Astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth on Tuesday, March 1, after a record breaking 340-day stint on the International Space Station. His momentous return is igniting the country’s fascination with the final frontier. Although scientists have learned so much about space since the first expedition, there is still so much more to discover. Read on to learn about some amazing space phenomena you can share with your children. You may spark their interest in science and space, or at least make you all want to travel to infinity and beyond!
Black holes are arguably one of the most fascinating and scary aspects of space. We understand so little of what exactly they are, beyond the fact that they are places in space where gravity is so intense even light cannot escape.
There are two particularly interesting black holes. The first is a super-massive black hole discovered very recently and is one of the largest ever found, located in a giant galaxy more than 300 million light years away. This black hole, named NGC 4889, is 21 billion times larger than our sun!
There’s another also reportedly massive black hole worth mentioning that’s located in a galaxy named SAGE0536AGN. This black hole is special because it’s much bigger than our current understanding of what black holes and galaxies should allow—basically, it is 30 times larger than a black hole in a galaxy as proportionally small as SAGE0536AGN should be. It may be the discovery of a new class of galaxy!
Recently, a huge meteor exploded through our atmosphere just off the coast of Brazil. While fascinating, it went mostly unnoticed; its power was equivalent to only about 13,000 tons of TNT.
Prior to this explosion, the largest event regarding space debris bursting into our atmosphere occurred over Russia in 2013, and THAT one released the equivalent of 500,000 tons of TNT, the debris of which injured more than 1,000 people.
But, don’t worry—somewhere around 30 asteroids burn up in our atmosphere every year, and most of the larger ones that break through fall over oceans and don’t affect populations.
Solar and lunar eclipses are beautiful and amazing phenomena that have captivated us for centuries. Just imagine being a member of an ancient civilization, without the science and understanding we have now, and witnessing the sun slowly disappear without explanation! Thankfully, we now know what an eclipse is, and so we can enjoy the view rather than fear it.
We actually have a total solar eclipse coming up soon! On March 8 and 9, a supermoon will pass between Earth and the sun and block the sun completely from view. However, you had better book your flight to Indonesia now—the full eclipse will only be visible to locations around the Pacific Ocean. Let’s hope someone takes some good photographs!
A supernova happens at the end of a star’s life cycle when a change occurs in its core. This change causes an explosion; in fact, supernovae are the largest explosions in space. Just do an online search for images of a supernova, and you’ll see that these explosions can be breathtakingly beautiful and spectacular.
Earlier this year, scientists discovered a record-shattering supernova named ASASSN-15lh. This explosion was 200 times more powerful than most supernovae. To put it in perspective, it was as bright as 570 BILLION of our suns and, if you combined all the stars in our galaxy, it would still be 20 times more luminous! ASASSN-15lh defies most of what we know about supernovae. It is categorized as a “super luminous supernova,” an extremely rare classification of which scientists are currently unable to explain the exact cause.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of the amazing things in our universe. What are your favorite space phenomena? Share more amazing phenomena in the comments below!