The World Exhibition of Cosmonauts in Warsaw – “Discovering the Universe” tells the story of the conquest of space, from the first and historical experiments to the current and future expeditions of space travel. Visiting such exhibitions (and not only), we ask ourselves: where did we come from, where did the universe come from and where is evolution headed?

Flights to Cosmos are becoming increasingly available to almost everyone. Interestingly, one of the first flights from Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, was also taken by elderly people. A four-person crew flew to Cosmos, including 58-year-old Bezos and 82-year-old American Wally Funk. Funk previously worked for NASA and received proper training, but failed to qualify for spaceflight early because in the 1960s, astronauts could only be test pilots, and they could only be males.

All the things we see with the naked eye in the night sky are stars that make up a galaxy called the Milky Way, which is made up of about 200 billion stars. The stars move in circles whose centers are in the center of the galaxy. One of these stars is our sun. As far as we know, our galaxy as a whole maintains the gravitational force between objects (gravitational pull works between all objects, without exception). We do not yet know the essence of these interactions that form the basis of the universe’s existence.

The universe originated about 15 billion years ago in a fraction of a second at the Big Bang. Until the Big Bang, all of the universe’s energy was concentrated in a “singularity” the size of a pinhead (a singularity – a point or line where gravitational acceleration or matter density is unlimited). At first, the universe was very small, very hot, and very dense. From the moment of the explosion, it was rapidly expanding and creating space. Then some of the pure energy released is condensed and matter is formed. From energy, matter can arise, and vice versa. The resulting particles, such as quarks, electrons, neutrinos, and others, fill space more densely. We now know that all things, including us, consist of what are called elementary particles. The formation of hard-to-understand elementary particles is being studied at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva in the so-called Large Hadron Collider (LHC). With a circumference of 27 km, 100 meters underground, it accelerates particles to gigantic energies. The collision occurs every 25 nanoseconds.

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After 380,000 years, the universe was getting colder and electrons could already form clouds around the previously formed nuclei (the neutrons and protons forming the nuclei consist of quarks), and thus the first atoms of the lighter elements – hydrogen and helium – were formed. . Then the photons – particles of light (photons – have no mass and rush at the highest possible speed (known to us)), can separate from matter and begin to move freely in space. light up the universe. Photons combine the properties of particles and waves. They can collide with particles just like particles, but they can also be wave-like in nature. Thanks to the knowledge about photons, we have a laser, or we can transmit huge amounts of information through optical fibers.

After hundreds of millions of years, clouds composed of hydrogen and helium atoms, under the influence of gravity, heat up to a temperature at which nuclear reactions (conversion of hydrogen into helium) can occur. The force of gravity is now countered by the force of gas pressure. The higher the density of the gas, the higher the pressure. This is how stars are formed. Some of them are huge and will explode over time. These reactions produce many new chemical elements, such as silicon, phosphorous, gold and carbon, as well as oxygen and nitrogen, which later make life possible. The order around us consists of about 100 elements. Even in the early 1930s, matter seemed to consist of three particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons, which is also what schools teach: an atom is made up of a nucleus (protons and neutrons) and its surrounding electrons, described in Mendeleev’s table, two numbers: atomic number and mass number. In the following years, new particles that make up protons and neutrons, called quarks, began to be discovered.

Mass is not equal to mass

We know different types of energy, for example thermal energy, nuclear energy, gravitational energy, and energy related to mass. Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity, published in “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,” combined space and time, introducing the concept of spacetime. According to this theory, the speed with which an object is moving cannot be greater than the speed of light. The result of this theory is the famous formula E = mc2, which relates the total energy of an object E to its mass and velocity in vacuum C. Einstein woven the gravitational field, space and time into a single structure called spacetime. Gravitational forces are distinguished here from all interactions and are interpreted as a symptom of space-time curvature. Matter through its mass deflects space-time, which in turn determines the movement of matter through its curvature.

Mass is one of the greatest mysteries of physics. Each tossed item falls and when weighed it has its own weight. We know that our bodies are made of atoms and that the atoms and the elementary particles that make up them (the elementary particle is the one that has no internal structure – it doesn’t consist of anything anymore), has mass (not all of them). The last (perhaps not the last) explanation came with the discovery of the Higgs particle. At the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), in 2012, the so-called Higgs boson and the existence of a new, long-awaited particle, which was named the Higgs particle, was confirmed after Professor Peter Higgs, who has been trying to prove its existence for more than 30 years, was confirmed. According to the professor’s concept, the universe has been since its inception and is now a space filled with a field that interacts with elementary particles, and it can be said that it “sticks to these particles”. The more strongly the particles interact with this field, the “heavier” it is, the weaker it is, the lighter it is, and thus the Higgs field gives the particles mass.

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Is dark matter dark?

Scientists speculate that in the universe, apart from the substance of which everything is made, there is another “material” that cannot be seen. Ordinary and visible matter – intergalactic gas, stars, nebulae, planets, we are only 5% of the universe. Since we do not “see” this “other” substance, it has been called dark. If it’s not visible, why do we think it exists? One theory says that because the gravitational interactions between planets, stars, and galaxies, which indicate what their paths should be, does not quite agree with the calculations, it may indicate that there is another interaction besides gravity. Exactly – dark matter.

The theory of relativity also predicts the existence of so-called black holes that we now assume are stuck at the centers of most galaxies, often acting as powerful engines to power the range of energy phenomena observed in the universe. A black hole is a star of such massive mass and density that light can escape from it. Thus, the black hole is invisible to observers. Its existence can be expected thanks to the phenomena that occur in the surrounding gravitational field.

And just as the universe is big, we don’t know much about it yet.

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