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What is space made of? Hmmm…how to answer that. Consider what you are asking. Is space made of nothing since is a vacuum or is it the sum of its parts. Parts like matter, dark matter, antimatter, trace elements, and gases. What about the cosmic microwave background radiation? Are you interested on a philosophical plane of scientific? Since Universe Today is a purely scientific venture, I will ignore the philosophical and throw out a few facts and let you decide what space is made of.
If space is the sum of its parts, then it is made of everything that we know. Matter, dark matter, hydrogen, iron, helium, etc. Solar energy arrives on our planet. It traveled through the interstellar medium to get here. If the interstellar medium is space, then space is made of dust and both simple and complex molecules. In fact, scientists have found carbon-based molecules as complex as ethyl formate and n-propyl cyanide with 11 and 12 atoms respectively. One other item to think about is this, if space is a nothingness, how did planets accrete. Would the material that fused together be considered as having been part of space at one time?
Alright, that was a little talky, but what about the cosmic microwave background radiation(CMBR)? The CMBR is electromagnetic radiation that fills the Universe. That is a scientific fact that has been proven using radio telescopes. Since the CMBR fills the Universe, it there for fills space, and; therefore, space can be considered to be made of the CMBR.
The problem with answering a question like what is space made of, is the basic concept of space itself. Space could be empty if your consider that everything in the Universe is ‘in’ space. If you consider space to be the sum of everything outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, then space is a whole lot of things. I guess, from my point of view anyway, there is no concrete way to answer the question.
We’ve also recorded a series of episodes of Astronomy Cast about every planet in the Solar System. Start here, Episode 49: Mercury.