Astronomers study a lot of gorgeous things, but nebulae might be the most breathtakingly beautiful of them all. Nebulae are clouds of gas and dust in space. They can glow on their own or reflect light from nearby stars. When they glow it’s usually predominantly red from hydrogen and green from oxygen, and when they reflect and scatter light it’s from massive hot stars, so they look blue. Stars are born in some nebulae, and create new ones as they die. Some nebulae are small and dense, others can be dozens or hundreds of light years across.
Today on Crash Course Astronomy, Phil dives into some very dark matters. The stuff we can actually observe in the universe isn’t all there is. Galaxies and other large structures in the universe are created and shifted by a force we detect mostly indirectly, by observing its impact: DARK MATTER.
Scientists are only now starting to unravel the secrets of comets. Often referred to as dirty snowballs, they contain ice and elements from the very start of the universe. Some theorize that a comet, crashing into our planet, brought with it the organic material that started life on Earth. Spacecraft continues to offer new information on their makeup, from bringing back samples from a comet's tail to direct contact when a NASA-launched craft slammed into the comet Tempel-1.
The idea of intelligence is explored in the concepts of computers (using bits as their basic units of information), whales (in their songs and their disruptions by human activities), DNA, the human brain (the evolution of the brain stem, frontal lobes, neurons, cerebral hemispheres, and corpus callosum under the Triune Brain Model), and man-made structures for collective intelligence (cities, libraries, books, computers, and satellites). The episode ends with speculation on alien intelligence and the information conveyed on the Voyager Golden Record.