“The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
Ever since the dawn of Time, Mankind has looked up at the Heavens and tried to lift the curtain on its mysteries. The Universe is an inconceivably large carpet of blackness whose end we cannot see. In it lies the answers to life’s biggest questions. And so for centuries, scientists, philosophers, and astronomers have all been trying to read the stitching on this carpet.
But despite all our advancements in technology, we have, are currently, and will continue to live out our entire lives on this tiny blue marble we like to call Earth, hurtling through the cosmos.
In the grand scheme of things, we haven’t so much as even scratched the surface of this unfathomably large iceberg. And as we peer deeper into this void, we start to find bolder, more challenging questions that baffle us.
Here are 3 of the biggest mysteries that currently plague scientists and astronomers:
How Did the Universe Begin?
This question has been echoed throughout eternity. How did we get here? Where do we come from? What was there before the beginning? The prevailing cosmological theory we have today is that it all started with a bang.
A really BIG Bang!
The theory states that 13.7 billion years ago, the Universe was an incredibly hot and dense structure called a Singularity. Then Space expanded really quickly, expelling energy and radiation. As the Universe expanded from the Singularity, the density and temperature started decreasing, allowing the formation of atoms, elements, and eventually megastructures like stars and galaxies. Whether this was the birth of the Universe is not known, but The Big Bang is considered the point where our Universe entered the regime of Physics that our realm operates on.
Is There Anybody Out There?
Source- Getty Images
Another question that has perhaps been immortalized by Hollywood films now is whether we are alone in the universe. Statistically, it is highly likely that there is sentient life outside of our planet. There are billions of stars in the galaxy that are similar to the Sun. A high probability of those have planets that feature similar characteristics to Earth- most of which are way older (and thus perhaps more advanced). However, there is only one problem: this eerie silence!
If extraterrestrial life does exist, why haven’t they contacted us yet? In 1974, Earth sent out its first interstellar radio message called the Arecibo Message. It contained basic information about humanity and our world, coded in Binary (colourized pictures besides) and was aimed at the supercluster M13. But since it is 25,000 light years away, don’t expect an answer anytime soon!
How will the Fairytale End?
Coming to perhaps the most important line of thinking- Where are we headed? What is the Fate of the Universe? There are various different theories, but two of the most prominent are: The Big Freeze and the Big Crunch.
Deriving directly from the Big Bang theory, the Big Crunch works on the premise that there is a limit to the universe. That is, there is a boundary to halt the expansion. If that is true, then this theory postulates that gravity will start pulling on the matter, contracting the universe. As this happens, the universe will fall inwards until it has collapsed back into a super-hot, super-dense Singularity from which it started.
The Big Freeze theory works on the opposite principle, where if there is no boundary to halt the Universe, it will continue to expand.
Think of each galaxy as a separate balloon floating through space: As they fly further apart, they become more isolated. The stars inside will eventually burn up all their nuclear fuel, leaving no source of energy in the system. Without the Sun, life on Earth wouldn’t be possible, and likewise, life elsewhere will also die out when its star runs out.
Moreover, as things keep expanding, theoretically there will come a point where nothing is near anything. This would bring an end to collisions - the driving factor behind entropy! With no energy in the system, nor any collisions to provide a spark, the Universe will die a slow hypodermic death.
But don’t be too glum yet, there are still a trillion more years for the Universe. Until then…
“Images of broken light,
Which dance before me like a million eyes.
They call me on and on,
Across the universe.”
By Kayannush Guard