Ten wonders of our universe


Do you know that stars called pulsars have magnetic fields with billions of times more powerful than the Earth’s?
Or Saturn has a density lower than that of water?

Saturn rings offer a compelling view
Saturn rings are quite delightful to watch

Consider yourself standing on a scorching planet, with a surface temperature of 4400C, where liquid iron rains from the sky. In 2016, Scientists discovered the planet WASP-76b, 640 light-years from the Earth. Our universe is filled with many mysteries. Many of these mysteries have confounded scientists for a long time. With advancements in science and technology, we come across new objects that never fail to astound from time to time. Here is the list of ten wonders of our universe.

Wonder 1 : A Quasar

A quasar ranked among the brightest objects in the universe. In 2019, scientists spotted a quasar, billions of light-years away, which shines with the brightness of more than 600 trillion suns.
A quasar is an exceedingly bright active galactic nucleus, and powered with a black hole, are some of the most distant objects known to man. As they are billions of light-years away, scientists hope that these objects offer many valuable insights into the universe’s formation and conditions prevailed at that time.

A quasar is one of the wonders of our universe, it emits tremendous amount radiation
Highly energized galactic nucleus is called a Quasar

Wonder 2: Boomerang Nebula

We all know that achieving negative values on the Kelvin scale is not possible. The least possible temperature anywhere in the universe is -273.15. A place called Boomerang Nebula exists, some 5000 light-years away, where the temperature is -272c and is considered the coldest place in the entire universe. Nebulae are gigantic clouds of gas and dust, and when enough matter gets concentrated due to gravity, it provides an opportunity to form a protostar and, finally, a star. When the fuel exhausts in a star, it undergoes several transformations and ends its life as a white dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole.

Know more about lifecycle of a star here: http://walktoinfinity.com/life-cycle-of-a-star/

Boomerang Nebula is considered by many to be the coldest place on earth,
Boomerang Nebula is considered by many to be the coldest place on earth,
(Image Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF/NASA/STScI/JPL-Caltech)

Wonder 3: A scorching exoplanet

There are several exoplanets found in deep space. One such planet is hotter than many stars. KELT-9b is one such giant exoplanet, 2.8 times more massive than our Jupiter, has a surface temperature of 7,800F or 4,600 K. By comparison, the surface temperature of our sun is 5,778 K. It orbits around a massive Blue-A type star and is tidally locked to its star. Its high surface temperature is due to its proximity to its star( one year on the planet lasts only one and a half earth days).

KELT-9b has a scorching surface due to the close proximity to its star
An artist’s interpretation of an exoplanet with a scorching surface due to the close proximity to its star

Wonder 4: Largest and most massive stars

Though our sun is more than 100 times wider and more than 3,30,000 times more massive than our blue planet, it is still not the largest or the heaviest star in the observable universe. In the Tarantula Nebula, a star named R136a1, almost 163,000 light-years away from us, is considered the most massive star ever. Its mass is assumed to be more than 300 solar masses. At the same time, the largest star title goes to UY Scuti. A bright hypergiant star, approximately 9,300 light-years away, has a radius more than 1708 times that of our sun.

UY Scuti is a extremely large star.
When compared with UY Scuti our sun looks more like a tiny dot
(Image credit: Philip Park)

Wonder 5: A black hole

A black hole is one of the most mysterious things in our universe. When enough mass gets concentrated in a small area, the gravity becomes so enormous that it bends spacetime and nothing, not even light, can escape.
When a massive star reaches the end of its lifecycle, it explodes, releasing a tremendous amount of radiation in a very short period. After the star undergoes some changes and finally forms a black hole.
Click here to know more about black holes: http://walktoinfinity.com/a-black-hole-in-space/

A black hole, though a mystery to us, can be rightfully considered as one of the ten wonders of our universe
A black hole with an accretion disk

Wonder 6: Hoag’s object

Hoag’s object is a galaxy with a peculiar shape. It was named after astronomer Arthur Hoag, who discovered it in 1950. It has a ring shape, with a diameter larger than our milky way. Billions of massive, young blue stars revolve around a group of older, yellowish stars at the centre. More than 70 years have passed since its discovery, and scientists are still perplexed about its origin. The most plausible theory is that a small galaxy collided with a large galaxy, which may have caused the formation of these ring-shaped galaxies. Galaxies assume different shapes such as spiral, elliptical, barred-spiral and irregular. Ring-shaped galaxies are very rare.

Hoag's object has a perfect ring shape and is still a mystery to us.
Hoag’s object has a perfect ring shape and is still a mystery to us.
(Image credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble)

Wonder 7: NASTY 1

A decade ago, NASA’s Chandra observatory observed a phenomenon wherein a red-giant star devours a nearby star or a giant planet. This phenomenon is called stellar cannibalism. BP Piscium was initially assumed to be a young star surrounded by a gaseous disk, typically found in young stars, which was indeed remnants of an enormous object being devoured by the star.
A few years ago, the Hubble telescope revealed a star’s strange behaviour called NaSt 1. This star is almost 3000 light-years away and is found in the Aquila constellation. Initially, when it was discovered decades ago, scientists classified it as a Wolf-Rayet star but couldn’t observe it closely due to a thick cloud of gas and dust. When observed with the Hubble telescope, the scientists expected to witness a typical Wolf-Rayet star ejecting a fast-flying stream of gas and dust along its poles. Contrary to their assumption, they observed a pancake-shaped disc due to mass transfer to a companion star nearby. A Wolf-Rayet star has an energized helium core when its outer hydrogen layers are exposed to stellar winds, and the matter is ejected out. But in this case, a massive companion star consumes the star’s loosely held outer layers. This phenomenon occurs for a short period, typically for a few hundreds of thousands of years.

Nasty 1 has a gigantic disk of gas
This illustration reveals a gigantic disk of gas surrounding the Wolf-Rayet star, Nasty 1, shown at center.
Image credit: NASA / ESA / G. Bacon, STScI.

Wonder 8: Nuclear Pasta

Do you know what the strongest substance in our universe is? If you think it’s Diamond or Graphene, then you are wrong. The strongest substance in the universe is nuclear pasta. Neutron stars are formed when a massive star collapses due to fuel exhaustion, and the outer layers are ejected in an explosion called Supernova. After overcoming degeneracy pressure, a compact ball full of neutrons is left behind. This ball is called a neutron star.
At present, researchers assume that neutron stars have layers distinguished by different configurations of twisted neutron matter. They have decided to name these configurations after pasta. Neutrons near the surface are round in shape called gnocchi. Go a bit deeper; neutrons assume the form of long tubes called spaghetti. When going further, and neutrons carry the shape of sheets called lasagna. These are speculations as we have little information about a neutron star’s core. Our models predict that this matter is almost 10 billion times stronger than steel.

Nuclear pasta is considered to be the strongest substance in our universe
Nuclear pasta is considered to be the strongest substance in our universe
(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Wonder 9: Oumuamua

Oumuamua was discovered in 2017. It holds the title of the first interstellar object to fly into the solar system. Initially thought of like a comet, it lacked the comet’s tail when travelling away from the sun. It entered our solar system at a breakneck speed of 16 kilometres per second and retreated away with a speed of 55 kilometres per second. It behaved in strange ways, and with our limited knowledge about interstellar objects, scientists struggled to explain some of its peculiar traits. Also, It proved that interstellar objects do indeed exist outside our solar system.

Oumuamua is the first interstellar object to visit our solar system
Oumuamua is the first interstellar object to visit our solar system

Wonder 10: Earth like exoplanet

Our planet supports life because it is located in the habitable zone. The conditions in the habitable zone support the evolution of life. We still don’t know if we’re the only lifeforms in the universe. Kelper-452b is one such planet, revolving around a g-type star(similar to our sun) at the roughly same distance as our planet to the sun, also found in the habitable zone. Meaning it can support life too. So, scientists fondly refer to it as Earth’s cousin planet.
Comparing Kepler-452b and our blue planet:
1) They both travel around the g-type main sequence stars.
2) Kepler-452b takes 385 days to revolve around its star, while our planet takes 365 days to do so.
3) It is roughly five times more massive and has a radius of 1.5 times that of our planet.
4) Its star is around six billion years old, 1.4 billion years older than our sun. So, the planet receives 10% more radiation from its star than we receive from our sun.
5) Judging by its size, it is assumed to have a rocky surface.
Several such exoplanets are considered to have conditions suitable to host various forms of life. As we explore our universe, we may come across many such planets, similar to our Earth. Who knows, one of them may even host lifeforms.

There are many earth like planets in our universe
There are many earth like planets in our universe

Our universe is full of mysteries. As Aristotle famously quoted “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know”. This quote is indeed true while studying our universe and its constituents.

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