How Scary Is Space?

Get Ready for Galactic Goosebumps!

In a scary Halloween movie, monsters, ghouls, and haunted houses can give you the creeps! Those things are, of course, just stories that were made up to give you a fright. If you want a real scare, check out these nine unearthly nightmares that could be happening right now in our own galaxy. Eek!

Click the "Next" arrow below to flip through the slideshow…if you dare.

Scary scenes featuring Jupiter.

Artist’s concept. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Miranda the Monster Moon

Miranda is an icy moon of Uranus, the seventh planet from our Sun. If you look closely at Miranda, you’ll notice a mismatched appearance. Are those scars a sign that this moon was patched together like Frankenstein’s monster? Nope! Those patches are actually deep craters, high ridges, and extreme cliffs.

More about the moons in our solar system

More about Miranda

Miranda, an icy moon of Uranus.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A Frightening Face on the Sun

When NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this picture of our Sun in October 2014, it looked like the Sun was getting ready for Halloween! You can light up the face of a jack-o-lantern at home with a candle or flashlight. What’s lighting up this Sun pumpkin’s face? Active regions of the Sun that emit large amounts of light and energy. And on that day in October, those regions happened to look like a ghoulish grin!

Learn more about solar activity

Picture of our Sun in October 2014.

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO

Death by Spaghettification?

A black hole is an object with gravity so strong that nothing—not even light—can escape. Because of this, we can’t really see black holes, but we can see how they pull on the stars and objects around them. It may sound wild, but there’s actually one at the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Movies sometimes show a black hole as a gateway to another world. Could that happen in real life? Probably not. Instead, scientists think that if you really got too close to a black hole, the pull of gravity would be so strong that you’d be stretched into a long, thin noodle of material.

Learn more about black holes

Visit NASA’s (silly) Guide to Black Hole Safety

Artist's concept of a black hole.

Artist’s concept. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Unending Darkness on the Moon

Imagine a place with no sunlight at all. Not a single ray of it. Did you know a place like that exists in our very own solar system? It’s a fact! The Moon turns as it orbits Earth each month, exposing nearly its entire surface to sunlight. However, the Sun never rises above the rims of some craters near the Moon's poles. The floors of those craters haven’t seen the Sun for billions of years! So if you’re planning a trip to the bottom of one of these craters, be sure to bring a flashlight.

Learn about how the Moon got its craters

Dark craters on the Moon.

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Spine-tingling Space Sounds

Sound is absent in the vacuum of space. That means to the human ear, space is a very quiet place. But we can detect energy in space with other kinds of waves. Sometimes, to better understand cosmic events, NASA scientists turn those other energy waves into sound that we can here. For example, about 11 seconds into this sound clip below, you’ll hear the change when NASA’s Juno spacecraft crossed into Jupiter’s immense and extreme magnetic field.


Find plenty of other scary space sounds here

Image of Jupiter.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

The “Spiders” on Mars

In the spring on Mars, spiders emerge from the ground. OK, they’re not actually spiders, but from high above, they sure look like creepy crawlies. When frozen carbon dioxide below the planet’s surface warms enough, it transforms from solid to gas. The trapped gas builds in pressure until it breaks through the Martian surface as a jet. As the jet shoots through the surface, it scatters dark dust around the vent. That’s what creates these spider-like features on the surface.

Practice exploring the surface of Mars with this rover game!

Image of dark dust around Mars vents.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Deadly Winds, Rains of Molten Glass

Exoplanets are planets outside our solar system. And there are some pretty wild worlds out there! For example, from a distance, the planet depicted in this drawing, called HD 189733 b, has a blue color makes it look a bit like Earth. But the weather on this world is nothing like Earth at all. Can you handle winds that travel seven times the speed of sound? Or blowing raindrops made of molten glass? Probably more comfortable to stick around on our own blue planet!

Check out a few more extreme exoplanets here

Drawing of the exoplanet HD 189733 b.

Artist’s concept. Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

A Skull in Our Solar System

A creepy, skull shaped asteroid called 2015 TB145 tumbled past Earth around Halloween in 2015. Scientists later figured out that it was likely a comet that burned out. The skull-shaped asteroid measured about 2,000 feet, or 600 meters wide. Imagine if that was the skull of a pretend giant human. At that size, the person would have to have been three miles (4.5 kilometers) tall!

What’s the difference between an asteroid and a comet? Learn more here!

A creepy, skull shaped asteroid called 2015 TB145.

Image credit: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF

Rest in Peace, Robots

Satellites that orbit Earth can keep working for a very long time. But where do they go when they reach the end of their lives? Well, if satellites are small enough and close enough, they dive into Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. If the spacecraft is too far away to head back toward Earth, the satellite is instead sent into a far out “graveyard orbit,” many thousands of miles away from Earth. Out there, the dead satellite won’t burn up, but it will at least stay out of the way of active, working satellites.

Learn all about what happens to spacecraft when they die

Illustration of a spacecraft with a grey beard.

Still not scared off?

Go on a Haunted Hayride with our friends at NASA Solar System Exploration!

Listen to the story here

Nebula that looks like a ghost.

Image credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona CC BY-SA 3.0

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article last updated October 29, 2020

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