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8. THE HOT-COLD PLANET
When it comes to exploring space, one thing many scientists look for are planets that humans could eventually inhabit. One planet that would be a potential option if it weren’t 20 light years away is Gliese 581 c, which was discovered in 2007 and is what’s known as a “super-Earth” planet: an exoplanet with a mass that’s greater than Earth, but is much lower than the ice giants Uranus and Neptune.
7. BLACK WIDOW PULSAR
Pulsars are binary systems containing rapidly spinning neutron stars, which are the compacted core remnants of massive stars that have exploded as supernovas. Neutron stars are typically only as wide as a city, such as Manhattan or Washington, D.C., but weigh around twice as much as the Earth’s sun. One type of pulsar, known as the “black widow,” is named as such because its neutron star consumes its brown dwarf star companion.
6. RUM-AND-RASPBERRY CLOUD
In 2009, scientists discovered a massive dust cloud that had formed 390 light years from the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and they deduced that it smells like rum and tastes like raspberries. Yum! Of course, the cloud, which spans across 150 light years and is named Sagittarius B2, isn’t made of actual rum and raspberries; rather, it’s comprised of elements of both.
5. 3753 CRUITHNE
The possibility of an asteroid hitting Earth – potentially for the second or third time, depending on how you interpret history – is one of humanity’s biggest fears. Despite what movies have led you to believe, it’s doubtful we could stop such a colossal chunk of space rock from colliding with us. But asteroids can be neat to learn about – from afar, of course – and in terms of weirdness, the asteroid known as 3753 Cruithne is more than a little odd.
4. HYPERVELOCITY STARS
When you think about “shooting stars,” you probably envision streaks of light dancing across the sky; and, depending on your beliefs, you might make a wish. However, those aren’t stars you’re seeing – they’re fragments of meteors. Which is why, when many of them fall at at the same time, it’s called a “meteor shower.” But that doesn’t mean there aren’t shooting stars out there in the universe. There are – well, sort of – and they’re both fascinating and confusing.
3. THE MOST MASSIVE AND BRIGHTEST OF STARS
Stars fill the galaxy, but just as there are many types of people, there are many different types of stars. There are small stars, big stars, colossal stars – the list goes on. And, then there are plain old heavy stars like R136a1, which isn’t the biggest star by measurement of radius or volume, but by mass and luminosity. Its mass is 256 times that of Earth’s sun – double what astronomers thought was possible previous to its discovery.
2. GALAXY X
One of the biggest mysteries of the universe is the presence of dark matter. Scientists know it’s out there, but have struggled incessantly to catch a glimpse of it. However, they may be closer to achieving this goal. While speculated upon for years, the first true “evidence” of the existence of a dark matter galaxy came in 2009, when ripples of energy were detected in the Milky Way’s outer disk without any clear source.
1. ROGUE PLANETS
All of our solar system’s planets are bound by the gravity of our sun. Most of the universe’s solar systems are based on a similar model. Yet, there are some planets out there that aren’t bound by the gravity of stars. They’re called rogue planets, and they move throughout the galaxy after being evicted from their star system, or never having actually belonged to one.