SPACE. A frontier with infinite boundaries, celestial majesties, and countless terrors waiting to snuff out all life on Earth as we know it.
Space, the ultimate fear.
Fortunately, Earth is too small and stupid to compete with the cosmos when it comes to natural disasters. Forget about blizzards, floods, and Miley Cyrus. Submitted below are some of the craziest disasters going on right now in some part of the universe.
5. The Red Spot of Jupiter
While you shouldn’t compare yourself to your neighbors to feel better about your problems, the super-storm currently besieging nearby Jupiter sort of makes every hurricane and tornado to hit Earth seem like a cough in comparison.
See that big ol’ red spot on Jupiter’s backside? Despite looking kind of pretty from a distance, it’s actually an enormous storm that has been brewing on Jupiter for at least a few hundred years. Also, to give you a sense of how intense that storm is, check out this time-lapse image of the beast.
It looks like a whole planet made out of Guinness.
So, how bad is this storm? Let’s put it this way: the spot is 40,000 by 14,000 kilometers, which as far as planets go is two to three times larger than Earth. It’s also worth mentioning that lightning strikes are way more intense on Jupiter due to its atmosphere. So, put all that together, and you have a hurricane worse than anything we’ll ever experience on our planet, and lightly beyond human understanding until we find a way to observe it without getting killed in the process.
Earthquakes are the sort of thing so familiar to us Earthlings that just seeing the words “moonquake” or “Marsquake” may be somewhat off-putting. Nevertheless, “quakes” as they’re known occur just about everywhere in universe, and if you think California is bad, you should see what happens when quakes hit stars.
This one almost killed George Clooney.
Because stars are naturally so goddamn large, starquakes are so huge that we sometimes end up using crazy words like “yottatons” to describe their intensity. Such was the case with the magnetar SGR 1806-20 starquake, which on December 27, 2004 registered an energy yield comparable to 310,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons of TNT. That’s anywhere between 22.88 to 32 on the Richter scale, which in comic book terms is something comparable to the last two issues of the Infinity Gauntlet.
If it wasn’t for comic books, we’d actually have to use math to explain that.
Oh, and the craziest thing? That many yottatons of TNT translates into nearly 50,000 Earths of explosives, or roughly 150 Jupiters. Picture all that in one ball, and then hurling it into the sun. That’s what a starquake is like, and our best guess is that they come even larger than the one we measured in 2004.
For such a monumental explosion, it makes a surprisingly cute picture.
3. Gamma Ray Bursts
If you get nervous each time you see “solar flare” on a news website, that’s good. It means we still have less than eight minutes to enjoy before an enormous belch from the sun completely scrambles our atmosphere like a Molotov cocktail against a windshield.
However, if getting hit by a solar flare sounds bad, we regret to report that gamma ray bursts can be even worse due to the fact that Earth is subjected to them on a daily basis. While generally harmless, a gamma ray burst from a collapsing star could make things start to suck pretty quickly for us. In fact, it’s almost unfair how damaging they are to the most important parts of our planet, such as our atmosphere. No matter how hard we work to fix the environment, a gamma ray burst from some far-off star in our galaxy could knock out most of our ozone and slather us with lethal levels of ultraviolet radiation, never mind doing untold damage to all of our puny electronics.
It’s hard enough to own one of these without throwing a star at it.
With neighbors like this in our galaxy, it’s amazing that we’re able to get along as well as we do.
Hmm. Actually, about that…
2. Colliding Galaxies
Despite space being relatively empty in definition, it’s still possible for objects as enormous as galaxies to find a way to crash into each other. How do we know this? It happens all the time. Look:
What a fender bender looks like on a grand scale.
“Hey, watch it.”
Kind of looks like two buzz-saws slicing into each other, don’t they? Fortunately, we’ll never have to deal with something like that. Or at least not in our lifetime, because…
1. The Andromida Galaxy’s Collision Course with the Milky Way
Yeah… Everything we just said about galaxies crashing into each other? That’s totally happening right now between our Milky Way galaxy and the much larger Andromeda Galaxy.
Looks like the Triangulum Galaxy will be ref.
The good news is that this won’t be happening for several billion years, at which point we’ll be lucky if Earth still exists, never mind homo sapiens. The better news is that no matter when this happens, the damage to planets is likely to be minimal. However, the night sky as we know it will never look the same.
Check it out for yourself. This is what the fight for the cosmos will look like from our apartment on Earth over the next few billion years.
Follow Jacopo della Quercia on Twitter!