‘Scientists find brightest thing in universe’
Globe and Mail Newspaper
‘A team of astronomers has discovered the brightest object in the universe – a light source burning with such intensity that they calculate it could barbecue a chicken 3,000 light-years away’
This is disturbing information, especially if you are a chicken. One would hope there is a sign near the 3,000 light year mark that warns chickens not to get any closer. No doubt the free-ranging chickens are the most endangered since the others, the cooped-up chooks, are unlikely to be travelling the universe, unless they are finger-lickin’ good astronaut snack-packs. One wonders how close you would have to be to barbecue an 8oz steak? Would it cook evenly?
How far is 3,000 light years? I’d say it’s a fair stretch. But the scientists who know these things tell us that it is actually a very long way. The Internet tells us that one light year, and I quote: ”Is the distance light travels in one year. How far is that? Multiply the number of seconds in one year by the number of miles or kilometers that light travels in one second, and there you have it: one light-year. It’s about 5.88 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).” My calculator exploded when I tried to convert that to kilometres.
The brightest thing out ‘there’ is a quasar burning 11 billion light years from earth. The quasar is apparently five million billion times brighter than our sun. There are no stores selling the kind of sun lotion you, or any chicken, will need, for protection from over-exposure to the quasar.
If the quasar is the brightest thing in the universe why has it not found a cure for the common cold? Who is it that does all these calculations anyway?
The universe, according to those who may understand these things, began with a big bang about 20 billion years ago, on a Tuesday. Some experts argue it was a big ‘boom’. But definitely not a boom-bang or a bang-boom.
Then later that same day, or 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds later to be precise, gravity set in. After that, history rolled along quite nicely until we got to where we are today.
And just where are we? According to scientists we are so insignificant that on a city block size map of the universe the earth would not appear at all.
Little wonder then, that we have not been officially visited by space travellers. And perhaps it is because of our irrelevance in the grand scheme of things that we want to know what is ‘out there’ and how far out there actually is.
But what would happen if the universe decided to chuck it all in and call it a day – the big crunch.
Well I don’t really know.
But fortunately the experts do. They calculate that in one trillion years only a black hole will remain. Eventually, there will only be a thin piece of radiation, the odd particle and the occasional barbecued chicken.
Strangely, it will be a Tuesday.