The outer space is something that always makes humans wonder.
We are most likely a very curious species since the very beginning (Archeologically and Biblically by reference), and one of the most frequent questions we asked is ‘What else is out there [outer space]?’
Once in a while we usually get answers from those questions through great outer space exploration – and those answers are really stunning that most likely raised another batch of follow-up questions adding to the pile.
With the success of the Rosetta Probe launch and it’s lander Philae landing on the comet’s surface – the universe is now something our race can grasp on.
This unordered list is all about our top 10 of the greatest outer space discoveries ever made.
10 – The Large Quasar Group
On January 11, 2013, the discovery of the Huge-LQG was announced by the University of Central Lancashire, as the largest known structure in the universe by that time.
A large quasar group (LQG) is a collection of quasars (a form of supermassive black hole active galactic nuclei) that form what are thought to constitute the largest astronomical structures in the known universe.
LQGs are thought to be precursors to the sheets, walls and filaments of galaxies found in the relatively nearby universe.
It comprises seventy-three quasars, with a minimum diameter of 1.4 billion light-years, but over four billion light-years at its widest point.
According to researcher and author, Roger Clowes, the existence of structures of the magnitude of large quasar clusters was believed theoretically impossible.
Cosmological structures had been believed to have a size limit of approximately 1.2 billion light-years.
9 – The Himiko Cloud
Himiko is a large gas cloud found at redshift of z=6.6 that predates similar Lyman-alpha blobs. At time of discovery, researchers said it “may represent the most massive object ever discovered in the early universe.”
It is located in Cetus at redshift z=6.595, about 12.9 billion light years from Earth, or about 75×1021 miles (122×1021 kilometers).
Masami Ouchi, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution in Pasadena, California, stated “I have never heard about any [similar] objects that could be resolved at this distance…[i]t’s kind of record-breaking.
This nebular gas cloud is thought to be a protogalaxy, caught in the act of formation.
There have been no spectroscopic signatures of anything other than hydrogen or helium, and its luminance cannot be ascribed to gravitational lensing, black holes or exterior excitation.
The lack of any chemical signatures other than hydrogen and helium illustrate the extreme primitiveness of the object, and early enough so as not to be polluted by carbon signatures from young stars.
8 – The Rogue Planets
Recent observations of a very young free-floating planetary mass object with the Herschel Space Observatory and the Very Large Telescope demonstrate that the processes that characterize the canonical star-like mode of formation apply to isolated objects down to a few Jupiter masses.
Herschel far-infrared observations show that the young free-floating planetary mass object OTS 44 is surrounded by a disk with a mass of at least 10 Earth masses and can, therefore, eventually form a mini-planetary system.
Spectroscopic observations of OTS 44 with the SINFONI spectrograph at the Very Large Telescope reveal that the disk is actively accreting matter similar as young stars. ”
A rogue planet, also known as an interstellar planet, nomad planet, free-floating planet or orphan planet, is a planetary-mass object that orbits the galaxy directly.
They have either been ejected from the planetary system in which they formed or never been gravitationally bound to any star or brown dwarf.
Some planetary-mass objects are thought to have formed in a similar way to stars, and the IAU has proposed that those objects be called sub-brown dwarfs (an example of this is Cha 110913-773444, which may be an ejected rogue planet or may have formed on its own and be a sub-brown dwarf).
The closest free-floating planetary mass object to Earth yet discovered, WISE 0855–0714, is around 7 light years away.
7 – The Bipolar nebula
A bipolar nebula is a distinctive nebular formation characterized by an axially symmetric bi-lobed appearance. Many, but not all, planetary nebulae exhibit an observed bipolar structure.
It may be that the two types of nebulae are directly related, one preceding or superseding the other in the evolution of the nebula.
Though the exact causes of this nebular structure are not known, it may be related to the physical process known as bipolar outflow in which a star ejects highly energetic streams of outflow along both poles.
One theory states that these outflows collide with material surrounding the star (either stellar dust, or shells of matter sloughed off in a prior Supernova event).
6 – The Diamond Planet, Treasure Planet
The universe just got a bit richer with the discovery of an apparent diamond-rich planet orbiting a nearby star.
Dubbed 55 Cancri e, the rocky world is only twice the size of Earth but has eight times its mass—classifying it as a “super Earth,” a new study says. First detected crossing in front of its parent star in 2011, the close-in planet orbits its star in only 18 hours.
As a result, surface temperatures reach an uninhabitable 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit (2,150 degrees Celsius)—which, along with carbon, make perfect conditions for creating diamonds.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope collected data on the planet’s orbital distance and mass, and resulting computer models created a picture of 55 Cancri e’s chemical makeup.
“Science fiction has dreamed of diamond planets for many years, so it’s amazing that we finally have evidence of its existence in the real universe,” said study leader Nikku Madhusudhan, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University.
“It’s the first time we know of such an exotic planet that we think was born mostly of carbon—which really makes this a fundamental game-changer in our understanding of what’s possible in planetary chemistry.”
At only 40 light-years away, in the northern constellation Cancer, the gemlike planet sits relatively near Earth. In dark skies, 55 Cancri e’s host star is clearly visible to the naked eye.
5 – The Castor Star System
Castor is a bright star in the constellation Gemini that, along with Pollux, is one of the two main guideposts for the asterism that is sometimes nicknamed “The Twins.”
At magnitude 1.58, Castor is the 20th brightest star in Earth’s night sky.
It is also relatively close to the planet, at an estimated distance of 51 light-years from Earth.
A closer examination of the star with a telescope actually reveals it is made up of many.
What naked-eye observers see as Castor is actually the combined light of six stars, ranging from main sequence stars to dwarfs.
Past observations with the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite of this system revealed a variable set of X-ray flares, suggesting that the “schizophrenic” system may see most of its X-ray radiation from huge eruptions, NASA stated.
4 – Mira, the red giant
Mira also known as Omicron Ceti, is a red giant star estimated 200–400 light years away in the constellation Cetus. Mira is a binary star, consisting of the red giant Mira A along with Mira B.
Mira A is also an oscillating variable star and was the first non-supernova variable star discovered, with the possible exception of Algol.
Mira is the brightest periodic variable in the sky that is not visible to the naked eye for part of its cycle.
Its distance is uncertain; pre-Hipparcos estimates centered on 220 light-years; while Hipparcos data from the 2007 reduction suggest a distance of 299 light-years, with a margin of error of 11%.
3 – Hypervelocity stars
Depending on the definition, a high-velocity star is a star moving faster than 65 km/s to 100 km/s relative to the average motion of the stars in the Sun’s neighborhood.
The velocity is also sometimes defined as supersonic relative to the surrounding interstellar medium. The three types of high-velocity stars are: runaway stars, halo stars and hypervelocity stars.
A University of Utah-led team discovered a “hypervelocity star” that is the closest, second brightest, and among the largest of 20 found so far.
Speeding at more than 1 million mph (1.6 million km/h), the star may provide clues about the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way and the halo of mysterious “dark matter” surrounding the galaxy, astronomers say.
“The hypervelocity star tells us a lot about our galaxy, especially its center and the dark matter halo,” said Zheng Zheng from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
“We can’t see the dark matter halo, but its gravity acts on the star,” Zheng said. “We gain insight from the star’s trajectory and velocity, which are affected by gravity from different parts of our galaxy.”
In the past decade, astronomers have found about 20 of these odd stars.
Hypervelocity stars appear to be remaining pairs of binary stars that once orbited each other and got too close to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center.
Intense gravity from the black hole, which has the mass of 4 million Suns, captures one star so it orbits the hole closely and slingshots the other on a trajectory headed beyond the galaxy.
2 – Gravitational lenses
A gravitational lens refers to a distribution of matter (such as a cluster of galaxies) between a distant source (a background galaxy) and an observer, that is capable of bending (lensing) the light from the source, as it travels towards the observer.
This effect is known as gravitational lensing and is one of the predictions of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Although Orest Chwolson (1924) or Frantisek Klin (1936) are sometimes credited as being the first ones to discuss the effect in print, the effect is more commonly associated with Einstein, who published a more famous article on the subject in 1936.
Fritz Zwicky posited in 1937 that the effect could allow galaxy clusters to act as gravitational lenses. It was not until 1979 that this effect was confirmed by observation of the so-called “Twin QSO” SBS 0957+561.
1 – Pareidolia in Outer Space
Ever since Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli described his discovery of canals on Mars in 1877 and American astronomer Percival Lowell started to map them, we humans have been fascinated with the Red Planet.
Although the canals were nothing more than a case of mistaken identity and our technology has come a long way since Schiaparelli and Lowell’s telescopes, Mars continues to serve up its fair share of illusions, hoaxes and misunderstandings.
For the most part, these illusions are triggered by a psychological quirk of our brains that creates familiar objects from apparently random shapes. This phenomenon is known as “pareidolia”.
Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant.
That’s all folks. By the way, this list is inspired by this video: