Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Top 5 Coolest Things In Space

Top 5 Coolest Things In Space

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Since day one, at least day one of human existence, we’ve looked to the stars and beyond, and in them we’ve found faith, dreams, inspiration, direction, and love. From our scriptures to NASA and from the moon to Mars, we’ve searched for answers about ourselves and things far greater. Unfortunately, with modern urbanization, and its corresponding light pollution, it has become increasingly difficult to enjoy space in all its glory.

This pollution is precisely why we’re thankful for the spectacular photos taken by such photographic astronomers as David Malin. He, along with Phaidon Press, has put out a book (Ancient Light: A Portrait of the Universe) that features a number of his black and white works and includes such cool things in space as star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, and much more.

For our purposes, we’ve gleaned five cool things in space from Malin’s book based on their proximity to Earth and their general popularity within human society (meaning you might have heard of the phenomenon).

5.Halley’s Comet

1 Top 5 Coolest Things In Space

Distance from Earth: 0.000000474 light years (closest approach)

Many of us remember Halley’s Comet’s last approach in 1986, and if you were young at that time you may have yet another chance within your lifetime to see this phenomenon; the next scheduled passing is in 2061. Since Halley’s Comet’s first observation in 240 BC (and being recognized as a periodic comet — arriving every 75 to 76 years — in the 18th century), the ’86 passing was the least spectacular due to urban light pollution. In fact, the light pollution was so bad that many amateur astronomers were forced to travel to the southern hemisphere if they hoped to catch a glimpse of one of the most accessible cool things in space. Despite the handicaps provided by modern civilization for terrestrial-bound persons, space programs throughout the world literally reached for the sky as they sent a number of probes (nicknamed the Halley Armada) into space. These probes managed to capture the first images of Halley’s Comet’s nucleus and an ultraviolet space telescope helped Soviet scientists put together a model of Halley’s Comet.

What might surprise us the most is that while Halley’s Comet appears bright and shiny from our perspective on Earth, it’s actually black as coal and only reflects about 4% of the sun’s light. Another surprise is its small size; the nucleus of Halley’s Comet is only 15 kilometers long, 8 kilometers wide and about 8 kilometers thick, however, the coma stretches back about 100 kilometers.

4.The Helix Nebula

2 Top 5 Coolest Things In Space

Distance from Earth: 700 light years

As the closest bright planetary nebulae to Earth, the Helix Nebula provides plenty of great photo ops from the Hubble telescope and other ground-based telescopes. The Helix Nebula, part of the Aquarius constellation, was first discovered around 1824 by Karl Ludwig Harding, but it wasn’t till about 2003 when this phenomenon received its “Eye of God” nickname. If this were truly the Eye of God, its proximity to us makes total sense since there aren’t many parents who don’t want to keep close tabs on their depraved children.

The Helix Nebula is named as such because, from our earthly position, it appears that we are looking down a helix, the shape of a cross-section of DNA. The Helix Nebula is a planetary nebula and its core will eventually become a white dwarf star. It’s also this central core that glows and causes the light show in the surrounding gases.

3.The Eagle Nebula

3 Top 5 Coolest Things In Space


Distance from Earth: 7,000 light years

The Eagle Nebula is interesting not only because you can see its brightest star with a good pair of binoculars, but also because in 2007 scientists discovered evidence that led them to believe a nearby supernova destroyed the distinctive Pillars within the Eagle Nebula some 6,000 years ago; however, the light that will reveal the new shape won’t reach Earth for another 1,000 years.

Another interesting aspect of Eagle Nebula, which is part of the Serpens constellation and was discovered in 1745-’46 by Jean-Philip de Cheseaux, is the fact that there is a whole open cluster of bright blue stars being formed.

2.The Witch Head Nebula

4 Top 5 Coolest Things In Space

Distance from Earth: 1,000 light years

The Witch Head Nebula, which looks like a right-facing profile of a witch, is located near what’s likely the most recognizable constellation to most people — Orion. Although it’s officially a part of the Eridanus constellation, it is Orion’s Rigel star (located at the bottom right corner of Orion) that illuminates the Witch Head Nebula. The Witch Head Nebula appears blue due to the combination of Rigel’s blue color and the dust within the nebula’s cloud that reflects blue light better than red (it’s the same physical process that causes the Earth’s daytime sky to appear blue).

1.The Horsehead Nebula

5 Top 5 Coolest Things In Space

Distance from Earth: 1,500 light years

Another space phenomenon found in the Orion constellation (to the right of the left-most star in Orion’s belt) is the Horsehead Nebula. First seen in 1888, the Horsehead Nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex and is a dark cloud of swirling dust that blocks the light from the bright red emission nebula behind it. Bringing the Horsehead Nebula down to Earth, South Park’s character, “Biggest Douche in the universe,” was from this randomly formed cloud.



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26 Comments to “Top 5 Coolest Things In Space”

  • Saturn??

  • ok… 1 nondescript comet, then 4 false-color imaging nebulae. Nothing about gamma ray bursters, something cool like Cruithne, or even a cool trinary system like alpha centauri. 5 ohgoshwow pictures showing common, boring things.

  • 5 coolest things hey? That’s one exceptionally BIG statement… seriously, you can’t get a much bigger statement then that. You’re either totally ignorant of all the amazing things out there or you’re deliberately aggrandizing your own spiel. How about a more realistic title such as: 5 cool things in space?… Come to think of it, only 5 cool things? Sheesh, 5 minutes on NASA’s site and you’ll come up with hundreds of cool things in space… then there’s all those cool things in space which NASA don’t talk about….try googling “alien spaceship on the moon Apollo 20″ and tell me that ain’t cool!

  • Supernovae?

  • sombrero galaxy ftw

  • Nope.

  • I live in the Twin Cities… and I have to say that the quote below is one of the worst examples of feces coming out of someones mouth that I have ever heard..

    “In fact, the light pollution was so bad that many amateur astronomers were forced to travel to the southern hemisphere if they hoped to catch a glimpse of one of the most accessible cool things in space.”

  • The “Eye of God” sure looks eerie.

  • That was wicked!
    Thanks..

  • Pretty cool. I love astronomy!

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  • Sure, these are nice things to look at through a microscope, but what about coolest in general.
    1. Great Annihilator (supermassive black hole in the center of the Milkyway galaxy)
    2. Super Novae
    3. Quasars
    4. Virtual Particles
    5. Habitable Planets

  • [...] Top 5 coolest things in space [...]

  • Wow, that really looks like a giant eye. Creepy.

  • @Michael: through a microscope, huh?

  • eye of god my ass, it is a complilation of many many pics and not just one pic so its a fail, ATHISM rocks

  • Excellent choice. I love hubble’s site where there is a gallery full of these type of pictures.

  • @ adhd
    Athism, huh?

  • I agree with Michael. Four neabulas?
    None of which were planetary nebulae (the result of super novas…)

    Dust spots

    Red Giants/MACHOs

    Other galaxies!!! They look awesome.

  • [...] Top 5 Coolest Things In Space – Fantastic stuff. [...]

  • Las cinco maravillas del espacio. [ING]…

    Relacionada con las últimas noticias de contaminación lúminica, aquí se nos resumen cinco maravillas del basto universo. Del famoso cometa Halley a la colorida Nebulosa Cabeza de Caballo. Vienen acompañadas de información sobre la distancia a la …

  • [...] The five coolest things in space. [...]

  • adhd Says:

    eye of god my ass, it is a complilation of many many pics and not just one pic so its a fail, ATHISM rocks

    This comment board has a spell checker and yet you still make 2 typos, including your religious faith. Now that is stupid. Maybe in your case, you’re right about being a monkey’s uncle. lol

  • Excellent still, as always, but rather quite just old news.

  • i’m glad everyone agrees that these are simply 5 interesting things in space. i’m a huge space nut and i was kind of intrigued at what some random website would call the 5 coolest things in space. disappointed as well.

    here are 5 things probably cooler, off the top of my head:

    neutron stars
    black holes
    saturn
    supernova
    the earth

    sure they arent as pretty as nebulae, but much more insteresting than a cloud of gas that “looks” cool

  • This is a very good site. i enjoy this very much. it is like music to my ears

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