Some people are under the strange misconception that humans are
Space is full of unfathomable craziness. But once in a while we find something that sounds way closer to science fiction than science reality. Here are eight of the strangest things to exist in space. (That we know of.)
1. A Space Smiley Face. The folks behind the Hubble Telescope released an image this week of a happy, if strange sight. Our brains are programmed to see faces and other significant patterns where they may not actually exist (a phenomenon known as pareidolia), but it’s pretty hard to argue with the apparent happy face of the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849. What’s making the cluster so happy? That smile line is actually caused by gravitational lensing, which is when large galaxy clusters have such a strong gravitation smile that they warp the spacetime around them and magnify the light behind them.
2. Actual Shooting Stars. What we know as shooting stars are actually meteors burning up as the enter the Earth’s atmosphere. But there are such things as actual shooting stars. A “hypervelocity star” occurs when a binary star system is consumed by a supermassive black hole. One part of the pair is destroyed while the other is shot out at a speed of millions of miles per hour.
3. The Raspberry Rum Dust Cloud. Sagittarius B2, a giant dust cloud at the center of the Milky Way was made up of ethyl formate, which gives raspberries their taste and rum its smell. Because even angels and aliens love a fruity daiquiri once in a while.
4. A Giant Cloud of Space Water. The largest reservoir of water in the universe is 12 billion light-years away and contains 140 trillion times the amount of water in Earth’s oceans. The water exists as a giant cloud of gas, sitting in a black hole in the center of a quasar.
5. Space Lightning! Lightning is not limited to Earth or even other planets. It turns out that lightning can strike anywhere– even in the middle of space. And when that happens, it has the potential to be utterly mind-blowing in scope. Scientists have observed an electrical current so massive they saw it from two billion light years away. The lightning bolt was one and a half times the length of our entire galaxy.
6. A Planet Made of Fiery Ice. Gliese 436 b is a giant block of nearly pure ice which exists at a temperature of 439 degrees Celsius. The only thing that keeps it from melting is gravity. Its molecules are held together so tightly that they don’t evaporate.
7. Cold Stars. It’s not just planets that play with temperature. Stars have been discovered with the temperatures of a nice bath– around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Brown dwarfs are the runts of their litter, not containing enough mass to sustain hydrogen-1 fusion reactions in their cores.
8. A Diamond Planet. 55 Cancri e is a “Super-Earth,” with a diameter twice that of our own planet, a mass almost eight times greater, and contains no water, but a lot of bling. The planet is approximately one third carbon, but because of its incredibly high temperatures and pressures, much of that has been transformed into diamond.