The expanding universe is a complicated place. During inflation the universe expanded faster than light, but that's something that actually happens all the time, it's happening right now. This doesn't violate Einstein's theory of relativity since nothing is moving through space faster than light, it's just that space itself is expanding such that far away objects are receding rapidly from each other. Common sense would dictate that objects moving away from us faster than light should be invisible, but they aren't. This is because light can travel from regions of space which are superluminal relative to us into regions that are subluminal. So our observable universe is bigger than our Hubble sphere - it's limited by the particle horizon, the distance light could travel to us since the beginning of time as we know it.
Last week we covered multiple star systems, but what if we added thousands or even millions of stars to the mix? A star cluster. There are different kinds of clusters, though. Open clusters contain hundreds or thousands of stars held together by gravity. They’re young, and evaporate over time, their stars let loose to roam space freely. Globular clusters, on the other hand, are larger, have hundreds of thousands of stars, and are more spherical. They’re very old, a significant fraction of the age of the Universe itself, and that means their stars have less heavy elements in them, are redder, and probably don’t have planets (though we’re not really sure).
Discoveries of new planets have revealed countless worlds much stranger than Earth. Some of these strange worlds don't have stars; others are made out of diamonds. Will we ever find a planet like Earth, or are these distant worlds stranger than fiction?
From the mission that saw Pluto for the first time to the Mars rovers, a new breed of explorers are risking their careers, and even their lives, to lead humanity to worlds we have never seen and tackle the mysteries of life itself.
The shape, contents and future of the universe are all intricately related. We know that it's mostly flat; we know that it's made up of baryonic matter (like stars and planets), but mostly dark matter and dark energy; and we know that it's expanding constantly, so that all stars will eventually burn out into a cold nothingness. Renée Hlozek expands on the beauty of this dark ending.