Raspberries and Rum
Space is, like, really huge, so let’s start somewhere close to home—right here in the Milky Way. A cloud of gas sitting in the middle of our galaxy, weighing in at billions upon billions of liters, smells like (you guessed it) rum, and tastes like (again, you got it) raspberries! The molecules found in this dust cloud are the same that give rum and raspberries their unique tastes. Don’t get too excited though. Along with the tiny raspberry atoms are some very deadly molecules of propyl cyanide…I’d keep your helmet on if I were you.
Quasars are the most mysterious objects in the universe. Most likely gargantuan, ultra-active black holes located in equally large, dense primordial galaxies, quasars release more energy than hundreds of galaxies and are 10-10,000 times brighter than our Milky Way. A certain group of 73 quasars, blandly named the LQG (Large Quasar Group), measures in at four billion light-years across. This length actually breaks the cosmological principle, a fundamental law of nature. This principle states that as a whole, the universe should be homogenous for mass distribution—the LQG has made a lot of smart people very confused.
Gamma Ray Bursts
Sometimes, you see something and the only appropriate response is “what the **** was that!” This is how astrophysicists react to gamma ray bursts. These minute-long electro-magnetic events spew forth more energy in a second than a star will in its entire life. What’s weirder is that they don’t correlate with anything! Some seem to originate in distant galaxies, but others come out of nowhere. Are they exploding black holes, rips in space-time? We’ll have to be content with studying them from afar, however, since just one would incinerate the Earth into dust.
An Electrical Monster
In a galaxy called 3C303, two billion light-years away, lies the universe’s largest electrical current. Measuring in at 1018 amps (or the equivalent of one trillion lightning bolts), this current is powered by the magnetic fields of a huge black hole. A bolt, or jet, of electricity zigzags its way through space up to a length of 150,000 light-years. To put that in perspective, the Milky Way is 100,000 light-years long. Here’s another way to think about it; one amp is 6x1018 electrons moving past a given point at any second. 3C303’s giant current thus has 6x1036 electrons moving past any point at any second, or 10 million times as many electrons as there are stars in the universe. That’s a lot of iPhone charges.
We can’t talk about space without discussing something that may not even exist, right? Right! Say hello to white holes—predicted by general relativity but never seen, they are like, super-complicated. Basically, think of them as the reverse of black holes. Or actually, think of them as the same thing, but on the other end. If matter and light enters a black hole, never to escape, it may actually leave through a white hole, in another universe. At least, that’s the theory. There’s a lot of problems though, even if Steven Hawking thinks they do indeed exist. White holes decrease entropy (problematic) and there’s no theory as to how they could even form physically. But, as science has taught us, never rule anything out!