10 UNSOLVED Space Mysteries That BLOW Our Minds!
No matter how advanced we seem to get, there always seems to be something that we just can't figure out. While astronomers have made incredible advances in space theories and knowledge about our own universe, there are still many unknowns that stump even the greatest of minds. We're strapping our space suits on once again to explore these 10 amazing aspects of space that are still not very well understood.
The Big Bang Theory
The greatest mystery of both space and our existence, a heavily debated theory that has been known to divide entire groups of people. The Big Bang is believed to have been the start of the universe, the stars and the worlds that inhabit it. It's said that 14 billion years ago, space expanded and cooled down, allowing for the formation of atoms to come together to create the galaxies and stars. While scientists are pretty set in this theory, where they find themselves scratching their heads is while trying to answer what came immediately after the Big Bang and what happened the exact moment it occurred. Two theories - inflation and the cyclic model - are among the two most popular being tested to determine the finer workings of the beginning of the universe.
Even more of a mystery than Dark Matter is Dark Energy, a force that's theorized to be responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe. The biggest dilemma in describing Dark Energy is that everything known about it is mostly hypothetical. What can be said for the unknown energy is that it's believed to make up 68.3% of the total energy in the universe as we know it. It's been called "the most profound mystery in all of science" and while there's been a large effort to determine the purpose and origin of the puzzling energy, the answers to these questions still remain largely unanswered. Scientists currently lean on 3 theories for potential solutions to Dark Energy: one states the universe is comprised of changing energy fields; another suggests our current understanding of gravity is incorrect; and a 3rd that pinpoints Dark Energy as a space property.
The Great Attractor
While it's flattering of you to think so, no, we aren't talking about me and my boyish good looks. The Great Attractor is something far more grand than myself or, really, any of us. Located near the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster, the Great Attractor is a perplexingly strong gravitational force that's pulling the Milky Way and hundreds of thousands of other galaxies towards it. The force, which is said to have the gravitational pull of a million billion Suns, is in the direction of the "Zone of Avoidance," a region of space so obscured by interstellar dust of the Milky Way that observation is difficult. In an attempt to label the Great Attractor, astronomers claim it may be a hidden collection of galaxies which are being pulled along with local galaxies to the much larger Shapley Supercluster.
Fast Radio Bursts
Are they extraterrestrial in nature? Stellar flares from billions of light years away? Maybe even the explosive results of neutron stars coming into contact with evaporating black holes? While astronomers have some wild theories about the existence of fast radio bursts, they remain exactly that - theories. These bursts are millisecond segments of radio waves that just sort of appear in the sky, and while they're typically difficult to pinpoint, astronomers have been able to narrow down their search to a patch of sky towards the constellation Auriga. While locating a region of bursts has been accomplished, the sporadic nature of the event compounds the difficulty in pinpointing their cause and origin.
The Sun's Corona
We've established that the Sun's poles are running at two different temperatures, but that's far from the only mystery our bright glowing orb has to offer. For instance, we know that the Sun's surface is 10,000° F or about 5,600 C, and shoots up to a cool 27 million degrees Fahrenheit or 15 million degrees Celsius in the corona and plasma that surrounds it. Why would there be such a drastic difference between the surface and exterior aura of the Sun? Well, that's a great question. One that nobody seems to have an answer to. While solar physicists are akin to leaning towards a magnetic cause, another theory points towards atmospheric "tornadoes" on the Sun's surface which spiral at accelerated speeds into the corona, allegedly causing extreme heat differences. These are, of course, just working theories.
Since 1922, astronomers have been trying to place their finger on an unidentifiable matter dubbed Dark Matter. As mentioned in the prior factoid, astronomers can pinpoint various parts of the galaxy and have come up with a rather large missing portion. This "missing" matter is the non-baryonic matter that we can't see or Dark Matter. Initially, it was believed that Dark Matter was only observable through the pull exerted by its gravity, but a 2015 study started to lay the stepping stones that Dark Matter is actually Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPS). In the Abell 3827 galaxy cluster, it's believed that Dark Matter is responding to something other than gravity, and though it may shed light on the nature of the unknown matter, it's still a working theory and would leave many questions still left to answer.
Missing Baryonic Matter
When we consider what makes up our galaxy, we can assume that a large portion of it is made up of baryonic matter, or essentially matter containing protons and neutrons. If we consider how 5/6ths of the Milky Way is made up of dark matter - something we'll touch on very shortly - that leaves 1/6th to be made up of baryonic matter. The mystery of this matter comes into play when we think of our galaxy as, say, 1 trillion parts. 830 billion parts of that would be dark matter while the remaining 170 billion parts would be baryonic matter. What's been discovered - all of the known stars and interstellar matter - only makes up 60 billion parts. So where is the remaining 110 billion parts of baryonic matter? One bizarre theory is that the matter is not even present in the Milky Way and is just drifting between galaxies.
Gamma-Ray Bursts and Supernovas
In 1967, the Vela satellites inadvertently caught the first signs of gamma-ray bursts. These energy-filled explosions are the brightest electromagnetic events in the universe and for a while were an all-around enigma to astronomers. Popular belief is that these bursts emanate from supernovas or hypernovas, but that doesn’t' clear up every question about these bursts. In fact, pinpointing their origin created an entirely new question: Why do some supernova's produce bursts while others don't? With the 2012 discovery of Supernova 2012ap, astronomers believe they may be on their way to a definite answer, but for now, it remains speculation that it all may come down to the speed of material found within jets that form from supernovae.
Solar Polar Temperatures
In 2007, researchers revealed that the two poles of the sun are at two different temperatures, a find made by the ESA-NASA Ulysses spacecraft. To reach this determination, Ulysses gauged readings of solar winds over both poles, finding that, between the two, there was an 80,000° C difference. While it's known that the difference in temperature on Earth's poles is caused by uneven land distribution and complex atmospheric patterns, the sun's surface is not rife with land masses. In fact, the distribution of temperatures is believed to be caused by magnetism, though what about the magnetism is causing the change remains a mystery.
The Color of Jupiter's Red Storm
First discovered around the mid-1800s, the giant red spot south of Jupiter's equator has been a matter of discussion amongst astronomers. While it's known as being an observable anticyclonic storm the size of two or three Earths possibly caused by the formation of eddies, there are still a few mysteries surrounding the planet's mobile red spot. First, while it's theorized to be caused by organic molecules, why the spot is red is still a real mystery. Other theories point to a reaction between chemicals within the atmosphere or a possible reaction between the colorless ammonium hydrosulfide layer and the cosmic rays from the sun.