Most of us spend our lives chasing gold. For better or worse, this element determines many things over the course of our lives: where we can go to school, where we live, what kind of car we drive, who we marry, and even whether or not we eat. There are two rather simple reasons that we value gold so highly—it is beautiful, and it is rare.
And it’s not just rare on Earth; gold is also rare in the universe. Unlike other elements, such as carbon or iron, gold cannot be created within a star. Instead, it must be born in a more cataclysmic event, like an amazing celestial explosion.
Generally speaking, when talking about the evolution of our species, there are two modes of thought. Some people go on and on about how we will transition into super human-humans that have brains the size of small cars, amazing psychic capabilities, and Superman-like physical prowess. Others claim that humans are no longer evolving physically—that technology has put an end to the brutal logic of natural selection and that evolution is now (essentially) dead.
So, what’s the real answer?
This stunning picture shows the War and Peace Nebula, otherwise known as NGC 6357. This nebula is located in the constellation Scorpius and is located some 8,000 light-years from Earth.
The Nebula gets its name because, in infrared, the western section resembles a dove and the eastern section has the shape of a skull. NGC 6357 is a diffuse nebula and contains many proto-stars.
The open cluster Pismis 24 is located within the nebula; this cluster contains several massive stars. Originally, scientists thought the brightest object in the cluster – called Pismis 24-1 – was the most massive star on record as it was thought to be between 200-300 solar masses. Later surveys showed Primis 24-1 to be a binary system containing two stars, each between 100-150 solar masses.
Today, I want to talk to you about what it would be like to spend a day in space without a spacesuit. Spending a day in the cosmic vacuum—sans spacesuit—might seem like a questionable life choice. After all, in the movies, whenever people end up in the intergalactic void without proper protection either their heads explode or they instantaneously freeze solid…neither outcome is particularly appealing.
However, your death in space won’t be nearly as spectacular as Hollywood would have you believe.
When the Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its twentieth anniversary of scouring the stars, this image was released to celebrate the millions of observations Hubble has made. These images provided us with a plethora of information that wasn’t available beforehand. Hubble has literally revolutionized many aspects of astronomy and physics; however, one thing it cannot do is help us wrap our minds around the sheer size of some of these deep-space regions. But let’s try!
Can you identify which planet was photographed in this image?
We’ve told you about all about VY Canis Majoris, the most sizable star in the known universe. Lurking in the cosmos some 4,900 light-years from earth (about 28.8 quadrillion miles from our home), Canis Majoris is a mammoth without compare. If this star were in the center of our solar system, it would extend far beyond the orbit of Saturn (so let’s be glad that it’s a few quadrillion miles away).
To give you some hard figures, the circumference of our Sun is approximate 2.7 million miles (4.3 million km), while Canis Majoris is approximately 1.9 billion miles (3 billion km). This means that, when circling around the sun, light clocks in at about 14.58 seconds. However, it takes almost 8 hours for photons to travel around Canis Majoris.
212 million light-years from Earth, NGC 6872 drifts silently through the cosmos. At first glance, NGC 6872 seems like any other spiral galaxy. And in truth, it is like any other spiral galaxy, except that NGC 6872 is amazingly huge. In fact, NGC 6872 is one of the largest known spiral galaxies.
This close up, false-color image of the Eagle nebula captures one of its stellar nurseries. The Eagle nebula is about 6,500 light-years from Earth, making it one of our closest stellar nurseries. The XMM-Newton, imaging X-rays, worked in conjunction with Herschel’s far infrared seeing capabilities to capture this stunning image.
Unfortunately, astronomers have found the remnants of a supernova inside the nebula. Many scientists believe the resulting shockwave will eventually destroy these structures, along with the nearby ‘Pillars of Creation’, over the course of the next several hundred years.