Stoners and space go together like protons and gluons. Weed can help release your mind from the day-to-day grind and let it fly through the atmosphere to contemplate the stars. Space is an unimaginably large mystery, but we’re learning more every year.
Scientists all over the world dedicate their lives to trying to understand the cosmos. But science is a slow, methodical process. And it’s even slower when it comes to learning about celestial bodies that are billions of light-years away. Even though this process is slow, 2017 was a big year for space discoveries. Here are some of the craziest space discoveries from 2017 for the next time you’re high.
1) The Biggest Black Hole Ever
Black holes are like question marks that end each sentence of the universe. The prevailing theory is when matter collapses in on itself, a black hole is formed. Black holes are so massive, not even light can escape their gravitational pull.
The average black hole is about 10 to 100 solar masses. Bigger black holes, like the one at the center of the Milky Way, are as massive as several million suns.
Earlier this year, researchers discovered a black hole as massive as 800,000,000 suns. If that’s difficult to understand, it’s about the same mass as 8 quadrillions of our planet. What’s even crazier about this black hole, though, are the details of its discovery.
Since black holes suck up light rather than emit it, we can’t actually see the black hole. Instead, as the black hole roams through space like a giant vacuum cleaner, we see light from the friction of particles swirling around it. These particles start spinning so fast we can see the light they create from billions of light years away.
In addition to being the largest black hole ever discovered, it is the oldest. The light from the particles around this black hole took more than 13 billion years to reach us. That means this black hole is only a few hundred million years younger than the beginning of space and time itself.
2) Gravitational Waves
Gravitational waves are like ripples on a pond after you throw a stone in, except instead of water, the ripples are in reality itself. They happen when a massive explosion or collision happens somewhere in space, and they travel at the speed of light out in all directions.
People have theorized about gravitational waves for years now, but it wasn’t until this year that we actually built machines that can observe them. Once we observed gravitational waves ripple through the earth, it wasn’t long until we discovered at least one source of their causes: two black holes colliding.
NASA and other space agencies all worked together months ago to point the world’s research satellites at the same patch of sky to observe this massive explosion. The properties of gravitational waves, and what they mean about the makeup of space, isn’t totally clear yet. It’s still amazing to think that every once in awhile, your entire body ripples imperceptively because of an explosion hundreds of trillions of miles away.
3) Thousands of Exoplanets
Obviously, the most tantalizing discovery for space agencies to make would be life on other planets. While that hasn’t happened (yet), there are more planets discovered every day that could potentially hold life.
It’s hard to believe, but planets outside our solar system were just a theory until 1992. Since that initial discovery, we’ve found thousands of planets just like earth orbiting distant stars. NASA has discovered thousands of exoplanets over the years, but only 30 or so look like they could sustain life in the same way earth does. In 2017, we discovered 7 Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting the habitable zone of a single star.
There’s no reason to assume that any of these planets have life on them. But, we know these planets are out there and we’ve only looked for 25 years.
Is there life on other planets? Will we ever find it or communicate with it? Are we wondering about beings that somewhere are wondering about us?
We might answer these questions faster than you think.