Launchpad Workshop Recap: Four Fun Things About the Universe

As Launchpad continued apace this last week, every day brought new, hilarious and terrifying information about our universe. But sometimes, in the ocean of information, there was an anecdote so beautiful and/or grisly that you just felt the need to share, you know?

Under the cut, four fun things about space, the stars, and you.

1. One of the stars in the Big Dipper is a binary. We’ll start small, with some stargazing. There are several binary stars visible in the night sky (both summer and winter, no matter which hemisphere you live in), but this one doesn’t require a telescope, or even binoculars. You can see it with the naked eye if you live somewhere with moderate or less light pollution. (New Yorkers, good luck.) It’s the second star in the handle. It’s in the above photo, though much harder to see with all that celestial competition. Optometrists of the world, take note.

2. You can survive in space. Apparently, if you are sucked into the unforgiving void of space, you can survive up to two minutes! (Somewhere, the ocean is pouting about it.) Some handy tips: breathe out as early as possible to keep pressure out of your lungs, prepare for a serious case of the bends, and make good use of your time; you have about twenty seconds of consciousness before you pass out, and then you have another minute and a half or so before you suffocate. I recommend retractable tethers! (Or, not diving unprotected into space. That would work, too.)

3. Spaghettification. It’s not just the coolest word in the world. It’s real, and it’s gross. A black hole, as it happens, is too small and dense to actually suck people in. However, the gravitational field surrounding a black hole is so powerful that an object approaching its tidal forces gets stretched violently, because the parts closer to the center of gravity accelerate towards it faster than the parts farther away. What this means is that someone caught in the event horizon of a black hole won’t get sucked in (good news!). It does mean, however, that that person will be stretched out and torn to shreds (bad news).

4. The Scale of Some Planets and Stars. This video literally puts things in perspective, from our moon to some of our bigger stars. Phenomenal cosmic power! (Itty bitty living space.)

Genevieve Valentine nerds out about movies, life, and other things on her blog.


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