Here are some pretty amazing facts about our universe:
Astronomers have discovered the largest known diamond in our galaxy, it’s a massive lump of crystallised diamond called BPM 37093, otherwise known as Lucy after The Beatles’ song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Found 50 light-years away in the constellation of Centaurus, Lucy is about 25,000 miles across, so much larger then planet Earth, and weighs in at a massive 10 billion-trillion-trillion carats.
The greatest chance so far, according to astronomers, of a large asteroid colliding with the earth and wiping life out is in 2029. Asteroids have hit the planet before, and caused mass extinctions, so there is some precedent for it happening again.
The culprit this time is the Apophis Asteroid (99942 Apophis), which is headed our way in 2029. There’s a little less than a 3% chance that this bad boy will crash into terra firma. Let’s hope Apophis gives the planet a miss, otherwise you can stop paying into your retirement account right now.
What exactly is a neutron star, you might be wondering? Well, neutron stars are the densest object known in the universe. They are created inside large stars during a supernova explosion. When the core of the star collapses, electron and proton pairs get crushed down into neutrons.
While neutron stars are only about 10-13 miles in diameter, they are heavier than many stars. A thimbleful, or sugar cube, amount of a neutron star weighs around 100 million tons. That’s more than a large mountain.
Human beings are literally made out of star stuff. Almost all of the chemical elements that make up a person come from the stars. Any element heavier than hydrogen originated in the stars, and we are definitely composed of more than hydrogen.
Calcium, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and around 60 other basic ingredients make up a human being. Since hydrogen and helium were the only elements around before the stars “cooked” up some more, it’s a safe bet that most of the substance that constitutes the “physical” you comes from the stars.
The Higgs boson, is the heaviest element in existence (as far as we know). This cosmic “molasses” weighs down the tiny particles that make up atoms, giving them substance. Without the Higgs boson, the universe would most likely be a kind of cosmic “soup” where particles zip around, absent of any substantial form. The discovery of the Higgs boson particle is to physics what Darwin’s theory of evolution was to biology. That means it’s a very big deal.
Sorry Mount Everest — you’re not the king of the solar system. That honor belongs to Olympus Mons, a massive mountain on our planetary neighbour, Mars. Olympus Mons is a giant mound of red dirt and rock. This volcanic behemoth is 2,400 meters, or 80,000 feet tall, which makes it almost 15 miles high. Everest is a mere dwarf in comparison.
The Milky Way Galaxy, which is to say our very own galaxy, is on a collision course with our nearest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy. Even though these two conglomerations of stars are destined to smash together, you shouldn’t lose any sleep over the incident. The impending impact won’t happen for another 3 billion years. The chances of you being around for that galactic “fender bender” are pretty slim, unless you’re planning to cryogenically freeze yourself or something.
Our planet has been around for quite some time. It’s been around, in fact, for about 4.54 billion years, give or take 0.02 billion years.