This Is How The Universe Changes With Every New Year That Passes

“With an 13.8 billion year lifetime so far, the Universe has certainly been around for some time. While it may seem to change only imperceptibly on human timescales, the fact remains that these changes are real, important, and cumulative. If we look closely and precisely enough, we can observe these changes on timescales as small as a single year.

These changes affect not only our home world, but our Solar System, galaxy, and even the entire Universe. We are only in the beginning stages of exploring how the Universe changes over time and what it looks like at the greatest distances and faintest extremes. May the 2020s mark the decade, at long last, where we pool our efforts as a species into the endeavor to uncover the greatest cosmic secrets of all.”

With every year that goes by, tiny, imperceptible changes occur in our physical Universe that really add up over time. The Earth’s rotation is slowing, the Moon is spiraling outwards, the Sun is heating up and new stars are forming. On a cosmic scale, the Universe is expanding and getting cooler, and more galaxies are becoming visible while fewer stars are capable of being visited.

This is how the Universe changes with each new year that passes, and we can quantify the effects today!

This Is Why December 31 Is The Cosmic Calendar’s Most Important Date

“All that human beings have ever accomplished occurs in a cosmic blink-of-an-eye. Our progress over the past few thousand years may have been rapid and incredible, and has brought us to a point where we now seek to extend our civilization beyond Earth. We have come so far in such a short time, cosmically speaking, but whether we’ll endure remains to be seen.

If we truly want to make any significant dent into “year 2” of the cosmic calendar, we have our work cut out for us. The world is changing rapidly and, on many fronts, we continue to damage and poison the ecosystem that sustains us. If we don’t begin taking a longer-term view of our civilization, we could be gone in mere cosmic seconds, just as all of recorded human history fits into mere seconds as well. As the 2010s give way to the 2020s, it’s up to all of us to pilot our one-and-only habitable planet, Earth, in the right direction.”

As the year comes to an end, it’s worth taking a look back at our cosmic history as though we had compressed our Universe’s entire 13.8 billion year existence into a single calendar year. If we did so, all of human history would only appear in the final few minutes of December 31, with a typical human lifetime lasting just 0.2 seconds. And yet, we can perceive the entire Universe, while trying our best to extend human civilization into the cosmic calendar’s “year 2.”

Here’s what we’re facing as we look back, and what we should be keeping in mind as we move forward. We’re all in this together.

This Gorgeous Nebula In Space Reveals How The Stars Came To Be

“But the most famous feature of all is the Pillars of Creation, iconically captured by Hubble in both 1995 and 2014. The pillars illustrate an ongoing race: between evaporative radiation and gravitational collapse. The rate of evaporation can be measured and is slow: it will take 100,000+ years for the pillars to evaporate.“

The Pillars of Creation are maybe the most iconic image in all of astronomy, illustrating the race between gravitational collapse, which works to form new stars, and evaporative radiation, where the already formed stars work to blow away all the potential star-forming material. But the Pillars themselves are only one small part of an enormous molecular cloud complex known as the Eagle Nebula, which already contains more than 8,000 new stars inside, no more than 1-to-2 million years old.

4.56 billion years ago, a similar nebula likely gave rise to our Sun, and we’re watching the next generation actively being born. Come see inside for yourself!

Ask Ethan: Did God Create The Universe?

“I am very interested in space and with who made us and what made us… what do you have to say about people who say that “God” made us?”

In some ways, it’s the ultimate cosmic question. Before the Big Bang, before the final few moments of cosmic inflation, our knowledge ends. Not only does it end in the sense that we don’t know what came before that instant, but any information that ever existed is now definitively no longer present within our observable Universe. There is nothing we could ever look at, measure, observe, or experiment with, to the best of our knowledge and understanding, to reveal information about that epoch.

It might run contrary to science to appeal to the divine to explain the physical phenomena that have already been scientifically explained and understood, but it’s definitively true that science cannot and will not provide the answer to any and every question we can conceivably ask. For some questions, all science can do is remain agnostic, with every opinion on the matter remaining a matter of faith.

Regardless of what you believe, there’s a lesson for us all in how we treat one another, particularly if they believe differently from ourselves. It’s the last Ask Ethan of the 2010s, and if you’re only going to read one, this should be it!

This Is How We’d All Die Instantly If The Sun Suddenly Went Supernova

“It’s horrifying to think that an event as fascinating and destructive as a supernova, despite all the spectacular effects it produces, would kill anything nearby before a single perceptible signal arrived, but that’s absolutely the case with neutrinos. Produced in the core of a supernova and carrying away 99% of its energy, all life on an Earth-like would receive a lethal dose of neutrinos within 1/20th of a second as every other location on the planet. No amount of shielding, even from being on the opposite side of the planet from the supernova, would help at all.

Whenever any star goes supernova, neutrinos are the first signal that can be detected from them, but by the time they arrive, it’s already too late. Even with how rarely they interact, they’d sterilize their entire solar system before the light or matter from the blast ever arrived. At the moment of a supernova’s ignition, the fate of death is sealed by the stealthiest killer of all: the elusive neutrino.”

In reality, our Sun is in no danger of going supernova, particularly from core-collapse, as it doesn’t have enough mass to ever come close. But for stars that are massive enough, no matter where any living thing is in its vicinity, it’s doomed as soon as that detonation inside the core occurs. It won’t be the blast wave from the explosion that kills you, nor will it be the tremendous radiation that emerges. Instead, the silent-but-deadly killer that will cause your demise is the elusive neutrino, which behaves, to a supernova’s solar system, as a great cosmic sterilizer.

It’s counterintuitive that the least interactive particle in all the Universe would kill all life in a solar system before anything else even arrived, but it’s true. Come find out how we’d all go, in an instant, if the Sun suddenly went supernova.

Antimatter Mystery Likely Due To Pulsars, Not Dark Matter

“Whenever there’s an unexplained phenomenon that we’ve measured or observed, it presents a tantalizing possibility to scientists: that perhaps there’s something new at play beyond what’s presently known. We know there are mysteries about our Universe that require new physics at some level — mysteries like dark matter, dark energy, or the cosmic matter-antimatter asymmetry — whose ultimate solution has yet to be discovered.

However, we cannot claim evidence for a new discovery until everything that represents what’s already known is quantified and accounted for. By factoring in the effect of pulsars, the positron excess observed by the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer collaboration may turn out to be explicable entirely by conventional high-energy astrophysics, with no need for dark matter. Right now, it appears that pulsars may be responsible for 100% of the observed excess, requiring scientists to go back to the drawing board for a direct signal that reveals our Universe’s elusive dark matter.”

Over the past decade, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment aboard the International Space Station has taken the best-ever measurements of cosmic rays directly from space. One of the surprises they saw was an excess of positrons, the antimatter counterpart of electrons, in unexpectedly large abundances at high energies. It offered a tantalizing possibility that, just perhaps, dark matter might be the culprit in this cosmic mystery.

However, a new study offers evidence that a much more mundane explanation, pulsars, might be the cause instead. Come get the full story today.

Is Betelgeuse About To Explode?

“Unfortunately, though, the key question of exactly when Betelgeuse is going to go supernova is one that we’re not any closer to having an answer to. Until we can measure the processes occurring in the star’s core, which would require a neutrino telescope far more powerful than all the neutrino observatories on Earth combined, we cannot know which elements are being fused inside of it.

Right now, our best models are consistent with helium-burning rather than any of the heavier elements, indicating that we have at least hundreds of years — and possibly hundreds of thousands — until the inevitable supernova finally detonates. If you haven’t checked out the constellation of Orion recently, though, take a good look and notice how much dimmer red Betelgeuse is than blue Rigel, a severe departure from its past decade of appearances. A supernova may not be imminent, but is sure is fascinating to watch and hope!”

Is Betelgeuse about to explode? Probably not, but we cannot be sure. 

Want to know what astronomers know so far? Get the fascinating story today, and go see what it’s doing with your own naked eye!

These 5 Accomplishments Prove That Santa Claus Is The World’s Greatest Scientist

“With 500 million households to hit in just 42 hours, there is so much that Santa needs to accomplish at each one. At a bare minimum, he has to:

  1. travel from the previous house to the next one without wasting too much time,
  2. park and depart his sleigh, entering the household undetected,
  3. deliver each and every one of the necessary presents to that house,
  4. eat any snacks that were left for him,
  5. and then exit the house undetected, re-entering the sleigh, and beginning the process all over again.

If we allot him the entirety of the 42 hours available to accomplish this task, he can only spend a maximum of 300 microseconds (or 0.0003 seconds) on the sum total of these tasks for each and every household. It might seem an impossibility, at least for a normal human with conventional technology.

But if Santa truly is the world’s greatest scientist, it could all feasibly fall into place. Here are each the five challenges he’s clearly conquered, with speculation as to how.”

Have you ever wondered how Santa Claus delivers toys all over the world in just one night to so many households? The answer is easy: with science! 

Here’s how Santa must have gone about conquering his greatest obstacles to bring about another year of unparalleled success in making children happy all over the world.

These Are The Most Distant Astronomical Objects In The Known Universe

“Astronomers have always sought to push back the viewable distance frontiers. More distant galaxies appear fainter, smaller, bluer, and less evolved overall. Individual planets and stars are only known relatively nearby, as our tools cannot take us farther. As the 2010s end, here are our presently known most distant astronomical objects.”

Have you ever wondered, as the 2010s draw to a close, what the status is of our most distant objects known? I don’t mean the most distant planet or star, but rather the most distant objects of all. How far away is the most distant supernova humanity has ever seen? What about the most distant X-ray jet, the most distant quasar, the most distant black hole, gamma-ray burst, or even the most distant galaxy of all?

It’s a fascinating chance to learn where we are today, because there’s an outstanding chance that with the new observatories we’ll see in the 2020s, each one of these existing records might fall!

Ask Ethan: Can Black Holes Ever Spit Anything Back Out?

“Do black holes ever spit things out at any time? And if they do, do they ever spit out light?”

Sometimes, it’s the simplest-sounding questions that are the most profound. If you consider the name “black hole,” you’ll likely think that it doesn’t emit any type of light, and hence, it must be black. Only, if you look at a realistic black hole, it turns out it isn’t black at all. Black holes with material around them emit both jets and radiation; black holes in the presence of light will develop photon spheres and display that famous donut shape like the Event Horizon Telescope revealed earlier this year; even black holes in isolation will still emit Hawking radiation!

But can any of these types of radiation, varied and real though they may be, actually constitute something being spit back out of a black hole? Find out today!