The 6 Most Bizarre Things Ever Discovered in Space
Humanity has been looking out into space for thousands of years, and the most important thing we've discovered over that time is that everything is crazy weird out there, and it just keeps getting weirder. Here are some of the more baffling and often terrifying things that astronomers have found in recent years.
God's Liquor Cabinet
If anything is going to replenish the public's waning interest in space exploration, it's probably this: Below is a photo of Sagittarius B2, a huge cloud a few million times the mass of our sun, floating around near the center of our galaxy. Scientists have discovered that it's basically a giant river of raspberry-flavored rum.
Jesus is a wine lover, but God has distinctly trashier tastes.
No, really. Sagittarius B2 contains about 10 billion billion billion liters of alcohol. That's enough booze to get Galactus to make a pass at Ursa Major, but the cloud is also packed full of molecules called ethyl formate. This chemical, said to smell of rum, is the same chemical that gives raspberries their flavor.
Not only did God apparently decide to "Irish up" the Milky Way, but this also represents the next best thing to finding life outside our world. Alcohol is an organic compound, so if scientists could learn more about how it manages to form in space, they might be able to figure out how life formed. And they can get blitzed doing it.
A Giant Magnifying Glass
Gravity does some weird things to the universe, and we don't just mean scary things like galaxy-swallowing black holes. The power of gravity also bends light, which means that the objects astronomers are looking at might not actually be where they appear to be. Scientists call this bizarreness gravitational lensing. Here's a particularly weird-ass example:
Ants are so totally fucked.
What you're looking at here is a blue thing that's actually directly behind the red thing. Due to gravity bending the light around it, it looks like that red dot is wearing the blue one like a bracelet. Astronomers are pretty excited about this effect, because it means that they can study things that are directly behind gravity sources, like large galaxies, without having to send a fleet of warships into space to destroy the obstruction, which is often cost prohibitive.
The trippy thing about this effect is that the gravitational lens can actually make multiple copies of objects in the sky, so you really have to know what you're looking for. In the next image, the objects marked "lensed galaxy" and "lensed quasar" are actually the same galaxy and the same quasar. They've just been cloned by gravity effects so that they look like they're ganging up on us.
The other cool thing is that by manipulating this effect, we can actually tell where invisible but terrifying objects like black holes are, which means it's our only chance against most of the later stuff on this list.
Unicorns, Corporate Logos, and More
Believe it or not, the below is not a cartoon image of the galaxy where My Little Pony takes place. This is the Trifid Nebula, a giant gas cloud that happens to look exactly like a sparkly space unicorn. You can even see the long, flowing mane and kind of make out the side of its snout as it turns its gaze away from us like the stuck-up bitch that it is:
Shit, how do you spell a unicorn noise?
That is of course just an example of pareidolia (the sciency term for our tendency to see patterns in random smudges, like Jesus in a piece of toast, or a unicorn in a gas cloud). And the vast randomness of space is full of this crap, like this nebula that formed into a giant terrifying ghost hand chucking a Molotov cocktail:
"I'm about to loot the balls off of Sagittarius."
Or the Mickey Mouse logo they found branded on the side of Mercury:
But at least it wasn't on the backside of Pluto. OOOOOOOHHH!
Or in this other space cloud, which looks just like a giant, radioactive bee:
Made entirely out of bees.
Just kidding: That one actually is a giant, radioactive space bee, and it's coming this way. The biggest folly would be to resist it.
Though we'd still have a better chance against it than ...
A Supermassive Black Hole, Sent Screaming Through Space by a Galactic Slingshot
If you find yourself one day piloting a starship around the universe, there are certain combinations of words that you just don't want to hear from your co-pilot. Somewhere around the top of that list would be "supermassive," "black hole," and "moving at 3 million miles per hour." But that just happens to describe the situation in the CID-42 system, where scientists have seen two galaxies team up to slingshot a huge-ass black hole right the hell out into space at an impossible speed. Here's a computer simulation of how the scientists think it went down:
That white dot tear-assing its way out of frame in the final moments is the black hole being shot into space like a spitball, probably at another galaxy that these two don't like very much.
Keep in mind, a supermassive black hole is millions or even billions of times more massive than the Sun, so the forces required to fire one like a bullet are vast and unfathomable.
The phenomenon could only be detected based on evidence gleaned from the scene of the crash. The very nature of a black hole is that you can't possibly see it, not even if it's a foot in front of your face. Of course, if it's a foot in front of your face, you are already incredibly dead. That's arguably the good news -- if a nearby galaxy decides to do this to us, we won't even know to panic.
An Actual Shooting Star
We assume you all know that when you see a "shooting star" streaking across the night sky, you're not really talking about a star, but a meteorite, which is a lot less impressive. A star is of course billions of times bigger, and as such it doesn't really "shoot" so much as it just kind of sits there and sparkles. When a star does actually decide to "shoot," shit gets real.
And it does happen -- for instance, apparently nobody told Mira how to behave like a decent star, because it decided to just piss off out of there in search of a more fun corner of the galaxy.
And if nature isn't a heartless bitch, it'll start engulfing planets like a cosmic game of Pac-Man.
Mira is a red giant star at the end of its life, and rather than die quietly, it's opted to go out in the most spectacular blaze of glory imaginable, driving its Cadillac through the galaxy at an incredible 291,000 miles per hour, with a trunk full of mescaline and nothing to lose. It's moving fast enough to create a comet-like tail, but unlike a comet, this one is 13 light-years long.
The amazing thing is that the material that Mira is shedding into the void will go on to create more stars and planets in the far future. That's right -- it's star jizz, which it is indiscriminately spraying in every direction as it streaks to its own doom. Ladies and gentlemen, this is exactly how everyone should die.
A Massive Mystery Force Beyond Our Universe
Just when you think they can't find any more terrifying things in the universe, astronomers go ahead and trump themselves. Apparently, there's something unfathomably massive just beyond the borders of our visible universe. We can't see what it is, but we know it's there, because it's dragging parts of the universe into it like water swirling around a drain.
Yeah, but just the shitty parts of the universe.
All you need to understand about this diagram of the night sky from NASA is that the big colored chunks are being sucked toward something so far away that we can't see it, and so powerful that nothing we know about the universe already can account for it. Scientists call it dark flow, because it was the only name that sounded ominous enough.
So what is this dark flow? Some astronomers think that it might be some unknown, exotic megastructure cast off in the first moments of the Big Bang. Others think that it might be the edge of another universe pushing up against ours. Still others think that this is probably a bunch of baloney that better science will eventually smooth out. In any case, we're once again hanging on to the belief that H.P. Lovecraft might have been right.
Please follow Jacopo della Quercia on Twitter and on Man Cave Daily for his legendary Badass Day in History.
For more reasons to be terrified of the unknown, check out 5 Cosmic Events That Could Kill You Before Lunch and 7 Horrible Ways The Universe Can Destroy Us Without Warning.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Creepiest Pillow Commercial Ever.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover why discharging firearms at space is a bad idea.
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