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The Gargantuan Place We Call the Universe

Will we ever know all the secrets the universe holds?

By Unravelling the UniversePublished about a month ago 6 min read
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The Gargantuan Place We Call the Universe
Photo by Cosmic Timetraveler on Unsplash

I write easy-to-understand stories about the universe and life, here are three of them. Enjoy.

British spelling.

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1/3

Imagine the chaos if the sun instantly disappeared.

The sun began shining brightly about 4.6 billion years ago and will continue to shine for another 5 billion years and more.

The sun is a ball of hot plasma heated by nuclear reactions in its core.

Most of life on Earth derives its energy primarily from the sun, the reason I say most is that life exists in the ocean depths and is not directly dependent on the sun.

Around hydrothermal vents deep in the ocean, microbes eat nutrient chemicals that form the base of the food chain for more complex communities of organisms.

If you have a good imagination, then you might find the next few paragraphs interesting.

Ok, the sun has instantly disappeared; we would have no idea until just over eight minutes later when the sky turned black.

That eight minutes is the time it takes for light to travel 150 million kilometres, which is the distance between the sun and our planet.

The planets and moon would be no longer visible; we are accustomed to seeing the moon and the planets shining in the night sky, but of course, the moon and planets have no light of their own; moonlight is just reflected sunlight.

By NASA on Unsplash

As you know, the Sun is the most massive object in the Solar System; its gravitation force is why all the planets, dwarf planets, moons, and all the other celestial objects are in organised paths around it.

Gravity waves travel at the same speed as light, and now it gets interesting. Without the sun, its gravitational force will also have ceased. Gravity waves also take just over 8 minutes to reach our planet; this is when planet Earth is released from the sun's gravitational grip and speeds away in a straight line at 107,000 kilometres per hour.

Mercury and Venus are closer to the Sun, so they will have gone on their separate paths before the Earth escaped. The other five planets will continue to orbit in the same position for a little longer.

Can you imagine the chaos throughout the solar system?

As the Earth cooled and our oceans and lakes froze, life would come to an end. But remember the communities of life around hydrothermal vents deep on the ocean floor; they may survive for a very long time.

Back to reality:

Primitive life on our planet can be traced back at least 3.5 billion years; that is how long evolution has taken for the human species to appear.

The universe holds an estimated two trillion galaxies; some of those galaxies will have millions, and others will have billions of stars, and those stars combined will have an unimaginable number of orbiting planets.

Surely there must be other life in that massive area we call the universe, or could we be so unique and special that we are indeed alone?

We may never get a definite answer to one of the most important questions we ask: "Are we alone in the universe?"

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2/3

The difference between mass and weight.

Photo by John Arano on Unsplash.

How does mass and weight differ?

Mass

Mass can be described as how much matter or stuff an object contains.

Imagine a steel ball. Now send the ball to the moon, Mars, or even far into outer space, and its mass would stay the same. The mass of an object never changes, no matter where it is in the universe.

I will say this before someone corrects me! Add or subtract steel from the ball, and its mass will change.

Weight.

The weight of an object is due to its mass and the force of gravity acting on it.

The earth's gravitational force is trying to pull me down to its centre, so when I stand on my weighing scales here on Earth, it registers at 80 kilograms.

If I went to the moon and stood on my scales there, it would register at 13 kilograms.

The reason I am being pulled down with less force on the moon is because it has less mass than the Earth and, therefore less gravity.

On Mars, I would weigh a little over 30 kilograms.

The largest, by far, of the eight planets in our solar system is the gas giant Jupiter. It would be impossible to stand on Jupiter as it has no solid surface, but if it was possible, my weight on Jupiter would be just over 202 kilograms.

Not including a black hole, a neutron star has the highest gravitation force of any known celestial object in the universe. If it were possible to stand on its surface, my weight would be an incredible 11,200,000,000,000 kilograms, that number is over 11 trillion.

I could say that I would weigh zero in deep space, but I would always be gravitationally attracted to something, albeit a very small attraction.

This is an interesting paragraph about gravity.

Imagine dropping a large rock and a feather from a high building, it would be no surprise when the rock makes contact with the ground first, air resistance will have slowed down the feather.

Now do the same experiment in a vacuum, no matter how high you drop the rock and feather they will both make contact with the ground at precisely the same time.

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3/3

How small are atoms?

By Vedrana Filipović on Unsplash

Atoms are the smallest particles of chemical elements.

Atoms are the basic building blocks of everything that can be seen or touched, including me, you, and all living things on our planet.

Apart from a hydrogen atom, which contains just one proton and one spinning electron, all other types of atoms are made of various amounts of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

A chemical element is a pure substance made of atoms that have the same number of protons in their nucleus, and the number of protons is known as their atomic number.

The mass of an atom is the total number of protons and neutrons combined. To give you an idea of the size of an atom and how small they are, take a human being of 70 kilograms in weight. The total number of atoms making up that person's body is estimated to be 7 octillion, which is a staggering 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms!

During our lives, vast amounts of atoms join and leave our bodies.

Image credit. rahmani KRESNA on Unsplash.

The three most common atoms by mass that contribute up to 99% of the human body are oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen. When we die, all the elements we were made of will dissipate over time, eventually becoming part of other objects or even other living things in the future.

Under normal conditions, atoms cannot be destroyed; they just keep being recycled.

A molecule is an electrically neutral group of two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds; they can be simple or complex.

To give an example, a water molecule comprises one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms bonded together. A carbon dioxide molecule comprises one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms bonded together.

Matter is the term used for material that takes up space. It is all around us; it is the air you breathe, the shoes you wear, the water in your glass, and everything you can touch and smell. It is what we are.

Anything that has mass is matter, and the three most commonly known states are solid, liquid, and gas. The difference in the structure of each state is described as the densities of the particles.

It took roughly 380,000 years after the birth of the universe for electrons to be trapped in orbits around nuclei, thus forming the first atoms. These new atoms formed the first low-mass elements, mainly hydrogen and helium. Hydrogen is still the most abundant element in the universe today.

As I said, a simple hydrogen atom contains just one proton at its centre and one spinning electron. Most of an atom is empty space.

Image credit. Steve Johnson on Unsplash.

To give an idea of how far the electron could be from the nucleus of a hydrogen atom, imagine this: scale up the atom so that the proton is the size of a golf ball. At that scale, and at certain times, the electron could be as far as 2 kilometres from the centre of the atom, giving the atom a diameter of roughly 4 kilometres.

An atom can be 0.1 to 0.5 nanometers in diameter. There are 1,000,000,000 nanometres in one metre. Yes, they are unbelievably small.

The end.

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You may find my easy-to-understand stories about the universe and life interesting and educational.

Subscribe to me for free, and you will see my latest stories. Enjoy.

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About the Creator

Unravelling the Universe

We can only imagine what our early ancestors thought as they gazed up at the night sky—were they curious about what the heavens had to hide? 

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