Space is not the final frontier — just your imagination. Ghouls and ghosts and hobgoblins of the mind aren’t the only scary stuff ever to be conjured. The great void (which technically isn’t a void) may be fascinating, but it can also be scary. In lieu of ghost stories featuring derelict starships or phantom astronauts banging on the ISS’s front door, we’ll talk about some of the most otherworldly space phenomena. So hold on tight, because you’re about to encounter some of the most spine-chilling features of the universe.
5. Giant Storm on Jupiter is Larger Than Earth
In 1664, British philosopher and architect Robert Hooke spotted a sizeable patch on Jupiter’s surface. Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini later observed the same phenomenon and correctly placed it in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. Named the Great Red Spot, this blemish on the giant planet is actually a massive anticyclonic storm. Once four times the size of Earth, the spot has been shrinking, but it’s still 1.3 times the width of Earth. It’s not only wide, but also deep — NASA’s Juno spacecraft found in 2017 that the swirling, hot gas in the spot is about 200 miles deep. Clouds in major hurricanes here on Earth top out at around 50,000 feet.
Imagine how scary it is when you go hiking, and you get caught in a storm. Take this image and multiply by a factor of 10 and you would get what it’s like to experience the storm on Jupiter — winds up to 300 miles per hour, dust, no oxygen, and little to no light. That’s Jupiter for you, or your worst nightmare coming to life.
4. Rain of Terror: Blue Planet has Molten-Glass Rain
The Blue Planet, located only a stone’s throw away in astronomical scale (63 light years) has an Earth-like appearance and looks like a space wanderer’s dream come true. But the Blue Planet (technically HD 189733 b) is far from hospitable. According to NASA, the surface reaches temperatures of around 1000 degrees Celsius. And there is glass rain. Yes, you read that right; scientists believe that due to temperature spikes, there are frequent molten-glass rains.
Even scarier is the fact that the planet’s atmosphere is slowly fading away. Studies have shown that the proximity to its star makes the planet “bleed out” atmosphere. So, let’s recap — we have a planet which bears a striking resemblance to Earth, totally inhospitable, molten-glass rains, a surface temp that would make even Riddick backtrack, and its atmosphere is constantly being bled out by the neighboring star. If Eldritch Horror were to have an embodiment, this would be it.
3. ‘Dark Flow’ May Be Pulling Galaxies Beyond Known Universe
For years now, astronomers and astrophysicists have been studying a baffling phenomenon. Called “dark flow,” it explains or, at least tries to explain, the mysterious movement of galaxy clusters between the Hydra and Centaurus constellations. X-ray scans have revealed that something, or someone — yes, some have speculated that dark flow could be synonymous with sentience — is pulling galaxy clusters at 2 million miles per hour to a point in space beyond the visible universe.
Recent observations by the Planck probe have led some scientists to discount the existence of dark flow. Others hypothesize this dark flow could be the sign of another fold of the universe, perhaps the gateway to another dimension. Whatever the case may be, no thought can be more frightening than the possibility of an invisible, menacing “hand” pulling away galaxies to the point of no return.
2. Gamma-Ray Burst May Have Caused Mass Extinction on Earth
Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are spontaneous electromagnetic events, explosions of high-intensity energy, which occur daily across the universe. They are often associated with supernovae. These intense bursts can last anywhere from a few milliseconds to several minutes. While they are a common event across the universe, it would be a very, very bad day on Earth if we had a gamma-ray burst in our galactic neighborhood. In fact, some scientists believe a GRB may have contributed to the Ordovician extinction, one of the mass extinctions in history.
A 2004 study estimated a gamma-ray burst within about 10,000 light years of Earth would threaten our planet. A GRB would deplete the ozone layer, allowing harmful UV radiation to pass through the atmosphere. It could also lead to widespread smog, acid rain and decimation of the food chain. And it could take years for the planet to recover.
1. Galactic Cannibalism: When Galaxies Eat Their Neighbors
Galactic cannibalism is exactly what it sounds like — larger galaxies with bigger gravitational forces grabbing smaller, weaker ones. The results, albeit spectacular, could be described in layman’s terms as a Freddy vs. Jason kind of scenario.
One of the consequences of galactic cannibalism is that the galaxy that gets eaten is distorted to the point where no one could tell the difference between the two. Still, something good comes out of this — stars. When galactic clouds collide, new stars are born.
If galactic cannibalism doesn’t seem too scary, consider this: The Andromeda galaxy, the closest galaxy to our Milky Way, is approximately 2.5 million light years away. And gravity is pulling both galaxies together. Don’t worry, we won’t be around to see the show when the galaxies merge, which is expected to occur about 4 billion years from now.
One More: Singing Stars, Planets Make Eerie Sounds
No, we aren’t talking about some wannabe Miley Cyrus imitation, but about stars that actually sing! How is this possible, especially given that space is a vacuum, and doesn’t conduct sound waves? Technically speaking, “singing stars” don’t actually sing, but instead emit electromagnetic vibrations, which are captured by special instruments on spacecraft and can be converted to sound.
Stars aren’t the only chanting space objects — planets, rings, and moons can also “carry a tune” since they have their own electromagnetic field. Furthermore, a planet’s otherworldly melody can be picked up by radio telescopes when radio waves get trapped between the stratosphere and inner surface and they sort of bounce off forward and backward. Charged particle emissions, like those found in solar wind or planetary rings, also have their distinct sounds.
Doesn’t sound very frightening? Some of these sounds are quite eerie. Check out the above video and see for yourself.
Lauren Ray John is a senior editor at TelescopeReviewer.com. She writes reviews for different types of telescopes. Lauren has always loved the astronomy field, so she decided to take life into her hands and follow the career she has always wanted.