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5 Bad-Ass Space Anomalies

5 Bad-Ass Space Anomalies

By Swapna Krishna

Most everything to do with space is pretty bad-ass, so it's difficult to narrow down the coolest, weirdest, most chilling space anomalies out there. What makes a bad-ass space anomaly? Something that looks cool? Not so much. We think that what makes a space anomaly, or something that just doesn't make sense in the universe, bad-ass are the things that make chills go down your spine. Planet X? Evidence of Aliens? Matter we can't see that makes up 90% of the universe? Yeah, that's what we're talking about.

  • The "Kuiper Cliff": The Kuiper Belt is a region of space near the edge of the solar system (but encompassing Pluto, and it played a significant role in Pluto's demotion from planet status) that's basically like a huge asteroid belt. The "Kuiper Cliff", as it's known by astronomers, is the wacky, immediate nothingness that exists outside the Kuiper Belt. One second, you're surrounded by small falling objects. The next? Nothing. The rocks should taper off, not stop suddenly. And you'll LOVE the hypothesized cause of the Kuiper Cliff: good ol' Planet X. That's right, some astronomers still hypothesize that the mythical tenth (or is it ninth now?) planet still exists somewhere out there!
  • Dark matter and energy: This is one of the doozies of space and science. We know there's more mass in the universe than what we can see with our eyes (and telescopes). If there wasn't, the galaxies wouldn't have enough mass to hold themselves together. And the same goes for energy: the galaxies are flying apart at a rate that's actually increasing, not decreasing as originally thought. There has to be matter and energy we can't see or detect responsible for this; though scientists have labeled these forces dark matter and dark energy, they don't really know what it is or how it works.
  • Carbon-14 on Mars: We may have already found evidence of life on Mars and just completely ignored the results. That's what happened to the Viking landers, diligently working away on Martian soil. When, in 1976, Viking reported that it found Carbon 14-laced methane, it was a sure sign that there was life on Mars. Except it was labeled a "mistake" because another lander, whose mission was to find particles that we consider essential to life, sent back negative results. So one lander finds Carbon-14 with methane, another lander finds no evidence of organic life. Which is right? Scientists are starting to think we may have written off those results too hastily. Is there life on Mars? We may have already found out.
  • White holes: We know that black holes exist, monsters that have immense gravity and suck in everything they can get their greedy little hands on. Even light can't escape the clutches of a black hole. But what about the opposite, white holes? These are the opposite of their black cousins—huge gaping maws in which nothing can enter, but that spit out incredible amounts of matter. There's been no confirmed white hole discoveries yet (though we may have found one—it's hard to say), but it's interesting to wonder about whether they actually exist.
  • Cosmic rays: It's appropriate that we're writing about cosmic rays, since we're about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their discovery in August. But just because we've been aware of them for a century doesn't mean we actually know much about them. Cosmic rays are basically particles that rain down on us from outer space at blazing speeds. We don't know where they come from (other than that they originate outside the solar system) or why, but the highest energy ones are staggeringly powerful. They're incredibly important because they create a significant amount of radiation, which is one of the things most troubling about long distance space travel.

What's the craziest space anomaly you've ever heard of?

Tags: life, black holes, astronomy, space, space travel, pluto, astro physics

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