By Knicole Colon, PhD
Have you ever thought about how spooky space is? Sure, the stars in the night sky are beautiful to look at, and it’s amazing to see the Moon and know that mankind has (literally) left footprints there. But, when you really think about it, you will realize that space is incredibly spooky.
First of all, the Sun is an unfathomably hot ball of gas that randomly emits bursts of radiation (known as flares). Luckily, the Earth’s atmosphere protects us from this radiation. Satellites orbiting above the Earth aren’t so lucky. The radiation from the Sun can affect their operation and effectively cause radio blackouts. Such blackouts can interrupt GPS and other satellites that help us communicate. Considering that we are all addicted to constant communication through our cell phones and the internet, this is pretty scary. On the plus side, such intense flares are really not that common (so try not to get too creeped out by this).
Besides the Sun, there are quite a few asteroids out there that could swing by and impact Earth. This really is a rare occurrence, but it’s still creepy to think of some impact event that is explosive enough to send us back to the stone age. In this day and age, anything that deprives us of technology is pretty scary. And then there are things like black holes or stars that explode and go supernova that could easily destroy the entire Earth. We wouldn’t even stand a chance against them. Luckily astronomers don’t think these will affect us anytime soon (at least not in our lifetime).
There are also some pretty creepy aspects of space travel. In particular, the movie Gravity comes to mind. From the previews of the movie alone, you could see how an astronaut may end up in a really bad situation – floating in space, unconnected from everything, destined to die alone. I definitely like my alone time now and again, but floating into nothingness, waiting to die? Not so fun.
Thinking of the bigger picture and just how vast the universe is, it is quite spooky to think of how small and insignificant each human is in the grand scheme of things. Space is big. Absolutely enormously and insanely big. It takes decades just to travel to the outer edges of the Solar System from Earth, so imagine how long it would take to travel to the nearest star (hint: it would take tens of thousands of years with current technology). Not only that, but what else is out there (besides scary rogue asteroids and black holes)? Are there other intelligent beings, devising a way to attack us? Starting in the late 1800s, people truly believed that Martians existed. People saw “canals” and an infamous “face” on Mars that they thought had been constructed by some intelligent life form. These were actually optical illusions (and people seeing what they wanted to see), but still these observations led to stories like “War of the Worlds” where the main goal of Martians was apparently to destroy humans. We now know that no intelligent life exists on Mars (which is probably good since it means there are no interplanetary wars we have to watch out for). But, what if there is no other intelligent life at all? How scary is it to think we might be alone in the universe?
To end things on a positive note, at least from this post you know you are not alone in thinking that space is a really spooky frontier.