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Mysteries of the Universe: Facts, Thoughts and a Poem

Linda Crampton is a science writer and former high school teacher who loves poetry. She enjoys writing and reading poems.

A star cluster called Westerlund 2 in the Milky Way galaxy

A star cluster called Westerlund 2 in the Milky Way galaxy

Beyond the Earth

The universe beyond the Earth is an awesome and tantalizing place. Though we live in the universe, much of it is beyond our knowledge. It provides us with some hints about its nature in the form of the sun, the moon, the tiny points of light representing stars beyond the sun, and those planets of our solar system that we can see with the naked eye (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). If we are fortunate enough to have a telescope, further details are revealed. Still, we are very limited in what we can discern.

The specialized equipment of scientists enables them to make additional discoveries. Some of the items that they’ve found are stars, solar systems, and galaxies. Others are small and dense neutron stars, rapidly spinning pulsars, highly magnetic magnetars, black holes (areas of extremely dense matter that don’t emit light), and quasars (highly luminous objects powered by a black hole). The discoveries are intriguing, but questions remain.

The Aurora Borealis (which is produced by activity on the sun’s surface) and solar flares and their effects remind us that even the star at the centre of our solar system is an impressive entity. The aurora is sometimes referred to as the northern lights.

The Aurora Borealis as seen from Alaska

The Aurora Borealis as seen from Alaska

Visitors From Space

Sometimes the universe seems to be reaching out to us. Asteroids, comets, and meteoroids are visitors from space and are always interesting to see. According to NASA, they are “leftovers from the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.” A connection to such a distant time is amazing.

Asteroids

Asteroids are rocky fragments that orbit the sun. Most are found in the so-called "asteroid belt" located between Mars and Jupiter. Some follow an orbit that brings them nearer to the Earth, however. The largest known asteroid has a diameter of around 329 miles (530 kilometres). The smallest ones have a diameter of around 33 feet (10 metres).

Comets

Comets consist of frozen gases, rock, and dust. They orbit the sun and range from a few miles to tens of miles in diameter. NASA provides the following information about their behaviour.

As they orbit closer to the Sun, they heat up and spew gases and dust into a glowing head that can be larger than a planet. This material forms a tail that stretches millions of miles.

Meteoroids, Meteors, and Meteorites

Meteoroids are pieces of rock that are generally smaller than asteroids. They are sometimes created when one asteroid crashes into another and are also released by comets. When meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere, they start to burn up and form shooting stars, or meteors. If the light of a shooting star is large and very bright, it may be called a fireball. When part of a meteor survives the trip through the atmosphere and lands on Earth, it’s called a meteorite.

Three of the four photos in this article were taken by the Hubble telescope. The telescope was launched in 1990 and is still active. It has given us some wonderful images. The pictures are adjusted by scientists before they are released to the public. The adjustments are based on data provided by the telescope.

Contemplating the Universe

Despite the interesting discoveries made so far, astronomers have much to learn. The universe is a vast place that still contains mysteries. The nature of the energy and forces in the universe and ideas about its creation and ultimate fate are fascinating topics to consider. Some scientists have suggested that other universes exist, creating a multiverse.

I enjoy looking at the sky on a clear night and thinking about the mysteries of our universe and about the many possibilities. It’s frustrating to think that some of the answers to my questions will very likely be unavailable during my lifetime. I mention some of the topics that I think about in my poem below.

Two of the ideas that I ponder are dark energy and dark matter. A leading theory says that 70% of the universe consists of dark energy, 25% as dark (invisible) matter, and only 5% as visible matter. Dark energy is the name given to the mysterious factor that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

Star Cluster NGC 2074 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Star Cluster NGC 2074 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Mysteries of the Universe

I want to see the universe beyond the Earth,

to reach beyond the confines of this world

and travel far beyond the sky

to new and ancient mysteries

outside this comfort zone,

smaller than a tiny speck

lodged in the universe’s eye.


I'd love to see the stars beyond the night

and experience the awe,

to view the wondrous scenes

of destruction and of birth,

the cosmic acts of power

and fire of novelty

in nature never still.


I’d like to walk upon another world

and fly through space above,

senses nourished and enthralled.

I want to marvel at strange life,

to know dark matter and dark energy,

to see creation in the act

and explore the vast unknown.


I’d love to find out why? what?...and even who?

and then move on to find the end of space and time

if such a place or thought exists;

or make the giant leap

beyond the universe,

a never ending trail

into the infinite beyond.

References and Resources

The space facts in this article plus many more can be found on the following sites.

  • NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) runs a very useful website with many pages.
  • Telescope photos and space information can be found at the Hubble space telescope site.
  • The CSA website (Canadian Space Agency) is worth visiting.
  • The ESA site (European Space Agency) also contains interesting facts.

© 2021 Linda Crampton

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