What is the most fascinating thing about the universe

Ten at ten | The ten most fascinating space facts

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TODAY: Planet protection police, extraterrestrial life and the crazy hunt for space junk - read here the ten most fascinating facts about the universe!

The "Men in Black" really do exist! Instead of flash things and shiny chrome weapons, however, in reality high-pressure cleaning and chemical sterilization are used in the hunt for aliens and the like. In special safety laboratories, the real planetary protectors clean the equipment of astronauts and search spaceships for spores so that we do not bring any unwanted visitors home from space on our space expeditions. Because the universe may seem inhospitable to us - but alien viruses may see it very differently. John Rummel from NASA's planetary protection committee: "What we call extreme, they might call home!"

There were survivors in the crash of the space shuttle "Columbia" - even if not human. In 2003, the space shuttle broke apart when it reentered the earth's atmosphere and burned up 60 kilometers above the ground. The first debris did not reach the earth until minutes later. The seven crew members didn't stand a chance. And yet living beings survived this horror crash unscathed: Tiny roundworms that were on board for experiments! After the crash, the containers in which the mini animals were transported were found.

A day on the moon lasts 708 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds. That means: If you are at a certain point on the moon, the sun shines continuously for about two weeks. The moon rocks can heat up to 120 ° C during this time. This is followed by the two-week lunar night, during which the temperature drops to -150 ° C.

Japan wants to fish for space debris with a huge metal net. The plan: a satellite should launch the network into orbit. As it circles around our earth, the scrap particles get caught in it. The earth's magnetic field then ensures that the network does not remain in a constant orbit, but slowly comes closer to our planet - and burns up together with its contents when it enters the atmosphere. It's not that far yet, but NASA and ESA are following the Japanese project with interest. The increasing number of junk particles in orbit endangers space travel. Garbage particles shoot up satellites and threaten astronauts.

The Earth-like planet Gliese 581 g is only 20 light years away from us - a breeze for cosmic dimensions. The planet has ideal temperatures and enough mass to form an atmosphere. Gliese is probably 581 g habitable. However, with the current space technology, we would need millennia to reach the planet. An example calculation: The “Pioneer 11” space probe reached a speed of 173,000 kilometers per hour. Even if the speed could be increased to 250,000 kilometers per hour, a probe would need 80,000 years to cover the distance.

The probability that life exists in space outside of Earth is astronomical. Our Milky Way alone is home to an estimated 500 million planets on which life could theoretically be found. But even if we end up alone in our galaxy, that doesn't mean anything: Scientists estimate the number of galaxies in the entire universe at 100 billion.

Our Milky Way has a twin: the spiral galaxy NGC 6744. If we could leave our home galaxy to view our own cosmic home from a distance, we would be presented with an almost identical sight: striking spiral arms that wind around a dense core area, plus a disk of dust. NGC 6744 even has a small companion galaxy called NGC 6744A. It is reminiscent of the two Magellanic Clouds, the two closest companions of our Milky Way.

Voyager 1 is currently exploring 18 billion kilometers from Earth - and is thus the furthest outpost from our home planet. The space probe was launched in 1977 and is expected to continue transmitting data home for around ten years. Attached to the capsule is the so-called “golden record” - a gold-coated copper plate on which image and sound information about humanity can be found. Among other things, there is a kind of star map on the plate that is supposed to enable aliens to find us.

The Milky Way and the Andromeda Nebula collide. The two galaxies are currently racing towards each other at more than 500,000 kilometers per hour. In three billion years they will penetrate each other like two swarms of mosquitoes meeting - without a crash! Stars can collide, but the distances are usually too great. A new giant galaxy will emerge from the two gigantic galaxies, which will have a completely new, elliptical shape - and will no longer be visible as a glittering ribbon in the firmament.

The end of the world is coming. When all the hydrogen inside the sun has been used up in five billion years, it will initially expand into a red giant, presumably swallowing up our earth in the process. The sun then collapses into a white dwarf. In all likelihood, humanity will no longer notice this: Because the intensity of solar radiation is continuously increasing, the earth will no longer be habitable in 500 million years.

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