On November 8th at 6:28 EST, an asteroid passed so close to Earth, if you were standing on your roof you could have licked it. And as awesome as that sounds, you also need to appreciate how close you were to becoming a spray of one atom thick, gross, meaty goo at the bottom of a massive crater. The fact is, space hates you. It’s a cold void full of up yours and if not for the fact earth was a grain of sand on a near-endless beach, it would have wiped us out long ago. How? Oh, read on.
As we mentioned, that asteroid came awfully close to smoking some people out. It’s a 400 meter wide object but if it hit earth, it would have the impact of 7,000 atomic bombs the likes of which were used in WWII. If you recall, that war ended with two that devastated Japan. The power of 7,000 would be insane. And it’s really not all that big. One twice as big would likely kill a quarter of the life on Earth. Also you’d have that pesky nuclear winter to deal with if you survived as dust and dirt fills the atmosphere and blocks the sun for years.
Scientists assure us shit like this happens all the time, on a cosmic scale. Remember the dinosaurs? Yeah, they met an asteroid too. There’s all kinds of rocky bits floating around out there, pinballing to and fro. Odds are one will hit us eventually, hopefully sometime after we’re all done with the world and don’t need it anymore.
Realistically, a black hole is hard to wrap your head around. Imagine gravity, keeping your ass right there in your chair. Now it gets stronger and you break the chair. Stronger still you’re busting through the floor. And then eventually it’s so strong everything just pulls inside out. Or, to put it another way, what if you shoved someone’s head so far up their own ass, they effectively disappeared? Is there anything left after that? Yes. It’s a black hole. You can’t even see the damn thing because it pulls light into itself, we can only see the edge where light disappears into the big, jerky gravity sink that used to be a star. The star got so fat it collapsed and reality itself seems unable to escape from it. It’s kind of crazy.
A black hole creates a curve in space and time so nothing can get away. Even time. Go on, throw your watch into one, it’ll totally stop working. And either be destroyed or be frozen for all time at the event horizon simply because time stops there, too. Who knows, we’re only amateur physicists. Point is, if you stumble upon a black hole, you’re totally screwed. Because either you’ll be ripped to shreds a few million miles away from it, or it’ll freeze your ass in some kind of space time conundrum with Captain Kirk.
And remember, if you think you’re safe staying here, far away from black holes, you’re not 100% correct as they can and do move. And, you know, you can’t see them. So they’re like super sucking ninjas. Think about it.
Traditionally, this isn’t a normal space problem. Dudes on Mars don’t have this problem. But we do because everyone at NASA just tosses their shit out the window when they’re orbiting the Earth. Same with Russians and Richard Branson. Should you care? Yes.
The crap orbiting earth is going about 10 km/s. Since that’s metric will fix it up for you, it’s fast as hell. 22,000 mph or so. There’s stuff as small as paint chips off of space craft to as large as defunct satellites, cameras, fuel containers, nuts and bolts, about 400 million needles-sized antenna and a ton of other stuff. Around 8,000 pieces of crap that are over 4 inches across are tracked for the benefit of astronauts who want to get into space without being exploded right away, but that leaves over 100,000 pieces of crap under 4 inches. And all of this stuff will eventually wind its way back into our atmosphere.
Tiny things are no bother, they burn up, but if you recall a couple of weeks back as everyone eagerly awaited not being hit in the head by a 6 ton NASA satellite, there are some other large and unpredictable chunks that are just going to fly all flaming and insane out of space and land wherever. Are the odds on you getting hit? No. But it still has to land somewhere. And you have to exist somewhere.
Neither an X-Men villain nor a giant, tusked beast from Northrend, a Magnetar is a super dense neutron star that has a magnetic field over 100 trillion times stronger than the Earth. That’ll jigger your compass needle.
Magnetars are pretty far away from earth but the problem is they get a little flashy every so often and shoot out bursts of radiation. You might think big deal, everything in space farts radiation, it’s like Pez up there, but magnetar radiation is epic, asshole scale radiation. A superflare from a magnetar hit the Earth in 2004 and it was stronger than the effect of a solar flare from our sun. But the star that produced it was 50,000 light years away. If it was as close as our sun the effect, according to our calculations, would have blown the head of every living thing on Earth through the ass of every other living thing in the blink of an eye. That’s how physics works, right?
Imagine Bret Ratner and Rick Santorum and the Westboro Baptist Church all at a manly retreat full of naked ladies and beer and undercooked meat and sports as they all attempt to be as straight as possible and then, with a sudden rumbling, the Earth bursts forth with George Takei and Richard Simmons and Elton John and a thousand men in hot pants dancing to the Village People on all sides, everywhere. The panic that would spring from Westboro and Santorum and Ratner in that first moment of recognition is not even a fraction of the energy released by a supernova. And seriously, that would be a lot of pants-shitting panic going on.
Supernovas occur when a star just blows the hell up and in that moment it can release all the energy our sun will ever release, just in that one explosion. If a fart is an atom bomb, a supernova is a fart that would shoot your atoms into an entirely different galaxy. God, we’re a classy website.
Our sun does not have the mass to go supernova, but if it did, it’d pretty much vaporize the entire solar system and light up the galaxy like a Christmas tree made from the screaming of 7 billion souls. And tinsel.
Also known by the cooler name of Exile Stars, hypervelocity stars don’t play by your rules. In fact, screw you guys, they’re leaving. And they ain’t ever coming back.
The hypervelocity star is a star like you’d expect to find in any solar system, only it has such an intense velocity it tears away from the gravitational pull of the galaxy it’s in. So imagine the sun if it was all coked up and just shot its ass out into space – a giant, flaming hydrogen monster just going. Going where? Just going, man. Going. At 2,236,000 miles per hour, give or take.
16 of these flaming solar pinballs have been discovered and it’s estimated that maybe there are 1000 in our galaxy altogether. There are a hundred billion stars staying where they belong, so these guys are pretty rare, but that probably doesn’t mean much to anyone who’s been in the way of one of these things.
If we were keeping up the cool rebel joke right here, we’d toss in something about leaving with his girlfriend Starla, but that’d be super lame.