Moon and road
Dillon Korte, an ENMU student, shares out-of-this-world space facts.

I.

Love.

SPACE.

Nothing has occupied my interest for as long as space has. There are always new things being learned and discovered about it. It's a journey!

I think my interest actually began sometime around 2003. With the assistance of home video, I remember when a rover was landed on Mars. The video has me, my brother and my mom gathered around an old boxy white computer with 3D glasses on, looking at the NASA website. They had just planted a rover on Mars.

My mother reads the website to toddler versions of myself and my brother. At one point, my dad (who was filming) interjects and asks us if we want to go to space or Mars. My brother shakes his head with fear in his eyes, and I shout loudly, "YEAH!!"

My brother has since decided space is actually awesome, and I have bounced in between hating it and loving it. Somehow I always land back to loving it—with good reason.

There is so much we don't know about space. Have you looked at those star size comparison videos? It's ridiculous. We might as well be meaningless specks hurtling at high speeds through an endless void.

Except we're not because if we were meaningless, we wouldn't exist and that's because of SPACE. Hear me out:

So there are 79 naturally occurring elements on Earth that we know of, right? Because the possibility exists that more are out there. I am not saying that there ARE more, just that there could be. But these elements have always existed on the Earth. They're created from natural processes that occur and from just being in the world or whatever. Real scientific, I know, but it's a lead-in to the first space fact.

All elements that can be found on Earth are, in theory, all the elements that comprise the universe as far as we know. This is because Earth was formed around 4.5 billion years ago, give or take like one billion years and it was formed from rocks and dust that existed when the solar system began. The gravity pulled those rocks together and created a giant molten ball that would one day become our planet.

Now here's where it gets cool: all the elements on Earth come from somewhere, right? Most if not all of those elements have always been there. That means that when the Earth was formed, these elements existed. Since the planet used to be just a bunch of floating rocks, that means that they are the elements you can find in space.

Although there are different forms of these elements (we've found water ice on comets and planets that isn't quite the same type of water as our own, since it consists of different elements), each form consists of elements that we know of for sure.

Although that's just a scientific theory, it's supported by meteors falling into the planet's atmosphere. Remember that meteorite shard from the Miles Mineral Museum and how it was made of iron? It is evidence that the universe is composed of the same basic elements and tell me that isn't the coolest thing—I DARE you.

The same basic theory can be extended towards us as a species as well as any other living thing in the on Earth which is pretty killer. It also makes for some pretty wonderful cosmic poetry. We are made of stardust, and that is just so COOL.

The universe is constantly expanding. How do we know this? Well, we don't, really. It's nothing more than another theory—one created by Stephen Hawking himself. Why is this?

It has to do with the Big Bang theory that says the universe's creation was so powerful that the explosion it created pushed over a hundred billion galaxies with over a hundred billion suns in each outward. The coolest part about this is that some galaxies are moving faster than others.

For example, the Andromeda Galaxy is approaching the Milky Way at 68 miles per second. That means in 3.75 billion years the two will collide and create an even larger elliptical galaxy. That's so cool. In three billion years, you will be able to see a sky filled by a galaxy on any planet in the Milky Way and it will be visible even during the day.

Of course, just like basically all space-related stuff, it's just a theory.

Space doesn't have sound, but that didn't stop scientists from interpreting the sounds of space. Celestial objects can't make sound while they're in space. Since most of our planets do have atmospheres, that means that sound exists on the planets themselves, but we're not talking about that right now.

So planets don't make sounds, right? However, they DO emit electromagnetic waves, just as Earth does. The information taken from NASA satellites comes in wavelengths, and when scientists got it, they decided to transform it into sound waves.

The result is a literal Soundcloud playlist of these sounds titled "Spooky Sounds from Across the Solar System." It's pretty cool, and it doesn't end there. Go through the NASA page on Soundcloud and see what you can find!

Black holes are technically physical paradoxes. While their existence won't cause vast repercussions the way that theoretical time travel does, black holes are paradoxical by the nature of their existence.

That's just because we don't fully understand them. The quantum physics of a black hole doesn't fit many theories by immensely smart and well-known scientists.

Technically we can't even see black holes because they're dense balls of immense size and mass. Their gravitational pull is so strong that even light gets sucked into them, and since that light can't shine back for us to see, we can't see black holes. It's like when you're in a well-lit ballroom, and some of the lights go out. You can see the ballroom around the light, but there's a dense shadow where the light is absent.

I mean, it's a crude analogy, but I'm sure it will give a better sense of why taking a photo of a black hole is so monumentally important.

Bryan Resnick of "Vox" actually wrote a fascinating article from April 11 that explains the photo taken on April 10. I'd recommend finding it. It's very cool.

When you hear or say the term "time and space," it's basically redundant. Time and space have always been tricky to explain due to their intense theoretical nature. It's okay to skip this section, by the way; reasoning this fact out literally made my head hurt.

Have you ever heard that joke that time is a social construct and that we as a species are nothing more than a speck of dust hurtling at high speed through a blanket of nothing? I guess it's an oddly specific joke that appeals to no one but my friends and me, but it's not actually very wrong.

I'm going to lay out some hard opinions on you: time doesn't exist. Only space does. I mean, sure, time exists on Earth, but that's a pretty limited concept when you watch those "size of Earth" comparison videos. There are stars that make our own star (that's the sun, guys) look like an ant next to Earth's moon.

Time is just the simplest way that we as humans can explain the progress of our solar expansion in the universe. That is my personal opinion, and I don't know if it's been argued by anyone else, although I'm sure it has at least once.

This effect can be best seen and explained when you stare into the sky at night. That's because they're over 4.22 light years away from us (Earth's closest star after Sol is Proxima Centauri, which is 4.22 light years away), so you gotta know what light years are.

Light years according to Google are "a unit of astronomical distance equivalent to the distance that light travels in one year, which is nearly 6 trillion miles." (For perspective, that makes Proxima Centauri about 25.32 trillion miles away. In the fastest rocket that we have built, it would take 137 thousand years to reach that distance.) That was a really smooth transition into the next fact, by the way. There are also a lot of small space facts in this next part that I am not going to point out because they build into my point.

Also, I'm going to take a second to say that it took me an hour to plot out all this math because the United States refuses to use the metric system, which keeps distance universal. The current system needs to be readjusted throughout countries to equal the same amount of distance. Make the change, everyone. Use metric so I don't have to do as much math because I despise math. In hindsight, I should have just Googled it.

The way that our eyes work requires light to reach them, and then the lens just behind our irises refracts light into our retinas where optical nerves pass information in the brain, allowing us to process images.

Stars give out light, obviously. Proxima Centauri's light (which moves at 186,000 miles per SECOND) takes four years to reach Earth because that's how fast light travels (4.22 light years). Still with me? Remember, I'm arguing that time doesn't exist, rather that it's an extension of space as a whole.

So say that there's a star 130 million light years away. At some point, that star started shining onto Earth. For simplicity's sake, let's say it started shining 129 million light years ago. That means that in one million Earth years, that star will die and stop shining. However, the light that we would see today would be the remnants of that star. That star would be dead in real time.

For a simpler argument, imagine there was an alien 65 million light years away with a very high powered telescope. If they pointed it at Earth, they wouldn't see humans. They would see dinosaurs (at least in theory).

Tell me that isn't freaking AWESOME. Oh wait, YOU CAN'T. BECAUSE IT'S SO AWESOME.

Basically, this happens because of the distance separating us, rather than the actual time itself.

So that's my super lengthy explanation on why time doesn't actually exist. It can be summed up simply by "space."

A computer simulation has suggested as of 2016 that there are over 500 billion galaxies in the universe. I don't need to say more, do I? I mean, we have at least 100 billion stars but no more than 400 billion stars in our own galaxy. Imagine that number of stars in terms of galaxies. Isn't it cool??

Final Thoughts

I could talk on and on and on and ON about space forever. There is not one aspect of space that I could possibly think of as lame. It's the final frontier! I know that argument has been actually made of Earth's oceans, but let's think about it—have we truly explored a lot of space? In terms of our solar system, yeah, we've discovered a lot.

But that is one solar system.

Out of possibly 400 billion systems.

In one of 500 billion galaxies.

It's bananas. Love it.

Can't get enough of space? I can't! Have some personal space-related recommendations:

Listen to the band Starset. I actually discovered this band pretty recently while I was in a Spencer's store. The electric guitar sounded pretty heavy, and the riffs were neat, so I gave it a second look. They have a "history" that explains why they make their music: to spread "The Message"—a radio signal received from space. It's pretty awesome. My favorite so far is the song "Starlight" from their 2017 album, "Vessels." All the music is based around space, and it's RAD.

stellaris game screenshot
A screenshot from "Stellaris."

Purchase the video game "Stellaris," by Paradox Interactive (from USD 39.99, although it goes on sale frequently on the Steam site). PC, Xbox and PS4. It's a really cool strategy game about taking over the galaxy. I play this game pretty frequently with my brother as we try to expand empires into the stars. It's so much fun, albeit incredibly long and difficult. I've spent two weeks total on a single game, and I'm finally almost at the end of it. It's a fun time. There are even free mods to it to do what you wish! I downloaded a Star Wars one because I am a HUGE fan of the series and although it doesn't always work the way the creators pretend they do, it's still pretty cool. It's the small things, you know? If the game alone doesn't satisfy you, it has some pretty cool downloadable content that, unfortunately, you have to spend more money on, but it allows you to run an empire of a hive mind, a megacorporation and more. My favorite is the Apocalypse downloadable content. It gives you the opportunity to construct massive Death Star-like planet killers. It's awesome. Plus, you can play with your friends to conquer the galaxy!

no mans sky screenshot
A screenshot from "No Man's Sky."

Purchase the video game "No Man's Sky," by Hello Games (from USD 59.99, but it also goes on sale sometimes). PC, Xbox and PS4. Imagine you've been given the opportunity to explore galaxies and universes and you are given free rein to go where you want and do what you wish. Welcome to "No Man's Sky"—a game about reaching the center of the universe, although that's optional and I've never met anyone who's actually done it. Each planet is procedurally generated, meaning there are good chances you will be the first person playing the game to experience it. The entertainment value is pretty high, and the team who made it are continuing to improve upon it today to give players a fun experience in the game. Bonus, you can play this one with friends as well!

Check out the official NASA website. There's always something that has to do with space when you're dealing with NASA. You can always find something that will surely pique your interest.

Go on a New Mexico road trip! You'd be surprised about how much New Mexico has played a part in the U.S. space program. After all, Roswell is a well-known name by UFO enthusiasts. The U.S. military used White Sands near Alamogordo to develop numerous rockets, and while you're there, you can visit the New Mexico Museum of Space History. Also visit Spaceport America southeast of Truth or Consequences, which can be described briefly as tourists in space. The Lovelace Clinic Foundation—a hospital—has helped provide medical and psychological criteria research for astronauts. This is but a small fraction of things New Mexico has to offer for space.

Personally, I've done most of these things because I CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF SPACE. These are things I've recommended because I've done them and they satiate me until an alien spacecraft lands on Earth and invites me to explore the cosmos with a 900 billion percent chance of dying terribly at the end.

For some reason, I'm still waiting for it.