What is Space made of? by Andrea Pizzoferrato Student of Physics Translation by Luca Nardini
“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” [Star Trek - The future begins, 2009]
Virtual image created with Stellarium®.
You all certainly have looked up to the sky. You all have looked at it both during night and day. Therefore, you have seen the Sun, the clouds, the colors of sunset, the stars, maybe some comets and the Moon. However, paraphrasing Richard Feynman's words, compared to a scientist looking at the sky, would you see more or less than him? Your imagination, that completes what your eyes perceive... what is its limit? Apart from mere glows in the night, what do you see? During the day, what do stars look like? Well, let's take one step at the time. The universe is so big, whereas we are so small; is it rightful for us to study it? Easy question, difficult answer. The astrophysicist Carl Sagan used to say: “We are starstuff contemplating stars.” In the end, studying the universe also entails a journey inside our inner selves and our primordial nature, a study of the minuscule linked with immensity. Like every study that aims to grasp the basics behind something, before analyzing the clockworks of the huge clock that we call universe, we must look at this system as a whole and ask ourselves: what is space made of? Space is made of everything and nothing at the same time. Let's see why. Looking at a clear blue sky during the day, this is more or less what we would see: