Here it is, folks: the end. In our final episode of Crash Course Astronomy, Phil gives the course a send off with a look at some of his favorite topics and the big questions that Astronomy allows us to ask.
Thanks to the wonders of physics, astronomers can map a timeline of the universe’s history. Today, Phil’s going to give you an overview of those first few minutes (yes, MINUTES) of the universe’s life. It started with a Big Bang, when the Universe was incredibly dense and hot.
The majority of the universe is made up of a currently mysterious entity that pervades space: dark energy. We don’t know exactly what it is, but we do know that dark energy accelerates the expansion of space. We think this means the Universe will expand forever, even as our view of it shrinks while space expands faster all the time.
Thanks to observations of galaxy redshifts, we can tell that the universe is EXPANDING! Knowing that the universe is expanding and how quickly its expanding also allows us to run the clock backwards 14 billion years to the way the universe began - with a bang.
Today on Crash Course Astronomy, Phil dives into some very dark matters. The stuff we can actually observe in the universe isn’t all there is. Galaxies and other large structures in the universe are created and shifted by a force we detect mostly indirectly, by observing its impact: DARK MATTER.
Gamma-ray bursts are not only incredible to study, but their discovery has an epic story all its own. Today Phil takes you through some Cold War history and then dives into what we know.
Active galaxies pour out lots of energy, due to their central supermassive black holes gobbling down matter. Galaxies tend not to be loners, but instead exist in smaller groups and larger clusters. Our Milky Way is part of the Local Group, and will one day collide with the Andromeda galaxy.
Galaxies contain gas, dust, and billions of stars or more. They come in four main shapes: elliptical, spiral, peculiar, and irregular. Galaxies can collide, and grow in size by eating each other.
Today we’re talking about our galactic neighborhood: The Milky Way. It’s a disk galaxy, a collection of dust, gas, and hundreds of billions of stars, with the Sun located about halfway out from the center.
Astronomers study a lot of gorgeous things, but nebulae might be the most breathtakingly beautiful of them all. Nebulae are clouds of gas and dust in space. Some nebulae are small and dense, others can be dozens or hundreds of light years across.
Double stars are stars that appear to be near each other in the sky, but if they’re gravitationally bound together we call them binary stars. Many stars are actually part of binary or multiple systems. In some close binaries matter can flow from one star to the other, changing the way it ages.
Stellar mass black holes form when a very massive star dies, and its core collapses. Black holes come in different sizes, but for all of them, the escape velocity is greater than the speed of light, so nothing can escape, not matter or light.
In the aftermath of a 8 – 20 solar mass star’s demise we find a weird little object known as a neutron star. Neutrons stars are incredibly dense, spin rapidly, and have very strong magnetic fields. Neutrons stars with the strongest magnetic fields are called magnetars, and are capable of colossal bursts of energy that can be detected over vast distances.
Massive stars fuse heavier elements in their cores than lower mass stars. This leads to the creation of heavier elements up to iron. Iron robs critical energy from the core, causing it to collapse. The resulting supernova creates even more heavy elements, scattering them through space.
Today Phil follows up last week's look at the death of low mass stars with what comes next: a white dwarf. White dwarfs are incredibly hot and dense objects roughly the size of Earth. They also can form planetary nebulae: huge, intricately detailed objects created when the wind blown from the dying stars is lit up by the central white dwarf.
Today we are talking about the life -- and death -- of stars. Low mass stars live a long time, fusing all their hydrogen into helium over a trillion years. More massive stars like the Sun live shorter lives. They fuse hydrogen into helium, and eventually helium into carbon. When this happens they expand, get brighter, and cool off, becoming red giants.
While Jupiter is nowhere near massive enough to initiate fusion in its core, there are even more massive objects out there that fall just short of that achievement as well called brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs, have a mass that places them between giant planets and small stars.
Phil explains that YES, there are other planets out there and astonomers have a lot of methods for detecting them. Nearly 2000 have been found so far. Exoplanets appear to orbit nearly every kind of star, and weÕve even found planets that are the same size as Earth. We think there may be many billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy.