oil-well hell.” You may have guessed it. Where carbon is plentiful you also find high quantities of diamond.

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On Neptune, one can find constant jet stream winds that whip around the planet at terrifying speeds. Neptune’s jet-stream winds push frozen clouds of natural gas past the north edge of the planet’s Great Dark Spot, an Earth-size hurricane, at a staggering 1,500 miles per hour. That is more than double the speed needed to break the sound barrier. Such wind forces are clearly beyond what a human could withstand. A person who happened to find himself on Neptune would be most likely be ripped apart and lost forever in these violent and perpetual wind currents. It remains a mystery as to how it gets the energy to drive the fastest planetary winds seen in the solar system, despite it being so far from the sun, at times farther from the sun than Pluto, and having relatively weak internal heat.


Nick-named Bellerophon, in honor of the Greek hero who tamed the winged horse Pegasus, this gas giant is over 150 times as massive as earth and made mostly of hydrogen and helium. The problem is that Bellerophon roasts in the light of its star at over 1800 degrees F (1000 degrees C). Bellerophon’s star is over 100 times closer to it than the Sun is to Earth. For one thing, this heat creates an extremely windy atmosphere. As the hot air rises, cool air rushes down to replace it creating 1000 km per hour winds. The heat also ensures that no water vapor exists. However, that does not mean there is no rain. This leads us to Bellerophon’s main quirk. Such intense heat enables the iron composing the planet to be vaporized. As the vapor rises it forms iron vapor clouds, similar in concept to water vapor clouds here on Earth. The difference though, is that these clouds will then proceed to rain a relentless fury of molten iron down upon the planet (…don’t forget your umbrella).

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The densest and most massive exoplanet to date is a world known as COROT-exo-3b. It is about the size of Jupiter, but 20 times that planet’s mass. This makes COROT-exo-3b about twice as dense as lead. The degree of pressure put upon a human walking the surface of such a planet would be insurmountable. With a mass 20 times that of Jupiter, a human would weigh almost 50 times what they weigh on Earth. That means that a 180 pound man on Earth would weigh 9000 pounds! That amount of stress would crush a human beings skeletal system almost instantly. It would be the equivalent of an elephant sitting on your chest.


On Mars a dust storm can develop in a matter of hours and envelope the entire planet within a few days. They are the largest and most violent dust storms in our solar system. The Martian dust vortices tower over their earthly counterparts reaching the height of Mount Everest with winds in excess of 300 kilometers per hour. After developing, it can take months for a dust storm on Mars to completely expend itself. [Text redacted: see endnote.] Hellas Basin is the deepest impact crater in the Solar System. The temperatures at the bottom of the crater can be 10 degrees warmer than on the surface and the crater is deeply filled with dust. The difference in temperature fuels wind action that picks up the dust, then the storm emerges from the basin.

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Simply put, this planet is the hottest planet ever discovered. It measures in at about 4,000 degrees F (2,200 degrees C) and orbits its star closer than any other known world. It goes without saying that anything known to man, including man himself, would instantly incinerate in such an atmosphere. To put it in perspective, the planets’ surface is about half the temperature of the surface of our sun and twice as hot as lava. It also orbits its star at a blistering pace. It completes a full orbit once every Earth day at a distance of only about 2 million miles (3.4 million km).


Jupiter’s atmosphere brews storms twice as wide as the Earth itself. These goliaths generate 400 mph winds and titanic lightning bolts 100 times brighter than ones on Earth. Lurking underneath this frightening and dark atmosphere is a 25,000 mile deep ocean of liquid metallic hydrogen. Here on Earth, hydrogen is a colorless, transparent gas, but in the core of Jupiter, hydrogen transforms into something never seen on our planet. In Jupiter’s outer layers, hydrogen is a gas just like on Earth. But as you go deeper, the atmospheric pressure sky-rockets. Eventually the pressure becomes so great that it actually squeezes the electrons out of the hydrogen atoms. Under such extreme conditions, the hydrogen transforms into a liquid metal, conducting electricity as well as heat. Also, like a mirror, it reflects light. So if you were immersed in it, and caught under one of those ferocious lightning bolts, you wouldn’t be able to see anything.


(Note: Pluto is technically no longer classified as a planet). Do not let the picture fool you; this is not a winter wonderland. Pluto is an extremely cold world where frozen nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane blanket the surface like snow during most of its 248 year plutonian year. These ices have been transformed from white to a pinkish-brown due to interactions with gamma rays from deep space and the distant Sun. On a clear day the sun provides about as much heat and light as a full moon does back on earth. With Pluto’s surface temperature of -378 to -396 F (-228 to -238 C) your body would freeze solid instantly.


The temperatures on the star-facing side of this planet are so hot that they can vaporize rock. Scientists who modeled the atmosphere of CoRoT-7b determined that the planet likely has no volatile gases (carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrogen), and is instead likely made up of what could be called vaporized rock. The atmosphere of CoRoT-7b could have weather systems that unlike the watery weather on Earth cause pebbles to condense out of the air and rain rocks onto the molten lava surface of the planet. And if the planet doesn’t already sound inhospitable to life, it also could be a volcanic nightmare. [Text redacted: see endnote.]


[Entry redacted. The original text of this entry can be found on this list.]

Note: Portions of this list have been redacted because they were found to be plagiarized.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/05/14/10-terrifying-planets-you-dont-want-to-visit/

Top 10 Bizarre Things in Space

From miniature black holes to distortions in the fabric of space-time, from galaxies that are eating each other to matter that can neither be seen nor detected directly…space is full of many strange things. And here are ten of the strangest, courtesy of MSN and Space.com:

10. Quasars

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These bright beacons shine to us from the edges of the visible universe and are reminders to scientists of our universe’s chaotic infancy. Quasars release more energy than hundreds of galaxies combined. The general consensus is that they are monstrous black holes in the hearts of distant galaxies. This image is of quasar 3C 273, photographed in 1979.

9. Vacuum Energy

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Quantum physics tells us that contrary to appearances, empty space is a bubbling brew of “virtual” subatomic particles that are constantly being created and destroyed. The fleeting particles endow every cubic centimeter of space with a certain energy that, according to general relativity, produces an anti-gravitational force that pushes space apart. Nobody knows what’s really causing the accelerated expansion of the universe, however.

8. Anti-matter

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Like Superman’s alter-ego, Bizzaro, the particles making up normal matter also have opposite versions of themselves. An electron has a negative charge, for example, but its anti-matter equivalent, the positron, is positive. Matter and anti-matter annihilate each other when they collide and their mass is converted into pure energy by Einstein’s equation E=mc2. Some futuristic spacecraft designs incorporate anti-matter engines.

7. Mini Black Holes

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If a radical new “braneworld” theory of gravity is correct, then scattered throughout our solar system are thousands of tiny black holes, each about the size of an atomic nucleus. Unlike their larger brethren, these mini-black holes are primordial leftovers from the Big Bang and affect space-time differently because of their close association with a fifth dimension.

6. Cosmic Microwave Background

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Also known as the CMB, this radiation is a primordial leftover from the Big Bang that birthed the universe. It was first detected during the 1960s as a radio noise that seemed to emanate from everywhere in space. The CMB is regarded as one of the best pieces of evidence for the theoretical Big Bang. Recent precise measurements by the WMAP project place the CMB temperature at -455 degrees Fahrenheit (-270 Celsius).

5. Dark Matter

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Scientists think it makes up the bulk of matter in the universe, but it can neither be seen nor detected directly using current technologies. Candidates range from light-weight neutrinos to invisible black holes. Some scientists question whether dark matter is even real, and suggest that the mysteries it was conjured to solve could be explained by a better understanding of gravity.

4. Exoplanets

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Until about the early 1990s, the only known planets in the universe were the familiar ones in our solar system. Astronomers have since identified more than 190 extrasolar planets (as of June 2006). They range from gargantuan gas worlds whose masses are just shy of being stars to small, rocky ones orbiting dim, red dwarfs. Searches for a second Earth, however, have so far turned up empty. Astronomers generally believe that better technology is likely to eventually reveal several worlds similar to our own.

3. Gravity Waves

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Gravity waves are distortions in the fabric of space-time predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The waves travel at the speed of light, but they are so weak that scientists expect to detect only those created during colossal cosmic events, such as black hole mergers like the one shown above. LIGO and LISA are two detectors designed to spot the elusive waves.

2. Galactic Cannibalism

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Like life on Earth, galaxies can “eat” each other and evolve over time. The Milky Way’s neighbor, Andromeda, is currently dining on one of its satellites. More than a dozen star clusters are scattered throughout Andromeda, the cosmic remains of past meals. The image above is from a simulation of Andromeda and our galaxy colliding, an event that will take place in about 3 billion years.

1. Neutrinos

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Neutrinos are electrically neutral, virtually mass-less elementary particles that can pass through miles of lead unhindered. Some are passing through your body as you read this. These “phantom” particles are produced in the inner fires of burning, healthy stars as well as in the supernova explosions of dying stars. Detectors are being embedded underground, beneath the sea, or into a large chunk of ice as part of IceCube, a neutrino-detecting project.

Sources: Space.com

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Read more: http://listverse.com/2007/10/22/top-10-bizarre-things-in-space/

Top 10 Beautiful Images of our Solar System

We earthlings are very fortunate to have launched many satelites in to space that have gone close enough to our neighbouring planets to get quite amazing photographs. I have included below the best images of each major object in our solar system. In order of distance from the sun:

1. The Sun


The Sun orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy at a distance of approximately 26,000 light-years from the galactic center, completing one revolution in about 225–250 million years. The orbital speed is 217 km/s (135 mi/s), equivalent to one light-year every 1,400 years, and one AU every 8 days. It is currently travelling through the Local Fluff of the Local Bubble zone of diffuse high-temperature gas, in the inner rim of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, between the larger Perseus and Sagittarius arms of the galaxy.

2. Mercury


Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system, orbiting the Sun once every 88 days. Physically, Mercury is similar in appearance to the Moon as it is heavily cratered. It has no natural satellites and no substantial atmosphere. The planet has a large iron core.

3. Venus


Venus is the second-closest planet to the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. It is the brightest natural object in the night sky, except for the Moon. Venus reaches its maximum brightness shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset, for which reason it is often called the Morning Star or the Evening Star. Classified as a terrestrial planet, it is sometimes called Earth’s “sister planet”, for the two are similar in size, gravity, and bulk composition.

4. Earth


Home to millions of species including humans, Earth is the only place in the universe known to harbor life. About 71% of the surface is covered with salt-water oceans, the remainder consisting of continents and islands; liquid water, necessary for life as we know it, is not known to exist on any other planet’s surface. Earth interacts with other objects in outer space, including the Sun and the Moon. At present, Earth orbits the Sun once for every roughly 366.26 times it rotates about its axis.

5. Mars


A terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, Mars has surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts and polar ice caps of Earth. It is the site of Olympus Mons, the highest known mountain in the solar system, and of Valles Marineris, the largest canyon. In addition to its geographical features, Mars’ rotational period and seasonal cycles are likewise similar to those of Earth.

6. Jupiter

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Jupiter is the largest planet within the solar system. It is two and a half times as massive as all of the other planets in our solar system combined. The plane is primarily composed of hydrogen with a small proportion of helium; it may also have a rocky core of heavier elements. Because of its rapid rotation the planet is an oblate spheroid.

7. Saturn

Saturn4 Cassini Big-1

Saturn is the second largest planet in the Solar System, after Jupiter. Along with the planets Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune, it is classified as a gas giant. The planet Saturn is primarily composed of hydrogen, with small proportions of helium and trace elements. The interior consists of a small core of rock and ice, surrounded by a thick layer of metallic hydrogen and a gaseous outer layer.

8. Uranus


Uranus is third largest planet in the solar system. It was the first planet discovered in modern times. It is visible to the naked eye like the five classical planets, but it was never recognized as a planet by ancient observers due to its dimness. Like the other giant planets, Uranus has a ring system, a magnetosphere, and numerous moons.

9. Neptune


Neptune is the eighth and farthest known planet from the Sun in the Solar System. It is the fourth largest planet by diameter, and the third largest by mass; Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth. Neptune’s atmosphere is primarily composed of hydrogen and helium, with traces of methane that account for the planet’s blue appearance. Neptune’s blue colour is much more vivid than that of Uranus, which has a similar amount of methane, so an unknown component is presumed to cause Neptune’s intense colour.

10. Pluto


I don’t care if it was demoted recently – I grew up with it as a planet so I am including it! This is an artists impression as we don’t have any high resolution photos of Pluto yet. Originally considered a planet, Pluto is now recognised as the largest member of a distinct region called the Kuiper belt. Like other members of the belt, it is primarily composed of rock and ice and is relatively small; approximately a fifth the mass of the Earth’s Moon and a third its volume.

Bonus: The Moon


A Stunning Hi-Res image of Lunar, the earth’s moon. The color hues you see are an exaggeration – they are caused by the minerals under the surface.

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Read more: http://listverse.com/2007/08/31/top-10-beautiful-images-of-our-solar-system/

10 Unsolved Mysteries of Science

Listversers love mysteries, but while it seems that we have already covered tons of them, there are always more out there to discover. This time around we have focused on the mysteries of science, that have baffled researchers and left them wondering if current science is unable to grasp them, or even if perhaps there is a higher power at play. Below are ten scientific mysteries that will provoke thought and leave you wanting for the solution. Perhaps someone among us will one day solve some of these mysteries and become a famous scientist renowned for their discovery. For the time being, however, the solution to these equations has not yet been definitively proven or understood.


The theory of Continental Drift was first proposed in 1500 and stated that Continents seem to drift relative to each other across the ocean. Later on it was refined into the theory of Plate Tectonics which proposes that there are tectonic plates on the ocean floor that slowly move separating the continents and creating the Oceans over the time period of millions of years. The mystery, however, is what actually caused these plates to move in the first place and has been further confounded by studies that have shown it is unlikely that the theory actually fully explains the phenomenon. Some have suggested that the due to the unexplained nature of the workings behind the theory, and evidence against it, that the continents may have actually been separated much more quickly than many millions of years, by a catastrophic event such as a flood.

Megafauna Size Comparison Mk2 By Harry The Fox-D2Xt9Nb

There were once many other large animals like the Elephant that walked the earth, such as the Wooly Mammoth, these were called Megafauna. The Megafauna for the most part disappeared only recently, in the range of tens of thousands of years ago, and scientists have been unable to truly ascertain why. Two main answers have been suggested as the cause, over hunting by man and climate change. Those who say it is climate change often have very little evidence besides claiming that there isn’t enough evidence for the other explanation. As for the over hunting explanations, many scientists say that even if it were true, there may be very little archeological evidence for it. The Mystery still remains unsolved, and it may never be conclusively understood, there could even be something else entirely at play.


The Mpemba effect is that boiling water can, under certain circumstances, not only freeze but do so quicker than colder water. This phenomenon has been reported as working as far back as Ancient Greece, even though it would seem contradictory to the Laws of Thermodynamics. In 1969 a scientist named Mpemba did experiments that proved that the effect is real, however, scientists are left with more questions than answers. Many solutions have been suggested as reasons for this phenomenon, but none have been agreed upon by scientists and most contradictory explanations were obtained by very different experiments with different controls. Perhaps someday after more study scientists will understand this, but currently the results are inconclusive at best.


While the studies on the speed of light have not fully disproven the theory that it is the fastest we can go, there is increasing evidence that it might actually not be accurate. Some point out that dark energy seems to go at a faster rate than ever as time goes on. They also have observed that if the Big Bang theory is correct, the universe expanded way quicker than light speed when the cosmos were in their infancy. Some scientists in carefully controlled experiments have even managed to clock pulses that actually beat out the speed of light. While how or why we may be able to go faster than light speed is not yet certain, it seems that we may not be as limited as we previously thought. So far this mystery remains unsolved, but science seems to be getting closer to an answer.


People have been reporting strange experiences when they were close to death, and sometimes at other times as well, where they felt that their consciousness had left their body, although their body was still alive. One group of researchers sought to test this out of body feeling. They used virtual reality and cameras, first touching someone’s virtual projected body and their real one, and then just the virtual one. People were convinced that they were being touched even when they were not. The experiment led them to believe that people’s ability to experience things in their body relies greatly on where they believe their body to be visually. Another researcher has sought to understand near death experiences, studying them at a hospital over several years using various controls. He believes his experiment will be able to prove whether people are experiencing illusions, or whether their consciousness is actually leaving the body. While none of this has been proven for certain yet, it would make the religious idea of souls much more believable.


In Arkansas about a year ago, a bunch of black birds fell from the sky. At the time fireworks were blamed, though this theory was not incredibly well tested. It happened again not that long after, and this time they weren’t sure enough to blame fireworks. To make matters even stranger, in the same state, around the same time, thousands of fish mysteriously turned up dead. While a variety of explanations have been given, it’s hard to explain why thousands of birds would fall from the sky, and thousands of fish would suddenly die in the same area around the same time. It could just be a coincidence, but it’s certainly a very odd one.

Scientists were attempting to study early stars but in 2006 they ran into a problem, they were faced with a mysterious noise that greatly inhibited their study. Scientists are left baffled as to what causes this. While sounds cannot travel through space, radio waves can, which is what they believe it is, however they are baffled as to where or what the radio waves are coming from. Also of note is that this sound is six times louder than should be expected, and there is no explanation for that either. Scientists have managed to figure out that it is not any radio waves that they currently know of, or any of the early stars themselves, or any of our dust particles.

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The Moon Illusion has existed since Ancient times, back in the days of Aristotle and the Ancient Greeks and Chinese. The illusion is that the moon seems to appear much larger lower in the sky than it is higher in the sky. In the past people have suggested things such as an atmospheric effect, or something physical, but these have been debunked. Others have suggested such things as relative size, or apparent distance as explanations for this illusion, yet this still baffles scientists. So far no one, even with modern science, has been able to definitively explain this mysterious phenomenon.


People have argued for a long time whether light is a wave or a particle, however, after much study scientists seem to be coming to the conclusion that things are way more confusing than that. Scientists performed studies which seem to show that a photon can act as a wave and a particle at the same time. However, they also have found studies showing that a photon will choose to be a wave or a particle only when forced to make the decision under controlled conditions. So far scientists have no explanation for why this works, and are still trying to understand it. Some have even called it “the one true mystery of Quantum Mechanics”.


The origin of life and the creation of our universe has been the subject of incredible debate and study since recorded history. Some scientists explain the creation of the universe by the model of the Big Bang, which most of us learned in school. Much study has also been done on the subject of Abiogenesis, which is the ability of life to come from matter that is inorganic, the only way for life to be created without prior life. Despite an incredible amount of scientific study, none of this has thus far been proven, although scientists at the Large Hadron Collider project are working on discovering the Higgs Boson, which many believe would bring physicists closer to proving the Big Bang and other parts of the universe’s origin theories.

However, it is important to note that discovering the Higgs Boson is not the be all and end all, it would open up new ground in the study of physics, but it would not definitively prove the Big Bang. Furthermore, many who believe in the theory of intelligent creation would say that even if the Big Bang were to be proven, it does not necessarily mean that a God of some sort is not involved. A god could have created the universe and set it in motion through means that could be observed by science. Those who propose this theory bring up Thomas Aquinas’s famous argument in regards to an unmoved mover, that there had to be some first cause to the events that created the universe. The universe is huge and expansive, and the origins of life may never be fully understood.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/02/28/10-unsolved-mysteries-of-science/

Top 10 Facts Surrounding Comet Elenin

One of the biggest viral news stories of 2011 was the discovery of Comet Elenin (C/2010 X1). For a wide variety of reasons, people began to think the comet posed a threat to Earth. Articles were written that examined Elenin. People were intrigued by the comet and its close approach to the Earth in October, 2011. Some predicted Comet Elenin was a sign that the Maya prophecy was valid. In response to the attention, NASA was forced to give a collection of statements. They said the comet posed no threat to the Earth. On August 19, 2011, the story burst into flames and quickly disappeared. Here are ten interesting facts about Comet Elenin.


In ancient history, comets were traditionally considered to be bad omens. They are small Solar System bodies (SSSB) that will display a visible coma (a thin, fuzzy, temporary atmosphere) when close to the Sun. The main difference between an asteroid and a comet is that a comet shows a coma. Asteroids are also thought to have a different origin from comets, having formed inside the orbit of Jupiter rather than in the outer Solar System. This gives the orbital history of comets more importance.

The coma of a comet is formed when it passes by the Sun. The coma is generally made of ice and dust, and can grow to be incredibly large. In October 2007, comet 17P/Holmes briefly had a tenuous dust atmosphere larger than the Sun. It has been estimated that roughly one comet is discovered each year that is visible to the human eye. In some rare cases, a Great Comet can form which is brighter than any star in the sky. It has been estimated that one Great Comet will appear every decade.

The requirements for a Great Comet include a large and active nucleus, a close approach to the Sun, and a close approach to the Earth. In 1996, Comet Hyakutake, which had a similar sized nucleus as Comet Elenin, made an extremely close approach to Earth. The Ulysses spacecraft crossed the Hyakutake’s tail at a distance of more than 500 million kilometers (3.3 AU or 3×108 mi) from the nucleus, showing that Hyakutake had the longest tail known for a comet.


On December 10, 2010, an amateur Russian astronomer named Leonid Elenin discovered a long-period comet in the U.S. state of New Mexico. The near-earth object was given the name of Elenin and was estimated to be 3-4 km in diameter. Almost immediately after the discovery was announced, articles began to appear on the Internet that claimed the comet was dangerous to Earth. People began to make connections between Elenin and extinction level events.

It was originally estimated that the comet would pass within .24 Au (Astronomical Units) of the Earth, which is pretty close. The distance is closer than the Hale-Bopp Comet of 1997, which gained more media attention. The story reached a larger audience after it was disclosed that while using the JPL Horizons system with an observed orbital arc of 235 days, the comet shows an orbital period of approximately 11,800 years. In the history of Earth, 12,000 years ago was a sensitive time and the bridge between the Pleistocene and Holocene geological epochs.


One of the reasons Comet Elenin has received so much attention is that it holds similarities to the blockbuster movie Deep Impact (1998). For starters, in the movie, the comet is found by a teenage boy named Leo and referred to as Elle (extinction level event). In reality, it was discovered by a young Russian astronomer named Leonid Elenin, who was born in 1981 and 17-years-old when Deep Impact came out. It is a coincidence that a man named Elenin discovered a near-earth comet.

After the discovery was announced, articles began to appear on the Internet with acronyms for ELENIN, including extinction level event, near impact or extinction level event nine (indicating 9 out of 10 on the danger scale or the end of the ninth wave of the Mayan Calendar). Some said 11/9, as in November 9, when the debris tail of Elenin was predicted to be closest to Earth. In Deep Impact, a black U.S. president decides to send a mission to blow up the comet with nuclear weapons. The mission succeeds and the comet is separated into sections. However, a piece still hits Earth. After the impact, the president declares martial law, and reveals that the government has been building underground shelters. In the end of the movie, humanity is spared after the larger comet is demolished.


Since Comet Elenin was discovered, NASA was adamant in the fact that the comet would not come close enough to strike or harm the Earth in any way. People responded by using a collection of hypothetical scenarios for disaster. For example, if Elenin was to hit an asteroid while passing through the Main Asteroid Belt, it could have been thrown off its predicted trajectory and pushed toward an imminent crash with Earth. People began to fear the comet’s massive coma.

By August, 2011, Elenin’s coma exceeded 200,000 km. (124,274 miles). It was predicted that on November 6, 2011, the Earth was going to pass through the comet’s debris tail. People began to make a connection between the comet and its alignment with the earth, sun, and moon. Some felt that the gravitational pull of Elenin caused a collection of earthquakes and geological events. The story reached a new level of popularity after the March 11 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami because a number of websites had published the date of March 15, 2011 as an alignment event. Comet Elenin was predicted to be closest to Earth on October 16, 2011 and the debris field arrived in early November.


In early August of 2011, NASA decided to get a picture of Comet Elenin, so they rotated the STEREO-B spacecraft and photographed it. In the picture, the comet appears to be a deep blue color. The color has caused people to make comparisons between the object and the ancient Hopi Indian prophecy of the blue star. The legend states, “When the Blue Star Kachina makes its appearance in the heavens, the Fifth World will emerge.” The Maya also have stories of a dangerous blue star. The color of Elenin has caused Richard C Hoagland to suggest it is the Hopi Blue Star, a claim which has spawned a number of articles.

A man named Carl Johan Calleman, who is a Swedish toxicologist that specializes in Maya history, also claims that Comet Elenin was the blue star featured in ancient history. Calleman holds a different interpretation of the Maya Calendar all together. He says that the calendar points to the date of October 28, 2011 (not December 21, 2012) as the most important, a day when people will experience a slow transformation of consciousness and reach a higher unity. Before the discovery of Elenin, Calleman identified the time when the comet passed by earth (end of October, 2011) as the critical time.

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45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is a short-period comet discovered in 1948. The comet has an elliptical orbit of 5.26 years and a nucleus estimated to be 0.5-1.6 kilometers in diameter. On August 15, 2011, Honda made a close approach of only 0.0600 AU (8,980,000 km; 5,580,000 mi) to Earth. On August 19, the same day that Comet Elenin was destroyed by a coronal mass ejection, Honda was studied by the Goldstone Deep Space Network. The network detected echoes from the nucleus of Honda and it became only the fifteenth comet in history to be detected by radar.

After the discovery of Comet Elenin was made public, people began to examine the trajectory of the comet in relation to Honda. It appeared that the two objects would come relatively close to hitting on September 28 or 29 of 2011. For this reason, people began to fear the date and predict earthquakes and disasters for late September. Articles were written that hypothesized that the shifting of Elenin’s path could push it into Honda. 255P/Levy is another comet that was mentioned with Elenin. Levy came within 0.2359 AU (35,290,000 km; 21,930,000 mi) of Earth on January 26, 2012.

Asteroid Near Earth Thumb

Meteors are generated when debris enters and burns up in Earth’s atmosphere. Some astronomers have reported that meteor swarms correspond closely to the orbits of known comets. Meteor showers are not threatening to the Earth because the comet’s tail usually doesn’t hold large objects. On December 28, 2005, a potentially hazardous asteroid was discovered by Robert S. McMillan and named 2005 YU55. It is approximately 400 m (1,312 feet) in diameter and caused concern for NASA.

On November 8, 2011, YU55 passed by Earth at a lunar distance of 324,900 kilometers (201,883 miles). It was the closest pass by a large asteroid since 1976. Another object this size in not predicted to come this close to Earth until 2028. After Comet Elenin started to gain attention, people began to connect it with 2005 YU55 because of the date November 9, 2011 (11/9/11). On this date, the tail of Elenin was predicted to be the closest to Earth, along with 2005 YU55. This has caused some people to speculate that a collision between the two objects was possible.


After Comet Elenin was discovered, many people expected the story to be mentioned in the mainstream U.S. media, but it wasn’t. This caused some to suspect that NASA was keeping secrets. The general significance of Comet Elenin was large. In the United States, NASA has a congressional mandate to catalogue all near-Earth objects that are at least 1 kilometer wide. The impact of such an object would be catastrophic to Earth. Studies show that the United States and China are most vulnerable areas to meteor strikes.

The general rule is that NEOs have an apsis distance of less than 1.3 AU. As of May 2012, 8,971 NEOs have been discovered. Of these, only 91 are near-Earth comets and 8,880 near-Earth Asteroids. This makes the discovery of Comet Elenin rare. Even rarer is how close the remnants of the comet came to Earth on October 16, 2011. It passed at a distance of 0.2338 AU, which is really close in comparison to other famous comets of size.

A number of smaller asteroids have made closer approaches. One of importance was asteroid 2010 AL30, which passed by Earth on January 13, 2010 at the distance of 122,000 km (76,000 mi). AL30 was only 10-15 m (33-49 ft) wide, but if the asteroid had entered the Earth’s atmosphere, it would have created an air burst equivalent to between 50 kT and 100 kT (kilotons of TNT). The Hiroshima “Little Boy” atom bomb had a yield between 13-18kT. This shows how important it is to keep comets of any size away from the Earth’s atmosphere.

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By August, 2011, the visibility of Comet Elenin was around 8.3. The comet followed the predictions of NASA until August 19, 2011, when it was destroyed by a coronal mass ejection (CME). A coronal mass ejection is a massive burst of solar wind. During the event, Comet Elenin disintegrated and broke apart. According to NASA officials, it was a rare occurrence and only 2% of new comets that approach the sun are destroyed in this manner. By mid-October 2011, Elenin made its closest pass to Earth, but was nothing more than a pile of rubble. The object was not visible by even large ground-based telescopes.

The post-disintegration appearance of Elenin was compared to the debris field of Shoemaker-Levy 9, which was abundant. The remnants of the comet will “act as other broken-up comets act. They will trail along in a debris cloud that will follow a well-understood path out of the inner solar system. After that, we won’t see the scraps of comet Elenin around these parts for almost 12 millennia.”

With all the controversy surrounding Elenin, the unusual destruction of the comet has caused a lasting image. In the week prior to the coronal mass ejection, articles were posted online that suggested the European Space Agency had a plan to destroy an asteroid headed toward Earth. Specifically, the website of the Daily Mail posted an article titled Fact following fiction? Scientists plan mission to blow up an asteroid hurtling towards Earth. The article was last updated on August 18, 2011, one day before Elenin was destroyed. It discussed the Don Quijote space probe. The probe could be used to study the effects of crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid.


NASA has released a collection of statements regarding Comet Elenin. In each case, the organization has downplayed the importance of the object and its potential impact on Earth. After the comet was destroyed in space, Don Yeomans of NASA said: “I cannot begin to guess why this little comet became such a big Internet sensation. The scientific reality is this modest-sized icy dirtball’s influence upon our planet is so incredibly minuscule that my subcompact automobile exerts a greater gravitational influence on earth than the comet ever would.”

Yeomans explains how the destruction of the comet was a rare, but possible: “comets are fragile and loosely held together like dust balls, so it doesn’t take much to get a comet to disintegrate, and with comets, once they break up, there is no hope of reconciliation.” The stance of NASA is that they don’t want to talk about Elenin because it doesn’t deserve mention in comparison to other problems. Yeoman is quoted: “Comet Elenin has rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-comet.”

Read more: http://listverse.com/2012/05/22/top-10-facts-surrounding-comet-elenin/

10 Ways The Quest For Alien Life Is Getting Real

NASA predicts that we’ll find life outside our planet, and possibly outside our solar system, within a generation. But where exactly, and what type of life? Is it even wise to make contact with extraterrestrials? The search hasn’t been easy, but these questions may not be theoretical much longer. Here are 10 ways the quest for alien life is getting real.

10NASA Predicts Alien Life Will Be Found Within 20 Years


In the words of Matt Mountain, director at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, “Imagine the moment when the world wakes up, and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over . . . It’s within our grasp to pull off a discovery that will change the world forever.”

Using ground and space-based technology, NASA scientists predict that we’ll find alien life in the Milky Way galaxy within the next 20 years. Launched in 2009, the Kepler Space Telescope (pictured) has helped scientists find thousands of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system). Kepler discovers a planet when it crosses in front of a star, causing a small drop in the star’s brightness.

Based on data from Kepler, NASA scientists believe that in our galaxy alone, 100 million planets may be home to alien life. But it’s the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (scheduled for a 2018 launch) that will first give us the capability to indirectly detect life on other planets. The Webb telescope searches for gases in a planet’s atmosphere that are generated by life. The ultimate goal is to find Earth 2.0, a twin to our own planet.

9The Alien Life We Find May Not Be Intelligent


The Webb Telescope and its successors will search for biosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets, such as molecular water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. But even if a biosignature is detected, it won’t tell us whether the life on that exoplanet is intelligent or not. Such alien life may be single-celled organisms like amoebas, rather than complex beings that can communicate with us.

We’re also limited in our search for life by our prejudices and lack of imagination. We assume there must be carbon-based life like us, and that we’re the standard by which intelligence is judged. Explaining this failure in creative thought, Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute says, “Scientists don’t go off and think completely wild and crazy things unless they have some evidence that leads them to do that.”

Other scientists such as Peter Ward, coauthor of Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe, believe that intelligent alien life will be short-lived. Ward assumes that other species will have global warming, too many people, no food, and eventual chaos that destroys their civilizations. He foresees the same for us.

8Mars May Have Supported Life Before—And May Again


Mars is currently too cold to house liquid water and support life. But NASA’s Opportunity Rover—an all-terrain vehicle that collects and analyzes rocks on Mars—has shown that about four billion years ago, the planet had fresh water and mud that could have supported life.

Another past source of water and possible life sits on the slopes of Mars’s third-tallest volcano, Arsia Mons. Around 210 million years ago, this volcano erupted beneath a vast glacier. The volcano’s heat caused the ice to melt, forming lakes in the glacier like liquid bubbles in a partially frozen ice cube. The lakes may have existed long enough for microbial life to have formed there.

It’s possible that some simple organisms on Earth may be able to survive on Mars today. Methanogens, for example, use hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce methane, and don’t need oxygen, organic nutrients, or light. They’re able to survive temperature extremes such as those found during Martian freeze-thaw cycles. So when scientists found methane in Mars’ atmosphere in 2004, they questioned whether methanogens already inhabit the subsurface of Mars.

As we travel to Mars, though, scientists are concerned that we may contaminate the planet’s environment with microorganisms from Earth. That may make it difficult to determine whether life forms found on Mars originated there.

7NASA Plans To Search For Life On Jupiter’s Moon


NASA is planning to launch a mission in the 2020s to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. One of its high priorities is determining if the moon’s surface is habitable and identifying locations where future missions may land a spacecraft.

In addition, NASA is on the search for life (possibly intelligent) beneath the moon’s thick, icy surface. In an interview with The Guardian, NASA’s chief scientist Dr. Ellen Stofan said, “We know there is an ocean under that icy crust. There are plumes of water coming out of the cracks in the south polar region. There’s orange gunk all over the surface—what the heck is that stuff?”

The spacecraft sent to Europa may either orbit or perform multiple flybys of the moon, possibly flying through those plumes of water in the southern region. That would let us collect samples of Europa’s inner layers without the risk and high cost of landing the spacecraft. But any mission must protect the spacecraft and instruments from the high-radiation environment. NASA also wants to ensure that we don’t contaminate Europa with organisms carried from Earth.

6Exomoons May Be Detected Through Radio Emissions


Until now, scientists have been technologically limited in their search for life outside our solar system to exoplanets. But physicists from the University of Texas believe they’ve discovered a way to detect exomoons (moons orbiting exoplanets) through radio emissions. This may greatly expand the number of habitable bodies on which we may find alien life.

Using their knowledge of radio emissions caused by the interaction between Jupiter’s magnetic field and the planet’s moon Io, these scientists have extrapolated formulas to search for radio emissions from exomoons. They also believe that Alfven waves (the rippling of plasma caused by the interaction between a planet’s magnetic field and its moon), may help us spot exomoons in a similar way.

In our solar system, moons such as Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus have the potential to support life based on their distance from the Sun, their atmosphere, and the possible existence of water. But as our radio telescopes get more powerful and more advanced, scientists hope to conclusively study more distant bodies.

Currently, two exoplanets with possible exomoons are the main candidates for hosting life: Gliese 876b (approximately 15 light-years away) and Epsilon Eridani b (approximately 11 light-years away). Both are gas giants (as are most exoplanets we’ve discovered), but many are in the habitable zones of their stars. Any exomoons orbiting these planets may have the potential to support life.

5Advanced Alien Life May Be Detected By Pollution


Until now, scientists have searched for alien life by looking for exoplanets rich in gases like oxygen, carbon dioxide, and methane. But since the Webb Telescope should be able to detect ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons, some researchers now suggest we consider looking for industrial pollution to find advanced alien life.

While we hope to detect an alien civilization that’s still alive, it’s very feasible that we might find an extinct culture that destroyed itself. Scientists believe the best way to tell if a civilization still exists is by searching for both long-lived pollutants (that stay in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years) and short-lived pollutants (that last only a decade or so). If the Webb Telescope detects only long-lived pollutants, then the alien civilization may be extinct.

But this method does have its limitations. The Webb Telescope can so far only spot pollutants on an exoplanet orbiting a white dwarf (the remnant of a dead star, roughly the size of our Sun). Dead stars typically equal dead civilizations, so the search for actively polluted life might have to wait until our technology grows even more advanced.

4Oceans May Make Exoplanets More Habitable


To determine which planets may support intelligent life, scientists usually focus their computer models on the atmospheres of planets within a star’s habitable zone. But new research suggests that our models should also factor in the impact of large, liquid oceans.

Let’s use our own solar system as an example. Earth has a stable environment that supports life, but Mars—on the outer edge of our habitable zone—is frozen. It has temperatures that may fluctuate by over 100 degrees Celsius (212 °F). Then there’s Venus, on the inside edge of our habitable zone and scorching hot. Neither planet is a good candidate to support intelligent life, though they may host microorganisms that can survive in extreme environments.

Unlike Earth, neither Mars nor Venus currently has a liquid ocean. According to David Stevens of the University of East Anglia, “Oceans have an immense capacity to control climate. They are beneficial because they cause the surface temperature to respond very slowly to seasonal changes in solar heating. And they help ensure that temperature swings across a planet are kept to tolerable levels.” That’s why Stevens believes we should factor the presence of oceans into our models when searching for alien life.

3‘Tilt-A-Worlds’ May Expand Habitable Space


Exoplanets with fluctuating tilts in their orbits may support life in places where fixed-spin planets like Earth couldn’t. That’s because these “tilt-a-worlds” have a different relationship to the planets around them.

Earth and its planetary neighbors circle the Sun on about the same plane. But tilt-a-worlds and their neighboring planets orbit at angles, tugging at each other’s orbital planes in a way that occasionally spins a tilt-a-world’s poles toward its host star. The spinning may resemble the wobbling of a child’s top when rotating at a slow speed.

Tilt-a-worlds are more likely than fixed-spin planets to have liquid surface water. That’s because the heat from a host star is more evenly distributed on the surface of a tilt-a-world, especially when its poles are turned toward its sun. The planet’s ice caps will melt quickly, creating surface water and making the planet more likely to support life. This characteristic of tilt-a-worlds may expand the edge of a star’s habitable zone by 10 to 20 percent past the point where fixed-spin planets would freeze over.

2Eccentric Exoplanets May Host Extreme Life Forms


For the most part, astronomers search for life on exoplanets that reside within their star’s habitable zone. But some “eccentric” exoplanets remain in the habitable zone only part of the time. When outside the zone, they may experience molten hot or frigid temperatures.

Even so, these planets may still support life. Scientists point to certain microscopic life forms on Earth that can live in extreme conditions—both on Earth and in space—such as bacteria, lichen, and spores. This suggests that a star’s habitable zone may extend farther than initially believed. But we have to change our thinking to include planets hostile to life on Earth, but favorable to life forms that thrive in, or at least tolerate, harsh conditions.

1Researchers Question Whether We’re Ready For Contact With Alien Life


NASA is taking an aggressive approach to finding alien life in our universe. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project has also become more ambitious in its efforts to contact alien civilizations. SETI wants to move beyond the mere searching and tracking of extraterrestrial signals, and start actively sending messages through space to identify our position to others.

But contacting intelligent alien life may be a danger we’re not prepared to handle. Stephen Hawking has warned that a superior civilization would most likely use their power to dominate us. There is also concern that NASA and SETI are overstepping ethical boundaries. As neuropsychologist Gabriel G. de la Torre asks, “Can such a decision be taken on behalf of the whole planet? What would happen if it was successful and ‘someone’ received our signal? Are we prepared for this type of contact?”

Based on a survey of college students, de la Torre believes that the general public currently lacks the knowledge and preparation needed to deal with intelligent alien contact. Most people’s viewpoints are also influenced by their religious beliefs.

+The Search For Alien Life Isn’t As Easy As We Thought

Planets Under a Red Sun

The technology we use to hunt down alien life has greatly improved, but the search still isn’t nearly as easy as we originally thought. For example, biosignatures are generally believed to be evidence of life, either past or present. But scientists have discovered lifeless planets with lifeless moons that yield the same biosignatures that we typically see as evidence of life. This means our current methods for detecting life on exoplanets may easily produce false positives.

In addition, the existence of life on other planets may be far more unlikely than we thought. Red dwarf stars, which are smaller and cooler than our Sun, are the most common stars in our universe. But our latest information shows that exoplanets residing in a red dwarf’s habitable zone may have their atmospheres destroyed by extremely harsh weather.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/08/17/10-ways-the-quest-for-alien-life-is-getting-real/

10 Unique Stories Of Milestone Meteorites

Every day, our atmosphere is bombarded with alien rocks. They travel billions of miles across the soulless chasm of space on a collision course with Earth, and in a brief, glorious instant, they’re gone, burned to oblivion in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. But every now and then, a meteorite arrives with just the right mixture of size and determination to make landfall. And if it wasn’t a rock, it would understand that this means exciting times for the people below.

10 An Ancient Undiscovered Mineral


The Krotite meteorite was discovered in Morocco in 1934, lending it the official name of “NWA 1934.” The small rock had few distinguishing features, but there was one problem: Nobody could figure out what it was made of. It wasn’t until 2010 that researchers came to the conclusion that the meteorite contained a completely new mineral that had never been seen before.

The mineral was named “krotite” after Alexander Krot, the cosmochemist who worked on figuring out the chemical composition of the rock. Interestingly enough, krotite is extremely similar to a few different forms of man-made concrete, just further proof that anything we can make, nature’s probably already figured out. And in this case, nature figured it out about 4.6 billion years ago—krotite is believed to be one of the oldest minerals, having formed back when the Solar System was still just thinking about coming together.

9A Nuke-Like Blast From An Alien Planet

Most meteorites break off a larger, parent meteoroid well before entering our atmosphere. The Tagish Lake Meteoroid, however, plunged headlong into the stratosphere before shattering with more energy than the bomb that took out Hiroshima. The meteoroid itself was estimated to be 4 meters (13 ft) in diameter with a weight of 56 metric tons, large enough to wreak havoc in a large area if it had landed intact.

As it was, about 93 percent of the meteoroid was ablated, or vaporized, before it erupted into a fireball. It exploded about 40 kilometers (25 mi) above the Earth’s surface and sent thousands of meteorites clattering across the frozen surface of Tagish Lake in Canada. When NASA arrived to study the pieces, they had to cut blocks of ice out of the lake because the fragments were too deeply embedded to remove. The entire lake had been perforated. After studying the meteorites, it was discovered that they had come from 773 Irmintraud, a minor planet (or large asteroid) that floats between Jupiter and Mars.

8Mars’s History Revealed

Until 2005, all the meteorites ever studied had been found on Earth (not counting two on the Moon). We hadn’t really been anywhere else. But a year after the Opportunity rover landed on Mars in 2004, it discovered the first meteorite to be found on another planet. The discovery was an accident; the rover was looking for the heat shield that had been ejected during its landing. Sitting next to the shield was large, pocked ball of iron—the Heat Shield Rock.

Since the rover wasn’t equipped to drill into something made of almost pure iron, we haven’t been able to study it much. But one thing is certain—due to the way it survived its fall intact, it must have been traveling fairly slowly. To do that, Mars must have had a much thicker atmosphere when it fell, an atmosphere that contained water. This brings us we closer to figuring out the timeline of the changes in Mars’s atmosphere, something we’ve never really been able to do. And all it took was a chunk of rock.

7Liquid Water On Mars

Most meteorites are very old. Solid chunks of matter were typically formed a few billion years ago, and the ones that didn’t coalesce into a planet became nomads, drifting aimlessly through space. For example, the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite (or ALH84001) is believed to be over 4 billion years old —a relic from the formation of our Solar System.

But it’s not famous for being one of the oldest things in our neighborhood. Discovered in Antarctica in 1984, ALH84001 was studied extensively for eight years before researchers made a shocking announcement: It was covered with carbonate globules, a sign that it could be a collection of bacteria fossils. That’s particularly strange, considering it came from Mars. It’s believed that about 15 million years ago, the impact from another meteorite knocked this chunk into space, along with a colony of Martian bacteria. It floated around in space for a while before connecting with our planet roughly 13,000 years ago.

The claim that the rock was covered in alien bacteria was later bashed to bits by the scientific community. But in 2011, it was confirmed that even if bacteria never lived on the rock, it was definitely formed in an environment with liquid water.

6A Sign From God


The Ensisheim meteorite is the oldest preserved meteorite in the world. It landed in 1492 in Ensisheim, a small village in eastern France. The rock itself isn’t really anything spectacular. It’s what’s known as an ordinary chondrite which, as you might guess from the name, isn’t the rarest thing that’s ever fallen from the sky. Ordinary chondrites make up nearly 90 percent of all meteorite finds.

But in the 15th century, the Ensisheim caused quite a stir. Accounts of the meteorite describe it as a falling inferno, a fireball that could be seen more than 150 kilometers (93 mi) away. Locals were quick to chalk it up as a sign from God, and the meteorite was immediately excavated, carted into town, and chained inside the Ensisheim church. Pieces of the meteorite were then chipped off and sent to the Holy Roman Emperor and Pope Pius III. The meteorite was even commemorated in songs and poems from the era.

5 The Iron Monument


With a weight of more than 60 tons, the Hoba meteorite is the largest known meteorite in the world. As a matter of fact, it’s also the largest single piece of iron that we know about. Because it’s so massive, it’s never been moved—it’s still sitting in a little farm near Grootfontein, Namibia.

The Hoba meteorite was discovered by pure luck. A Namibian farmer, Jacobus Brits, was whipping his ox through a field on his property when the plow came to a screeching halt. Upon investigating, he found a large, square rock embedded in the dirt. It wasn’t until later that he realized it was a meteorite. Because of its shape (flat on all sides), it’s believed that the meteorite skipped across the surface of the atmosphere a few times, like a pebble skipping across a pond, before plunging through. It probably made landfall around 80,000 years ago, crashing through the atmospheric layers at speeds of 300 meters per second (about 1,000 ft/s). It’s now a national monument.

4A Car-Wrecking Fortune


In 1992, thousands of Pennsylvania residents watched a flaming green object hurtle through the sky and come to a thundering halt in the trunk of a Chevy Malibu. Aside from the meteorite which fizzled through Russia’s skies in 2013, the Peekskill meteorite, as it was later named, is the most recorded meteorite in history. As it crossed over a high school football game, dozens of parents forgot their children and turned their video cameras to the heavens to get it on film. Sixteen videos later surfaced showing the meteorite’s descent.

The meteorite, which weighed 12 kilograms (26 lbs), was a rare type known as an H6 monomict breccia—it was formed when two massive asteroids collided in space, creating an enormous amount of pressure and heat. Before it hit the atmosphere, it was rocketing through space at 14,000 meters (8.8 mi) per second—by the time it landed 40 seconds later, it had slowed down to only 200 kilometers (126 mi) per hour.

But what about the car? Well, the owner was able to purchase a new one after selling the meteorite for the tidy sum of $69,000.

3Diamonds And The Seeds Of Life


Right now, 28 high-powered telescopes orbit the Earth. Dozens of land-based observatories are scattered across the globe, and untold millions of amateur telescopes point towards the stars. The goal of all of these is simple: to see things in space. But until 2008, we had never caught a meteorite until it was already burning a trail through the atmosphere, completely visible with the naked eye. 2008 TC3 was the first meteorite that was tracked to Earth from outer space, and despite all our technology, the feat boiled down to nothing more than a hobbyist who happened to be looking in the right place at the right time.

Richard A. Kowalski spotted the asteroid a full 19 hours before it reached the planet. NASA quickly jumped in and, with an army of amateur astronomers at their backs, calculated the exact landing position of the rock. Sure enough, the asteroid broke up in the atmosphere and showered hundreds of meteorites across the Nubian Desert in Sudan.

But the real surprise came later—far from being a normal rock, 2008 TC3 was filled with nanodiamonds, diamonds with an extremely small crystalline structure which are the hardest material in the known universe. And spread across the surface of the nanodiamonds was another, stickier surprise: amino acids, the building blocks of life. This proves that life can technically form in space, and by all probability, life on Earth started after a similar meteorite impact.

2An Extraterrestrial Killer


In October 1972, the first meteorite fatality in known history was recorded in the small village of Trujillo, Venezuela. The victim: a dairy cow. Nobody saw the meteorite fall, but the sound was unmistakable—a massive sonic boom that’s caused when a meteor explodes into fragments in the upper atmosphere.

The next morning, the owner of the farm, Argimiro Gonzalez, was woken up by one of his farm hands. The man was babbling about killer rocks, and when Gonzalez investigated he indeed found a bloody rock in one of his fields. Beside the rock was a very dead cow, its shoulders and neck crushed to a pulp like the trunk of a Chevy Malibu. The cow was promptly eaten, and Gonzalez used the murderous mineral as a doorstop for the next several years, until an astronomer came to examine it and declared it to be a fragment of the Valera meteorite that had broken up over Venezuela around that time.

You can actually buy the meteorite now and own the only alien object to claim the life of an Earth creature on our home turf.

1 The (Supposed) Cure For AIDS


On August 14, 1992, a meteorite shower hit the village of Mbale, Uganda. The meteorite was nothing special, just run-of-the-mill ordinary chondrite, a big, ugly rock that only weighed 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lbs) before routinely shattering into fragments. Boring.

But by the time researchers arrived at the site, there wasn’t much left to study—the local population had already crushed most of the pieces into powder and eaten it. See, Mbale at that time was going through an AIDS epidemic that was sweeping through the populace. Desperate, they took the meteorite as a sign from God, and believed that within its cosmic structure was a cure for the disease with which they were stricken. They were swallowing the powder by the fistful and mixing it with water to form a paste, which they smeared over their skin.

Unfortunately, there was nothing in the meteorite except for some chunks of iron, and AIDS still affects that region of Uganda to this day.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/01/04/10-unique-stories-of-milestone-meteorites/

10 Record-Breaking Objects In Space

While humanity has certainly accomplished some impressive feats, it turns out that we’re still small fry compared to the rest of the universe. Space’s entries in the “most extreme things” contest take all of the medals—and then destroy them in a variety of spectacular ways.

10Most Powerful Lens


Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity has a number of implications. Amongst them is the idea that light doesn’t always go in a straight line. Space itself, through which light travels, bends around any object with mass. The more massive the object, the more space bends. What that means is that when light flies past a star, for example, it will curve towards the star and change direction. One result of this is an effect known as Einstein rings. If a body is shining its light out in all directions behind a massive object, the light will all bend towards the massive object and form the illusion of a ring to us on the other side.

The largest cosmic lens ever found has the memorable name of J0717.5+3745. It’s the most crowded galactic cluster ever found, described as a “cosmic free-for-all” 5.4 billion light years from Earth. These lensing effects are useful for studying things in the universe that have mass but don’t emit radiation. We just need to look for the lensing effect in areas where there’s no regular matter to explain it. Scientists were able to use Einstein rings in J0717.5+3745 to map out its dark matter and have produced a picture with the additional mass added in false color.

9 Most Powerful X-Ray Blast


The most powerful X-ray burst ever seen was picked up by NASA’s Swift telescope in June 2010. The blast, which had come from five billion light years away, was bright enough to overwhelm the satellite to the point where its data processing software simply shut down. One of the scientists that worked on the project described it as like “trying to use a rain gauge and a bucket to measure the flow rate of a tsunami.”

The blast was 14 times brighter than the strongest continuous X-ray source in the sky, but that source is a neutron star that is 500,000 times closer to Earth. The cause of the intense burst is a star morphing into a black hole, yet scientists didn’t ever expect to see anything quite this bright. Curiously, even though the X-ray emissions were record-breaking, emissions in other spectrums were perfectly normal.

8 Most Powerful Magnet


The record for strongest cosmic magnet belongs to neutron star SGR 0418+5729, observed by the European Space Agency in 2009. Scientists devised a new technique for processing X-ray emissions that allowed them observe the magnetic field under the star’s surface. The ESA themselves described it as a “magnetic monster.”

Magnetars are pretty small, around 20 kilometers (12 mi) wide. Size-wise, you’d be able to fit one quite easily on the Moon. But it’d probably be best if you didn’t: Even from that distance, the magnetic field would be strong enough to stop a locomotive on Earth. Luckily, this one is 6,500 light years away.

7 Megamasers


Lasers have been pretty useful over the last few decades, so we shouldn’t be surprised that they get all of the good PR. Their cousins from further along the spectrum are called masers, which are the same thing but with microwaves instead of light. The most powerful manmade laser, for comparison, reached a peak power of 500 trillion watts. The universe makes this look like a damp candle, sending out masers with a power of one nonillion watts. In numbers that you’ve heard of, that’s a million trillion trillion—about 10,000 times the power output of the Sun.

Poets will be pleased to learn that masers are produced by quasars, which are large discs of material collapsing into the massive central black holes of distant galaxies. Surprisingly, the source of these most powerful masers is water. The water molecules in the quasar bump into each other, emit microwaves, and cause their neighbors to do the same. This chain reaction amplifies the signal into the masers we see. Masers from the quasar MG J0414+0534 were detected in 2008 and provided evidence of water 11.1 billion light-years away.

6 Oldest Objects Ever Found

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The universe is around 6,000 years old, give or take 13.7 billion. The oldest object whose age we can directly measure is HE 1523-0901, a star in our own galaxy. Measuring the age of a star is done with radioactive clocks in much the same way we use carbon to measure the age of human artifacts. Only elements with a very long half life—such as uranium or thorium—can work over this length of time. Measurements made by the European Southern Observatory in Chile were able to pick up on six different ways of measuring the star’s age, confirming it to be 13.2 billion years old.

There are other objects whose age we can’t measure but can infer. Some of them appear to be even older than HE 1523-0901. HD 140283—nicknamed the “Methuselah star”—is a star that has long caused trouble. Initial estimates of its age gave figures that would make it older than the universe. More accurate measurements made possible by Hubble brought the figure down from 16 billion years to around 14.5 billion, with error bars that bring it inside the age of everything else.

5 Fastest Spinners


Scientists recently created the fastest manmade spinning object, which rotated 600 million times per second. That’s impressive, but the object was only 4 millionths of a meter wide so its surface was travelling at around 7,500 meters per second). That sounds quick (and it is), but it’s peanuts compared to what space can serve up.

VFTS 102 is the fastest spinning star we’ve ever found, and its surface goes upwards of 440,000 meters per second (1 million miles per hour). It’s 160,000 light years away from us in the awesomely named Tarantula Nebula in one of our neighboring galaxies. Astronomers think the star used to have a companion star that went supernova, blasting the survivor into its cosmic twirl.

4 Record-Breaking Galaxies


Unless you get your physics lesson mainly from Will Smith movies, you’ll know that galaxies are all pretty big. Our own Milky Way is 100,000 light years across. You could fit 50 Milky Ways into IC 1101, the largest galaxy ever found. It was first observed in 1790 by William Herschel, and we now know it’s over a billion light years away. That’s quite a distance but still only a fraction of the record for farthest away.

The most distant galaxy ever found is called z8_GND_5296—around 30 billion light years away from Earth. The galaxy is from around 700 million years after the start of the universe itself. (At that distance, it takes light so long to reach us, we’re actually looking back in time). What is curious about the galaxy is its rate of star production, which is hundreds of times faster than that of the Milky Way. The next generation of space telescopes will push our ability to see back in time even farther—to some of the earliest stars formed in the universe.

3 The Coldest Star


There are a lot of words you could use to describe a star: hot, big, bright, very hot, very big, and so on. Yet stars don’t always fit our expectations. The coldest class of stars—brown dwarfs—are actually pretty cool. WISE 1828+2650 is a brown dwarf in the Lyra constellation with a surface temperature of 25° Celsius (80° F), which is 10° C cooler than a person with hypothermia. Often called a “failed star,” it didn’t have enough mass to ignite when it collapsed on itself.

Stars this dim cannot be seen in the visible spectrum. The WISE part of its name is from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. NASA uses WISE to find brown dwarfs and to gain insights into their formation, and they have to find them in the infrared spectrum. WISE has found over 100 brown dwarfs since it was launched in December 2009.

2The Fastest Meteorite


If you happened to be in California on April 22, 2012, then you might have been lucky enough to see the Sutter’s Mill meteorite blazing through the sky. Seeing a meteor is always cool, but the fireball above the Sierra Nevada foothills on that day was particularly special—it’s the fastest we’ve ever recorded. It was traveling 103,000 kilometers per hour (64,000 mph), almost twice as fast as we’ve ever shot a rocket.

Scientists brought together information from a number of sources, including weather radar, pictures, and videos of the meteor. This allowed them to triangulate its trajectory and figure out not only its speed, but where it came from. They were even able to produce a picture of its orbit. Before hitting Earth it used to travel almost as far out as Jupiter. The gas giant likely launched it towards us.

The meteorite was interesting for other reasons as well. It was made of carbonaceous chondrite, a rare material. These meteorites have been called “time capsules,” as they’ve been almost unchanged since they formed in the early solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists are typically able to track objects in the sky without knowing much about what they’re made of, or analyze a meteorite in a lab without knowing where it came from in space. Having both pieces of information at the same time is of “huge added value,” according to a geologist from Australia’s Curtin University.

1 Fastest Orbits


Binary star systems—where two stars orbit their common center of mass—are quite common. Some of them even have planets and there’s a system with six stars in mutual orbit. However, some of them are going very, very fast.

The fastest orbit of two normal stars around each other is in a system called HM Cancri. These two white dwarfs—the dead remnants of stars like our Sun—are separated by a distance only three times the width of the Earth. They zoom through space at 1.8 million kilometers per hour (1.1 million mph), spraying hot gas at one another and unleashing large amounts of energy. It takes them less than six minutes to complete a full orbit.

More unusual binary pairs have been found that move even faster. Scientists have observed a black hole named MAXI J1659-152 which forms a binary pair with a red dwarf that is just 20 percent the size of the Sun. The black hole orbits relatively slowly, just 150,000 kilometers per hour (93,000 mph). Its companion, however, whizzes around at 2 million kilometers per hour (1.2 million mph). The red dwarf is farther away from their shared center of gravity (otherwise they’d crash into one another), but it’s constantly losing material to the black hole and will eventually be destroyed.

The current record holder for fastest binary orbit goes to a dying star orbiting with a super dense neutron star. The neutron star is the slower of the two, but has the fantastic name “black widow pulsar” to make up for it (its less cool name is PSR J1311-3430). Its orbital speed of just 13,000 kilometers per hour (8,100 mph) is quite slow—Earth goes around the Sun eight times faster. The pulsar’s companion more than makes up for it though, clocking in at 2.8 million kilometers per hour (1.7 million mph).

The “black widow” name given to its companion was chosen because the female black widow spider devours its male after mating. The pulsar is bombarding the star with so much radiation that it (she?) is actually vaporizing it. Eventually, it will destroy the star completely. So, while the binary stars of HM Cancri only take third place in this entry, we’re forced to conclude that they’ve got the healthiest overall relationship.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/11/19/revised-10-record-breaking-objects-in-space/