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20 Extraordinary And Inspiring Facts About The Universe

20 Extraordinary And Inspiring Facts About The Universe

The universe is so vast it’s extremely difficult to know the full extent of its complexities. Humans can only scratch at the surface of its immensity, but whenever we do we pick up remarkable information, and images, which are awe inspiring and baffling in equal measure. What we do know has been made readily available to the public thanks to the leading space exploratation organisations, so here are 20 of the most intriguing facts for your reading pleasure.

1. When you look into the night sky, you are looking back in time

    The stars we see in the night sky are very far away from us, so far the star light we see has taken a long time to travel across space to reach our eyes. This means whenever we look out into the night and gaze at stars we are actually experiencing how they looked in the past. For example, the bright star Vega is relatively close to us at 25 light-years away, so the light we see left the star 25 years ago; while Betelgeuse (pictured) in the constellation of Orion is 640 light-years away, so the light left the star around 1370, during the time of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. Other stars we see are further away still, so we are seeing them much deeper in their past.

    2. The Hubble telescope allows us to look back billions of years into the past

      The Hubble Telescope enables us to look towards very distant objects in the universe. Thanks to this remarkable piece of engineering NASA has been able to create some incredible images, one of which is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Created using images from the telescope from 2003 and 2004, the incredible picture displays a tiny patch of the sky in immense detail; it contains 10,000 objects, most of them young galaxies, and acts as a portal back in time. In one picture we are transported 13 billion years into the past, just 400 to 800 million years after the Big Bang, which is early in terms of the universe’s history.

      3. You can watch the Big Bang on your television

        Cosmic background radiation is the afterglow and heat of the Big Bang, the momentous event that kick-started our universe 13.7 billion years ago. This cosmic echo exists throughout the universe, and amazingly we can use an old-fashioned television set to catch a glimpse of it. When a television is not tuned to a station you can see the black and white fuzz and clacking white noise, around 1% of this interference is made up cosmic background radiation – the afterglow of creation.

        4. There’s a giant cloud of alcohol in Sagittarius B

          Sagittarius B is a vast molecular cloud of gas and dust floating near the centre of the Milky Way, 26,000 light-years from Earth, 463,000,000,000 kilometres in diameter and, amazingly, it contains 10-billion-billion-billion litres of alcohol. The vinyl alcohol in the cloud is far from the most flavoursome tipple in the universe, but it is an important organic molecule which offers some clues how the first building blocks of life-forming substances are produced.

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          5. There’s a planet-sized diamond in Centaurus named after a Beatles song

            Astronomers have discovered the largest known diamond in our galaxy, it’s a massive lump of crystallised diamond called BPM 37093, otherwise known as Lucy after The Beatles’ song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Found 50 light-years away in the constellation of Centaurus, Lucy is about 25,000 miles across, so much larger then planet Earth, and weighs in at a massive 10 billion-trillion-trillion carats.

            6. It takes 225 million years for our Sun to travel round the galaxy

              Whilst the Earth and the other planets within our solar system orbit around the Sun, the Sun itself is orbiting around the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It takes the Sun 225 million years to perform a complete circuit of the galaxy. The last time the Sun was in its current position in the galaxy the super-continent Pangaea was just about starting to break apart and early dinosaurs were making an appearance.

              7. Our solar system’s biggest mountain is on Mars

                Olympus Mons on Mars is the tallest mountain on any of the planets of the Solar System. The mountain is a gigantic shield volcano (similar to volcanoes found in the Haiiwain Islands) standing at 26 kilometres tall and sprawling 600 kilometres across. To put this into scale, this makes the mountain almost three times the height of Mount Everest.

                8. Uranus spins on its side, with some rather strange results

                  Most of the planets in the Solar System spin on an axis similar to the Sun’s; slight tilts in a planet’s axis causes seasons as different parts become slightly closer or further from the sun during their orbit. Uranus is an exceptional planet in many ways, not least because it spins almost completely on its side in relation to the Sun. This results in very long seasons – each pole gets around 42 Earth years of continuous summer sunlight, followed by a wintry 42-year period of darkness. Uranus’s northern hemisphere enjoyed its last summer solstice in 1944 and will see in the next winter solstice in 2028.

                  9. A year on Venus is shorter than its day

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                    Venus is the slowest rotating planet in our Solar System, so slow it takes longer to fully rotate than it does to complete its orbit. This means Venus has days that last longer than its years. It’s also home to one of the most inhospitable environments imaginable, with constant electronic storms, high CO2 readings, and it’s shrouded by clouds of sulfuric acid.

                    10. Neutron stars are the fastest spinning objects known in the universe

                      Neutron stars are thought to be the fastest spinning objects in the universe. Pulsars are a particular type of neutron star that emits a beam of radiation which can be observed as a pulse of light as the star spins. The rate of this pulse allows astronomers to measure the rotation.

                      The fastest spinning known pulsar is the catchily-titled PSR J1748-2446ad, which has an equator spinning at 24% the speed of light, which translates to over 70,000 kilometres per second. An artist’s impression of what this must look like is pictured above.

                      11. A spoonful of a neutron star weighs about a billion ton

                        Neutron stars spin incredibly quickly and are also incredibly dense. It is estimated, if you could collect a tablespoon of matter from the centre of a neutron star, it would weigh about one billion tons.

                        12. The Voyager 1 spacecraft is the most distant human-made object from Earth

                          The Voyager Program launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, in 1977. The probes explored the planets and moons of the outer Solar System over several decades and are now continuing their mission to travel through the heliosphere at the edge of our Solar System and continue to voyage into interstellar space.

                          On March 20 2013, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to leave the Solar Sytem and is now the furthest human-made object from Earth, currently 124.34 Astronomical Units away. In laymen terms, this means it’s around 1.15581251×1010 miles away. Putting it mildly this is a long way from home.

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                          13. Voyager 1 captured the most distant photograph of Earth

                            In 1990, as part of the spacecraft’s ongoing mission, Voyager 1 turned its camera back on our home planet and took a picture. This became known as The Pale Blue Dot. Seen from 6 billion kilometres away, the Earth appears as a tiny blue speck in the depths of space. Astronomer Carl Sagan, who first suggested the idea of the photograph, noted, “From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

                            14. Scientists are looking for evidence of extraterrestrial life on Earth

                              The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a project to discover whether intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe and how we may contact extraterrestrial species. The search includes looking for life on other planets and moons. For instance, some of Jupiter’s moons (such as Io) are promising places to look for evidence of primitive life, but the search for extraterrestrial life includes scientific research on Earth.

                              If scientists can disocver evidence life has generated independently more than once it would suggest life could occur in more than one place, for more than one time. For this reason scientists are searching for evidence that life could have happened more than once on earth, with intriguing prospects for the universe as a result.

                              15. It is estimated there are 400 billion stars in our galaxy

                                Our Sun is essential to us, the centre of our Solar System, and our source of light and energy, but it is just one of many, many stars that make up our home galaxy, the Milky Way. Current estimates suggest there are around 400 billion stars sharing our galaxy. The artist’s concept above shows what a a dust disk around a baby star could well look like.

                                16. There could be 500 million planets capable of supporting life in our galaxy

                                  Scientists searching for extraterrestrial life focus on “Goldilocks Planets“; these are planets which fall into a star’s habitable zone. Planet Earth seems to have exactly the right conditions for life to exist – its distance from the Sun means the temperature is right, water can exist as a liquid solid and a gas, and there are the right combination of chemical compounds available to build complex life forms. Other planets thought to have similar features are known as Goldilocks planets.

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                                  In the Milky Way alone there are estimated to be 500 million potential Goldilocks planets, so if life can exist in places other than Earth there is a huge number of potential planets on which it might thrive. If these numbers are applied to all the galaxies in the universe there could be a staggering variety of planets capable of supporting life. Of course, we have no evidence life exists elsewhere, but if it does there are plenty of places for it to set up home.

                                   17. There are probably more than 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe

                                    Different calculations provide different numbers for how many galaxies there are in the observable universe – that is the part of the universe we can see from Earth with our current technology, there maybe many more but they are simply to far away for our telescopes to detect. Using data from the Hubble Telescope astronomers have calculated there are likely to be around 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe.

                                    18. There could be an infinite number of universes

                                      This is more speculative theory than a fact, but several branches of mathematics, quantum mechanics, and astrophysics have all come to similar conclusions: our universe is just one of many and we actually exist in a ‘multiverse’.

                                      There are different ideas of how this could be, one being the concept of atoms only capable of being arranged in a finite number of ways in time and space, ultimately leading to the repititon of events and people. Other theories propose bubble or parallel universes and ‘braneworlds’ that hover just out of reach of the dimensions we experience. Although these concepts seem like the far-fetched ideas of science-fiction, they are actually proving to be the most elegant solutions to problems thrown up by our discoveries of how the universe works.

                                      19. The human brain is the most complex object in the known universe

                                      Our brains are remarkably complex objects with a hundred billion neurons, a quadrillion connections, and we still know very little about how this organic super computer operates. But we do know the human brain is the most complicated thing we have yet discovered. It gives us the power to form language and culture, consciousness, the idea of self, the ability to learn, and understand the universe and reflect on our place within it. We even have an inbuilt “model of gravity“, which is pretty useful.

                                       20. We are all made of stardust

                                        This may sound fanciful, but the reality is almost every element found on Earth was created in the burning core of a star, all the stuff that makes up life on Earth, therefore our bodies are made from stardust. NASA have studied stardust extensively, and you can read more about their research on their official website. A NASA stardust canister is pictured above.

                                        In the words of Carl Sagan, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

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                                        Published on November 14, 2018

                                        Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                                        Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                                        With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

                                        For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

                                        In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

                                        Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

                                        Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

                                        It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

                                        For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

                                        Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

                                        Symptoms of Fatigue

                                        Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

                                        • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
                                        • mental blocks
                                        • lack of motivation
                                        • headache
                                        • dizziness
                                        • muscle weakness
                                        • slowed reflexes and responses
                                        • impaired decision-making and judgement
                                        • moodiness, such as irritability
                                        • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
                                        • reduced immune system function
                                        • blurry vision
                                        • short-term memory problems
                                        • poor concentration
                                        • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

                                        Causes of Fatigue

                                        The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

                                        • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
                                        • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
                                        • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
                                        • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

                                        Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

                                        Medical Causes of Fatigue

                                        If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

                                        Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

                                        Anemia

                                        Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

                                        Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

                                        There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

                                        Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

                                        Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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                                        This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

                                        Diabetes

                                        Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

                                        Sleep Apnea

                                        Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

                                        Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

                                        Thyroid disease

                                        An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

                                        Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

                                        • Lack of sleep
                                        • Too much sleep 
                                        • Alcohol and drugs 
                                        • Sleep disturbances 
                                        • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
                                        • Poor diet 

                                        Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

                                        • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
                                        • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
                                        • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
                                        • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

                                        Psychological Causes of Fatigue

                                        Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

                                        • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
                                        • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
                                        • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

                                        How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

                                        Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

                                        1. Tell The Truth

                                        Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

                                        To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

                                        Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

                                        The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

                                        One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

                                        • How you feel
                                        • What time of day it is
                                        • What may have contributed to your fatigue
                                        • How your mind and body reacts

                                        This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

                                        2. Reduce Your Commitments

                                        When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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                                        If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

                                        When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

                                        Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

                                        3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

                                        If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

                                        Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

                                        If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

                                        Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

                                        Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

                                        4. Express More Gratitude

                                        Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

                                        It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

                                        Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

                                        5. Focus On Yourself

                                        Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

                                        There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

                                        But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

                                        We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

                                        6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

                                        Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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                                        Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

                                        The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

                                        Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

                                        7. Take a Power Nap

                                        When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

                                        Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

                                        This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

                                        8. Take More Exercise

                                        The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

                                        Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

                                        The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

                                        You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

                                        9. Get More Quality Sleep

                                        To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

                                        Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

                                        My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

                                        10. Improve Your Diet

                                        Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

                                        Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

                                        On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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                                        To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

                                        Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

                                        Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

                                        11. Manage Your Stress Levels

                                        Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

                                        When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

                                        Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

                                        My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

                                        12. Get Hydrated

                                        Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

                                        Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

                                        If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

                                        The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

                                        The Bottom Line

                                        These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

                                        If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

                                        Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

                                        Reference

                                        [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
                                        [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
                                        [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
                                        [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
                                        [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
                                        [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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