You’re on a plane heading to an important astronomy convention when you see a large figure outside your window that eclipses the whole Sun. You spit out all of your coffee, and everyone in the plane stares outside in shock. You then notice that it has rings like Saturn. You were supposed to fly to Japan, but you’re forced to land in California.As soon as you land, you look up in the sky and see some more giant planet-like structures floating around in the sky. Everyone is taking pictures and trying to figure out what’s going on. Suddenly you notice a huge ball of fire crashing down near the airport. Everyone scrambles for safety, and luckily, it ends up in the middle of the runway with no one around. The bad news is that there’s no more runway for planes to land.
The sun is rising, lighting up the trees, swamps, and massive plants of the Yucatán Peninsula. It’s 66 million years before today — the last days of the Mesozoic era. This peaceful world doesn’t know yet that a rock the size of a mountain is nearing Earth at a speed of more than 40,000 mph [(64,000 kph)]. It looks like a fireball that’s growing larger and larger with every passing minute. Soon, it already seems to be bigger than the Sun. Dinos, roaming the prehistoric Earth, don’t know that they have to run, hide, save themselves! Not that it’s going to help.
This. Is. Earth... 335 million years ago. I wasn’t around then, but there’s just one supercontinent, Pangaea. See? Let’s watch it shift around in fast-forward. Ok here we go, it just split into two huge pieces! Australia goes this way, North and South America go that way. Africa, Asia, Europe, forming, forming... and there we go, the planet as it is today. Let’s keep going, I mean, the continents are always on the move! Over time, some of them will crash into each other, others will break apart. But that’ll take about 100 million years! Better put it on super fast-forward! 100 years from now. Humans keep spitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the planet’s already warmed up a bunch. The world’s ocean levels have risen about 4 feet. The Bahamas? They’ve totally disappeared! 200 years from now. The Earth’s population is about 19 billion people. The climate’s gotten even warmer, we’re packed in like sardines over here! New medical tech makes it possible to live to 180! But why? Fossil fuel reserves of oil and gas... long gone. Oh, and the continents have drifted over 16 feet!
We’re flying past the planets of our Solar System. We pass by Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Then we move through dark space beyond the edge of our world. We’ve reached our destination. It’s the Oort cloud. It’s a hypothetical region around the Solar System that holds tons of asteroids and blocks of ice. It’s likely to be where the largest comet in human history was born. And now, it’s heading toward the Sun! Bernardinelli-Bernstein was discovered totally by accident during the Dark Energy Survey. Our telescopes were pointed at distant space. Their main goal was to learn more about how the Universe was expanding. Astronomers also wanted to make a more detailed map of the observable universe.Scientists analyzed over 80,000 images and found a moving object. It was alarmingly close to our home planet. Its size was an impressive 62[ml (100 km)] miles. That’s about the width of Lake Michigan. It was an already active comet with a long tail. Usually, comets get a tail when they come close to the Sun. The heat from the star warms the comet’s surface, and light materials, like ice, begin to evaporate. This forms a cloud of steam and dust that stretches far beyond the comet.
You take off from Earth and park your spacecraft somewhere near the Moon. You’re now almost 240,000 miles away from your home planet. That’s almost 100 widths of the United States. Now, you take out a giant hammer and an enormous chisel using the robotic arms of your spaceship. You place the chisel at the Earth’s North Pole and strike its head with the hammer. Earth splits open like an eggshell, and you see it... Another planet.It’s Theia. And it’s hiding inside our planet like a yolk in an egg. You’d need to go back in time 4.5 billion years to find out how it got there. This beautiful nebula will soon become our Solar System. Colored dust and various space debris are slowly coming closer toward the common center. Soon this jigsaw puzzle of debris becomes too heavy and dense. The temperature inside the giant is rising. Soon, it gets so high that it triggers a nuclear chain reaction.
BOOM! An explosion of supersonic waves, interplanetary heat, dust, fumes... The Earth’s atmosphere has been invaded by a cosmic rock the size of Everest! A few seconds ago, this rock, weighing trillions of tons, was hurtling towards Earth. It could fly from New York to Anchorage faster than you could fry yourself an omelet! This monster’s name? The Chicxulub incident. Epic name, right!66 million years ago, it crashed into the Earth. Back then, dinosaurs ruled the planet. But not for long! The epic collision took place in modern Mexico, in the Yucatán Peninsula, right near Cancun, where the dinosaurs were vacationing! Well probably not. Still, the huge space rock hit the ocean, but even all that water couldn’t stop the inevitable.The collision caused a huge amount of energy to be released. The horror on a planetary scale had begun! Imagine a mini sun lighting up the surface of the Earth, with tsunamis the height of the Statue of Liberty bursting from the epicenter of the watery impact. Hmm. Not good.
People stop their cars on the highway, get out of them, and lift their heads in wonder. In the cities, everyone takes to the streets. Balconies and rooftops of houses are full of people staring at the Moon in shock. It’s red. Some people scream that it’s the end of the world; some seek shelter. Indeed, the usual white Moon now looks like it has been doused in red paint. There’s no need to be afraid if you see such a thing. On the contrary, enjoy the view, because you have witnessed a rare astronomical phenomenon. This is a total lunar eclipse.
Is it possible to “put out” the Sun? For example, what would happen if we poured all of Earth’s oceans on it — or even more water? Well, let’s find out. The Universe is a place full of mysteries. Since ancient times, scientists have been arguing about how space works. But none of us has ever doubted the existence of one thing — the Sun. Ah, the center of our Solar system. It’s big, bright, and... immortal? Nah, not really. Actually, the Sun is just an ordinary star. It consists of 75% hydrogen, a little helium, and a pinch of other heavy elements. Gravity holds it all together. But in around 5 billion years, the life cycle of the Sun will come to an end. The hydrogen inside it will run out. Our star will begin to grow gradually. And you can’t even imagine just how BIG it will become!
I hope you feel well-rested. Because I’ve got a tough task for you. Don’t worry — it’s fun! You’re going to visit different planets of our Solar System and try to run on each of them! Let’s figure out where you can run the fastest and where you can barely walk! The fastest man on Earth, Usain Bolt, can run with an average speed of about 23 miles per hour. But his top speed is higher — up to 27 miles per hour! Sadly, we can’t all be Usain Bolts. The average person runs at a speed of 6 to 8 mph. But maybe, there’s a planet out there where you can beat the famous Jamaican sprinter’s records? But first things first, what will affect your speed when you run on other planets? For one thing, gravity. Depending on how strong it is on the planet you visit, it’ll influence your weight. And in most cases, the heavier you are, the more slowly you run.
Among all the planets of the Solar System, our Earth is unique since it’s the only one that has developed life. But what if we got a competitor? What if a second Earth appeared out of nowhere? Then there would be two different scenarios. The first is the destruction of both planets. The second has an unexpected but pretty logical ending. But let’s start with the catastrophic scenario. The second Earth with the same conditions could exist only if it received absolutely the same amount of sunlight as our planet. The orbit that our Earth follows is perfect for getting the necessary amount of solar heat. If we were a little further away, the entire surface of our planet would resemble Antarctica. And if Earth was a little closer to the Sun, we’d all live in a huge desert inhabited by very few living beings. So, for the second Earth to be identical to ours, it’d need to follow the orbit of our planet.
Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System. More than 1,300 Earths could fit inside this gas giant. It’s also two and a half times more massive than all the other planets of the Solar System — combined! But if you think this is mind-boggling, I’ve got some great news for you! Very recently, a team of astronomers has discovered a much, much bigger planet with the help of the Subaru Telescope and the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.It’s a Jupiter-like protoplanet orbiting a very young star called AB Aurigae. The star is probably still forming and is no more than 5 million years old. For comparison, our Sun is 4.6 billion years old. The young star is located around 531 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Auriga.
Black holes. The most terrifying, mysterious, and fascinating objects in the Universe. Eternally hungry, they eat everything in their path and are constantly expanding. But how small and how big can a black hole be? Let’s find out. It’s not very easy for a black hole to be born. Most often they’re just a result of a massive star ending its life cycle. If you take a star and squeeze it very, very hard, at some point it cannot withstand the pressure anymore. So it collapses and turns into a black hole.
Let’s face it: as stars go, our Sun is actually, well ... pretty boring. C’mon, there’s nothing unusual about it. There are millions of similar yellow dwarfs in the universe. And yet we love it. After all, it’s the only star we have, and it gives us life. However... it wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time, the Sun had a twin... possibly an evil one! What happened to it? Well, let’s find out. This here is a giant molecular cloud. They’re also sometimes called dark nebulae. Here, there are many interstellar clumps full of gas, dust, and piles of stars. These clouds have no clear boundaries and often take weird crazy forms. You can even see some of them with the naked eye. Look at the clear sky at night — they look like dark spots all across the bright Milky Way.
On average, Earth’s waters rise by 14 hundredths of an inch each year, and sometimes I feel like, you know, getting some floaties. So we can’t help but wonder what if we end up living underwater? We now have evidence that humans could adapt to that. The Bajau — a group of people living in South-East Asia — have evolved to have enlarged spleens. The spleen is the organ that stores oxygen-rich red blood cells. When these cells are released into the bloodstream, they enable divers to hold their breath underwater for longer periods of time. This allows the Bajau people to free dive to depths of up to 230 feet!
Imagine leaving your house one morning and seeing not one but 2 stars shining in the sky! The first one is our good old Sun, and the other is... Jupiter! But how has a PLANET turned into a star? And what will now happen to Earth and its inhabitants? Before we find the answer to these urgent questions, we need to revise some things we know about Jupiter. The largest planet in the Solar System is a gas giant, which means it’s made up mostly of gases. Due to the pressure and temperature differences, these gases separate into layers. This creates those red and white bands that can be clearly seen from Earth.
It’s dark and incredibly cold. There’s no oxygen. There’s no water. There’s no life. But the James Webb Space Telescope doesn’t seem bothered by all this. Its main goal is to find the very first galaxies that formed billions of years ago in the early Universe and observe the stars making up distant planetary systems. Its mission is to... but wait! What is THAT?! The James Webb Space Telescope has discovered something absolutely amazing — a star-planet hybrid with very strange clouds! This bizarre world, called VHS 1256 b, is actually a brown dwarf. Those are bigger than planets but too small to classify as stars. They emit some light of their own and are quite hot. But their mass is simply not enough to fuse hydrogen into helium — like full-fledged stars do.
Jupiter’s moon Europa is covered in a thick layer of ice, but underneath it is a vast ocean of water, measuring up to 100 miles deep. Water ice was previously thought to be rare and only common for Earth, but it can, in fact, be found all over the Solar System, even on Mercury and the Moon. Saturn is less dense than water, so if it were thrown into a giant pool, it would float. Space isn’t supposed to be black: there are stars everywhere. Shouldn’t they light up everything around? You don’t see stars wherever you look because some of them haven’t existed long enough for their light to reach Earth! There are eight confirmed planets in the Solar System, but evidence shows there can be a ninth — we just haven’t discovered it yet.
Humanity’s facing the greatest danger ever. Our Sun’s fading. In 500 years, the entire Solar System will be plunged into darkness and eternal cold. To save our civilization, people begin to build a huge spaceship that will accommodate the population of the whole world inside, and go into deep space. In less than 400 years, the construction of the ship is finally completed. The Sun is already nearing its end — it’s much smaller and cooler, making the climate on Earth cold and harsh. You and the rest of the inhabitants of the planet are going to board the greatest ship in history.
Perhaps, we’ve all stopped to think at one point about what it would be like to live on a different planet. I know I’ve had days like that. Gotta get away. And maybe even interact with other types of creatures that already live somewhere else in space. These days, such ideas sound more like something from a science fiction book. But in the future, permanently changing your address to another planet might turn out to be mandatory. Think of the star in our Solar System as a battery.
Okay, here you are, in the middle of the ocean. It’s endless, but you can’t see it. Because there’s a thick fog all around you. Dense clouds hide the huge but dim sun. Is it day or night?.. You don’t know. There’s only a gray haze around you. You’re alone. Even if you try to swim down, after several hours, you still won’t be able to see the bottom of the ocean... And that’s a typical water planet for you! I know, sounded kinda dark... But it’s not that bad! These water worlds are more interesting than they may seem, so let’s take a look at them.
The hunt for interesting exoplanets and life forms somewhere out there in the vast expanse of the Universe keeps going; no stopping here! We’re basically searching for a second Earth — a planet that’s similar to our home and where we could finally find some space friends. We’re not picky, any form of life is fine, even some bacteria-sized organisms. And this search has mostly been going on in the habitable zone around other stars. We also call this the Goldilocks zone. That’s a region where conditions are “bearly” just right for liquid water to exist, whether we’re talking about the surface of a planet or a moon.
The Sun is rising, lighting up the trees, swamps, and massive plants of the Yucatán Peninsula. It’s 66 million years before today — and the last days of the Mesozoic era. This peaceful world doesn’t know yet that a rock the size of a mountain is hurtling toward Earth at a speed of more than 40,000 mph. It looks like a fireball. It’s growing larger and larger with every passing minute. Soon, it seems bigger than the Sun. Dinosaurs roaming the prehistoric Earth don’t know yet that they have to run, hide, save themselves! Not that it’s going to help.
Venus has exceptionally high temperatures, hot enough to melt lead. It’s the hottest planet in our Solar System, with a high-pressure environment and super-strong winds. The winds there are 50 times faster than the planet’s rotation. It’s getting stronger over time, and scientists don’t know why. But they did find something interesting in the planet’s clouds — a potential sign of decaying biological matter. Could there be life then? Not quite, since Venus has a dry, windy atmosphere and doesn’t have enough water for life to develop.
There’s only one star in our Solar System, the Sun. And all the planets orbit this star. But there are also systems where a planet orbits two suns. For example, Kepler 16b. It’s an inhospitable and cold place made of half rock, half gas. But the coolest thing there is that if you visited this planet, you’d see two sunsets and have two shadows. But astronomers seem to have found something rarer and more bizarre. There might be a planet that orbits three stars at once!
You’re traveling through deep space circling stars and entire galaxies. Whoa, looks like this multicolored nebula will soon collapse under its own weight and explode like a supernova. Now let’s carefully circle this black hole. Try not to get caught in its gravitational field, or it’ll swallow you like a space monster. Hmmm, wait. What is that strange structure right there? It’s a glowing wall! And if you look closely, each glowing dot is an entire galaxy. That wall has about 100,000 of these galaxies. The Milky Way has 100 billion stars. So this wall holds a quadrillion (that’s 10 followed by 15 zeros) of stars like our Sun.
The search for ET is on! It’s most definitely on. With the successful launch of the James Webb Telescope, the search for Earth-like planets has become a riveting topic of worldwide attention. Apart from the James Webb Telescope, other tools are being used to find good “Earth-like” candidates. The TESS satellite and the Kepler telescope are at the forefront of searching for other Earths. After we first clear the air of a few pesky philosophical questions, we will take a close look at these two searches — and what the James Webb Telescope hopes to find. So, why are we searching for Earth-like planets? Because we can!
Voyager 1, which has been traveling through interstellar space for more than 45 years, and is trailing a long gray beard by this time (not really), it suddenly began to send strange signals to Earth. Even more bizarre, there are no signs that the probe has broken or anything. Scientists from NASA are desperately trying to find the reason. So... what’s happened, exactly? First of all, let me tell you a bit more about Voyager 1 and its long, lo-o-ong journey. Voyager 1 is an American space probe. Scientists from NASA sent it into space on September 5, 1977.
The good old Solar System is actually a pretty bizarre place, what with all its out-of-this-world phenomena that we, humans, haven’t managed to explain so far! There are rumors that a gigantic, undiscovered planet is hiding behind Neptune, volcanoes on Pluto spew ice, and a colossal canyon on Mars can accommodate the whole US territory! Well, let’s figure out if it’s true by talking about the most mystifying Solar System facts. The Solar System is 4.6 billion years old! So old — it’s a senior Solar System. Scientists came to this conclusion after they studied the oldest material they managed to get a hold of — and by that, I mean meteorites, of course.
Everything in the Universe is in constant, quite predictable motion. Some very complicated math can help us predict what the night sky will look like in hundreds of years! That’s why astronomers make up entire calendars of unusual celestial events. So, let’s find out more about the most interesting astronomical events that are waiting for us in the next 100 years.
Under the burning sun, among the sand dunes, somewhere in the Sahara Desert, you’re walking in search of an ancient treasure. Finally, you find a strange rock in the sand. It’s big, looks like a large piece of black coal or rock, but something shiny on its surface makes the rock unusual.This unique find is the oldest thing that has ever been discovered on our planet. This rock was born long before Earth appeared in outer space.
Ah, yes. February 14, 2000. Just a regular Valentine’s Day, some flowers and some candy, the beginning of the new millennium, and... A good day to make history. NEAR Shoemaker (which stands for Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) spacecraft, launched in 1996 [February], finally got a date with asteroid 433 Eros. It wasn’t about swiping right but going around Eros and completing the first soft landing on an asteroid ever.NEAR almost didn’t make it there, because an engine misfire from 1998 brought it into the wrong trajectory, and it missed the target. Yet, engineers decided to let NEAR do the circle around the Sun for one more year — and it eventually made it.NEAR Shoemaker was created to find, target, and stalk some smaller space objects for around a year and collect important data about them. This spacecraft got more than 160,000 pictures of the asteroid’s surface which helped with research in the years to come — before that, some scientists took asteroids for just some random flying piles.
So you’re going on a journey to a black hole? You will need a lot of provisions because the nearest black hole is 1,011 light-years away. This black pearl was found in the solar system called HR 6819. It was hidden in orbit with two other stars, which you can see with the human eye. Scientists have been studying this system since the 80s, but this winter, it revealed its main secret. This particular black hole is considered relatively small. But despite this, its mass is four times bigger than our Sun, and it’s 2,500 light-years closer to Earth than the next nearest black hole.
You’re strapped in a Spaceship that’ll take you all the way to Pluto for your galaxy backpacking trip. It’s the longest journey from Earth and without any shortcuts, so you’ll have to get quite comfy. It’s recommended for everyone aboard to have at least 8 hours of sleep at night.Astronauts in the International Space Station have little rooms suitable for 1 person with special sleeping bags and enough room for personal belongings. If they don’t, they’ll float, bumping into each other.
I have to say — it would be hard to visit the biggest waterfall in the world because it’s underwater. Deep down below, there are fissures and caverns on the ocean floor. They form when water oozes through the layers of salt that are beneath it. This water is filled with dissolved salt. This makes it denser than the water surrounding it, which is why it ends up settling into these fissures. Such type of dense water forms a massive waterfall near Denmark. It’s a giant cascade that plummets 11,500 feet. That’s over three times the height of the well-known Angel Falls in Venezuela. So, the colder water of this waterfall sinks after it collides with the surrounding water that’s less dense.
Under the burning sun, among the sand dunes, somewhere in the Sahara Desert, you’re walking in search of an ancient treasure. Finally, you find a strange rock in the sand. It’s big, looks like a large piece of black coal or rock, but something shiny on its surface makes the rock unusual. This unique find is the oldest thing that has ever been discovered on our planet. This rock was born long before Earth appeared in outer space.