What is Space?
Let’s start with the basics.
Conventional wisdom has it that space is absolutely everything outside of the earth’s atmosphere. From the viewpoint of a mere earthling, this translates to roughly 100 kilometres directly up from where you are standing.
Were you to find yourself in space without a high-tech astronauts suit, you’d soon suffocate. Indeed, there is no appreciable air for breathing, nor to scatter light.
Space is characterised by blanket blackness; it would be blue like the sky, if only there were abundant enough supply of oxygen molecules.
If you shouted in shouted in space, no one would hear your cries. Space is a vacuum meaning that molecules are so sparsely scattered that sound cannot be transmitted between molecules.
However, space is by no means bare or empty. Space debris, like gas, dust and other bits of matter float around the less densely populated areas whereas hotspots play host to planets, galaxies, and stars.
Indeed, it’s common knowledge that the Sun, Mars, Venus and the Milky Way are all contained within Space.
But what else is out there? Physic class often omits to mention the existence of black holes, quasars and galaxies millions of light-years away.
Either way, we at least have a basic grasp of moons, stars and planets. Yet, space is actually the emptiness between these celestial bodies. More technically it’s the near-vacuum like environment that has a very low density gas or plasma.
Let’s put it in layman’s terms. Space is simply, “that, with which you measure with a ruler”. Pondering this notion led Albert Einstein to develop his game-changing theory of special relativity and subsequent theory of general relativity.
Any discussion of space can’t skip over the parts of it not visible to the human eye. In fact, research has demonstrated that there are a variety of types of radiation being emitted within space.
Even within our own solar system, solar wind, which is composed of particles and plasma from the sun, enters earth’s atmosphere, occasionally causing an aurora around the poles. Cosmic Rays also inhabit space, and derive from supernovas well outside of our solar system.
All space in our universe has a cosmic microwave background (CMB), which directly results from the Big Bang.
How Was Space Formed?
Once scientists discovered that other galaxies are moving away from our own at mind-blowing speeds, we had to hypothesise why this was the case.
In solving this conundrum, the most popular theory of the creation of space and our universe centres on the most epic cosmic cataclysm in all of history – the big bang.
It is suggested that before the Big Bang, the vastness of the observable universe was condensed into a smoulderingly-hot, compact mass. A mass of miniscule size – a few millimetres to be exact. This unsustainable state is theorized to have only existed for a sliver of the first second of “time”.
From there, big bang enthusiasts believe that some 13-14 billion years ago, an epic explosion led to the birth of all known matter and energy. This was both space and times birthday. So who gave birth to these ever-present companions? The best answer we seem to come up with is, some form of ancient and indiscernible energy. Call it “God”, if you’d like.
How Have we Learned More About Space?
The Hubble Telescope, launched in 1990, and orbiting 600km above the earth’s surface, has been instrumental in helping develop our understanding of Space.
Free of the earth’s atmosphere, which distorts light and blocks certain kinds of it, the Hubble Telescope can accept the light from distant galaxies, billions of light years away.
The Hubble has given us profound insights. It has allowed us to understand the birth of galaxies, it unearthed dark matter, a previously unknown substance, and is affectionately known as a “black hole bounty hunter” despite these celestial bodies emitting no light.
Space Simulation Technology has also done a heck of a lot to further our knowledge. By simulating the space environment, Space Simulation Technology firms have been able to test components that will eventually be used at high altitudes. This technology has been integral in allowing us to develop the space ships and rockets to explore the Moon, Mars and space, as well as to help launch the Hubble Telescope.
Both pressure control and temperature control are two of the most essential elements of space simulation technology.
Indeed, a vacuum-like environment needs to be created using pressure vessels, in order to mimic the pressure in space. Temperature control, on the other hand, means actively heating and cooling surfaces along with finding “solar selective coatings” that will serve to absorb excess radiation.