Space is the final frontier. How much space has been explored has plagued humanity for centuries. It’s a question that we are finally starting to answer thanks to the advent of space-based telescopes, satellites, and, more recently, unmanned spacecraft.
Today, we have an idea of just how much space has been explored in the known universe.
The universe is enormous, and we are still only beginning to explore it. For example, it has been estimated that there are approximately 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe.
It’s hard to understand the enormity of all this. The observable universe is everything that can be seen with our telescopes or other means. Therefore, if you were to travel at the speed of light, it would take you about two years to cover one light year. That’s a lot of time!
Throughout space, humanity has discovered vast distances. This has been possible with powerful telescopes like Hubble, and scientists have learned about the humongous planets around our solar energy system.
As of now, experts have explored about four percent of the apparent space. That consists of exoplanets, stars, and galaxies that astronomers can see. Yet, there is a vast part – the other 96% ~ that scientists cannot see. Many experts call this place Dark Matter, and they’re still just beginning to review this matter that makes up a sizable percentage of the apparent universe.
The observable universe signifies the parts associated with space that all of us can see using telescopes. Yet, researchers believe the universe is more extensive than what is visible.
Currently, scientists can see very far into space. In fact, within 2003, the Hubble Telescope recorded a few of the furthermost galaxies from our own. However, the additional space was 13.2 billion light-years away. Meaning it required 13 billion years for the light created by the particular galaxy to reach our own.
That is right. 13 billion light-years! Quite simply, the universe is seemingly infinite. Astronomers may move more rapidly using advanced image resolution technology to make even more discoveries. Even though we may need another thousand years before we can start exploring these faraway planets, we can state that they are there for us to observe and maybe explore in the future.
So, where is the rest of the 96%?
The answer lies in two things – dark energy and dark matter.
Dark matter was found when scientists were trying to measure the velocities of different stars at different locations in the galaxy. They observed that the outer stars of the universe were orbiting the center at the same speed as those near the center. So it should generally tear the galaxies apart. But the observations were stating something precisely the opposite. So after more measurements, scientists concluded that there’s more matter in the universe than we can observe and called this dark matter.
Dark energy is even more confounding compared to dark matter. Though it is a relatively recent discovery, it’s the one scientists currently have much less probability of comprehending anytime soon.
It began in the 1990s, when a couple of teams of research workers were figuring out precisely how fast space was expanding, estimating if it would continue growing forever, or would it gradually crumple in itself in a very “Big Crunch.”
To do this, experts employed particular experiments to measure the distances between us and exploded stars, called supernovas. Then, to calculate the speed they are moving away, they measured their velocities.
As soon as we view incredibly distant stars, we’re actually live-viewing a previous moment in time that elapsed in the universe’s history because those stars’ light took millions of light-years to reach us. So, observing a star’s speed several light-years away lets our scientists know how quickly the universe is expanding at several points through its lifetime.
Astronomers believe there are two possibilities: that the universe has consistently expanded at about the same rate throughout its lifetime or that typically the universe’s expansion rate is slowing down as it grows older.
But to the shock of the scientists, they observed that the universe has been expanding even more rapidly than before.
This fact boggled the scientists since it was believed that gravity would act on the objects in space and start shrinking the universe by attracting matter and clumping it in one place.
From this observation, they realized that another unexplained force is acting on the objects of the universe. It counteracts the effects of gravity; instead, being stronger than gravity, it is expanding the universe at an accelerating speed.
Scientists measured that approximately 73% of the stuff inside the universe is dark energy, 23% is dark matter, and what’s left, a meager 4%, is ordinary matter which makes up the stars, planets, solar systems, and us.
The Future of Space Exploration: What It Could Bring to Us All
The future of space exploration is shaping to be even more exciting than we could imagine. NASA, SpaceX, and other private companies are all working hard to make sure that we continue to explore space with a sense of purpose.
This space exploration will bring us many benefits, such as colonizing other planets, learning more about Earth‘s solar system, and advancing science in general.
There are many potential benefits from exploring space, like finding new planets or life forms that could lead to a better understanding of our universe. Furthermore, it will also allow us to explore other galaxies and potentially find other Earth-like planets, which is a huge step forward in our search for extraterrestrial life, and perhaps the survival of our species should Earth become no longer sustainable.
The exploration of space has been a long and complex process. It started in the 18th century with the invention of the telescope. Since then, it has led to discoveries that have changed our understanding of our world.
The current challenge is understanding what dark energy and dark matter are. Only then can we say that we have explored everything in the universe. But who knows, by then, something new might come up, and there’ll be even more to explore and understand.