The Big Bang wasn’t an explosion. Visualize it like this.

NASA's Michelle Thaller explains why the term 'Big Bang' is misleading, and how to best imagine the shape of the universe.

  • Where exactly did the Big Bang happen? Well, nowhere—and everywhere. As NASA's Michelle Thaller explains, thinking of the origins of our universe as an explosion with a central hub is misleading.
  • "The Big Bang wasn't an explosion of matter, it was an expansion of space itself," she says. We don't know how big the universe is, but the general consensus is that there is no edge to the universe, and no center either.
  • To visualize the Big Bang accurately, imagine an inflated balloon and pay attention just to the surface of it — "Pretend that there's no such thing as inside or outside of the balloon, just the two-dimensional surface of the rubber." We are living on the surface of that balloon, only able to shine a light in one direction or the other. All of it is expanding and every part of it is filled with galaxies—no matter where you are in the universe.

Why spiritualizing the cosmos is a disservice to science and religion

Where is God? Michelle Thaller lays out a cosmic view of religion, science, and the human condition.

  • Ancient humans believed lightning, seasons, and other unexplainable natural phenomenon were the acts of gods, but what happens when scientific discovery unravels those mysteries?
  • NASA astronomer and science communicator Michelle Thaller explains how scientific discovery has changed the search for God, and that religion may be something that happens between people, if they choose, rather than out there in the cosmos.
  • It's not a miracle that Earth is the perfect incubator for human life—we were created by the laws of the universe, and in those laws we can find great beauty and belonging.

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Where might we find aliens? Ice moons, methane oceans, and the red planet

We may not find Klingons, but what we do find will blow our terrestrial minds.

  • Want to place a bet on when we'll discover alien life? NASA's Michelle Thaller thinks it'll be within the next 50 years.
  • "I actually have a bottle of champagne chilling because I think it could happen almost any day, when some of our rovers or some of our satellites around other planets come back with really interesting data," says Thaller.
  • What will our first proof of alien life be like? Most likely microbial, but even those microbes will reveal so much: Does it have DNA? Is it similar to us? Is it different from us? How else can life evolve? These questions—and answers—will change our view of the universe forever.

How ‘The Goblin’ may unravel the mystery of Planet Nine

Around Halloween in 2015, astronomers discovered 'The Goblin'. Now, it's leading us to what some call Planet X.

  • 'The Goblin' is a dwarf planet known more formally as '2015 TG387'. It was nicknamed The Goblin because of the 'TG' in its title, and because of the time of year it was discovered: Halloween.
  • The Goblin has an extreme orbit: far-flung and elongated. It takes 40,000 years to make a complete orbit around the Sun.
  • This cosmic anomaly is a clue. Astronomers hypothesize that The Goblin is being pulled into the gravitational field of a 'Super-Earth' planet in our solar system that is believed to exist but has never been seen: the mysterious Planet Nine or Planet X.