Do you ever feel like a tiny speck of dust in a vast universe? Well, you’re actually way, way smaller. Each human is like an atom in a skin cell (Earth) within a speck of dust (our solar system) floating in an ever-expanding abyss (outer space). Given that this is the case, it’s not shocking to learn that despite centuries of research, we know very little about the world outside our world. While terrifying, this notion is also captivating, so we decided to scour the final frontier’s many mysteries to bring you 10 problems, incidents and oddities that even the world’s brightest scientists can’t seem to solve.
No. 10 - The 96 Percent
When Einstein’s E=MC^2 is applied to space, the results reveal that we’ve only discovered four percent of the matter in the universe. Where the heck is the rest of it? Scientists currently theorize that dark energy and closely related dark matter, undetectable by emitted radiation but whose presence can be deduced from gravitational pull on visible matter, makes up the large majority of space. As for what dark matter literally is, we may never know. Black holes, antimatter, brown dwarfs and a number of other known elements have been proposed and subsequently rebuffed.
No. 9 - A Possible Probing
A space object of unknown origin called 1991 VG is floating around the heavens above. Its Earth-like orbit and fast fluctuations in brightness suggest that the 30-foot entity isn’t simply an asteroid or remnant from the space age, as was initially assumed. About 20 years ago, the object made a close approach to Earth that some believe was indicative of a controlled encounter rather than a random encounter. Is 1991 VG an alien probe as these people have suggested? We’ll have to wait about five years for even a chance at the answer. The object is currently too far from our planet to investigate. However, if the mysterious body stays on the same path, it should approach Earth again in 2017. Can't wait!
No. 8 - Maybe Women Are From Venus
Once Earth-like, Venus is now a blistering planet filled with noxious gases. Still, scientists say there’s a spot about 30 miles above the planet’s surface where the temperature, pressure and chemicals are extremely similar to our own atmosphere, and life could theoretically exist there. Floating organisms resembling bacteria could thrive in such an environment, as they do in the clouds above Earth. If there is in fact life over Venus, we haven’t found any hard evidence proving so just yet. Missions to gain samples using a giant, flying balloon have been proposed, but never undertaken.
No. 7 - Mind the Gap
In 2007, a group of American scientists found a massive hole spanning one billion light years in the Eridanus constellation. (One light year is about six trillion miles.) The area lacked signs of cosmic matter like stars, planets, galaxies or clouds of dust. Researchers couldn’t even find dark matter. And there were no indications of black holes that could have sucked up the matter that used to be there. Though other holes in the universe have been found before, they were just 1/1,000th the size of this supervoid. How this giant gap came to be and why it’s so colossal is totally unknown. We’re hoping the hole turns out to be a portal to Narnia.
No. 6 - The Lunar Family Tree
Most men of science agree that Earth’s moon probably formed from a chunk of the planet that was knocked off by some ancient collision. Nevertheless, this hypothesis has one serious problem: whatever hit Earth would have left a residue with distinguishing characteristics. Hard as they try, scientists cannot find any remnants from this rather large impact. Right now, the origin of the moon is all moonshine.
No. 5 - Supernova or Supernatural?
An Old English manuscript that details the history of Anglo-Saxon life notes that a mysterious red crucifix appeared in the skies over Britain in 774 A.D. While scientists have long posited that the event was a supernova, such an occurrence would have created a large influx of radiation that would still be evident in Earth’s geology. After centuries of searching, the only inkling of environmental proof was found just last month, when Japanese scientists found tree rings from 774 that indicate a spike in C-14. While the discovery may be linked to a supernova, and perhaps the one that caused the red crucifix, more evidence is needed before real conclusions can be drawn.
No. 4 - Mercury's Collision Course
Mercury is notoriously tough to study thanks to its neighbor, the scorching, blinding sun. In addition to not knowing where the planet’s atmosphere or magnetic fields originated, we have no idea why Mercury’s elongated orbit around the sun is constantly growing more and more oval-shaped. Scientists predict that the planet will eventually crash into either Venus or the sun. Mercury’s changing path could also alter the gravitational fields in our solar system, disrupting Earth’s orbit along with the other inner planets, causing complete and utter chaos.
No. 3 - E.T. Phoning From Home?
Several times a week in the late 1970s, Ohio State University Professor Jerry Ehman would receive computer printouts reporting deep-space sounds captured by the university’s observatory. In the summer of 1977, he saw six symbols that indicated a 72-second signal 30 times louder than any previous sound from space. He circled the sequence and wrote “Wow!” “The Wow! Signal,” as the noise was called thereafter, had a frequency and shape that suggested intentionality. However, while the area from which the noise came could be determined, scientists were unable to pinpoint an actual source. In the years since, a number of logical explanations for the signal, like a satellite transmission, military signal or broadcast beam, have been ruled out. While some still think the sound was extraterrestrials attempting contact, critics are quick to point out that there hasn’t been a repeat transmission since. So either something else made the sound, or aliens are quitters.
No. 2 - Not a Passing Storm
Perceived by the first telescopes in the 15th century, an enormous, high-pressure storm has been pounding Jupiter for no less than 400 years. Big enough to fit three Earths in its span, much about the Great Red Spot, including what causes its scarlet hue and why it has persisted for so long, is unknown. To add to the confusion, recent research has suggested that the spot is slowly shrinking. While the storm looked like a long sausage a century ago, it’s much more circular on current satellite images. Scientists have numerous theories regarding the spot’s doggedness, color and shape, but they are mere speculation. Also, every probe sent to Jupiter for more info has been crushed by the planet’s lethal atmosphere. So that's no help.
Next: Epically Hilarious Internet Photos Vol. 3
No. 1 - Coverup Claims
When the average person alleges to have seen a UFO, we have good reason to doubt them. But when a highly trained NASA astronaut says he's seen an extraterrestrial vehicle, we can’t deny the possibility. In 1963, Major Gordon Cooper was at the end of his 22nd orbit around Earth when he announced that a glowing green object had headed for his spacecraft, turned sharply, then shot away. Though Cooper could have misinterpreted the incident (despite his vast knowledge), his radar system did indeed pick up on an unidentified object in the region. When Cooper landed, NASA forbade him from talking with reporters or members of the general public about the event. A number of other NASA astronauts claim they were similarly silenced about alien encounters. Is Uncle Sam hiding something from us? If so, why? Does he think we can’t handle the truth?