Grown Man in the Stellar Crib: Now What?

Print Article
Posted on October 14, 2005 in Cosmology

The cover of Science News has a strange cartoon explained on the inside in an article by Ron Cowen:

Imagine peering into a nursery and seeing, among the cooing babies, a few that look like grown men.  That’s the startling situation that astronomers have stumbled upon as they’ve looked deep into space and thus back to a time when newborn galaxies filled the cosmos.  Some of these babies have turned out to be nearly as massive as the Milky Way and other galactic geezers that have taken billions of years to form.  Despite being only about 800 million years old, some of the infants are chock-full of old stars. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

So that explains the star with the face of Jimmy Durante cuddled with infant starlets with their blankies in the maternity ward.  Astronomers, though, aren’t laughing.  Finding galactic geezers in the stellar nursery is throwing their cosmological models out of whack:

These chunky babies may be pointing to a cosmic crisis.  They don’t seem to fit the leading theory of galaxy formation, which cosmologists have relied on for more than 2 decades to explain an assortment of puzzling features of the universe.  The theory posits that a pervasive, slow-moving, invisible type of matter vastly outweighs the observable matter in the universe.  Under the gravitational influence of this unseen material, known as cold dark matter (SN: 4/23/05, p. 264), galaxies start out as small, starry fragments that merge to become much bigger objects.  That’s usually a gradual process, according to the theory.

Cowen said that astronomers might tolerate a few exceptions, but most of the anomalous findings are relatively recent.  “But over the past 18 months, several teams have found so many massive galaxies from this early epoch that the theory is being stretched to its breaking point,” he stated as the feeling among astronomers.  These disturbing findings have a ripple effect:

Even if the theory of cold dark matter survives this onslaught, the new observations of big galaxies in the most ancient of times have important implications.  The findings suggest that the earliest galaxies formed stars in a great hurry, much more rapidly than galaxies that were born even a billion years later did.  What’s more, that first generation of stars might have been rife with heavyweights much more massive, on average, than stars from any later epoch.

An example in Cowen’s article was also reported by Robert Roy Britt in Space.Com.  They both spoke of a galaxy in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (03/09/2004) that bulked up “amazingly quickly” if understood in the context of leading theory (09/29/2005).  Proponents of the cold dark matter theory are not yet ready to admit defeat, but are concerned if more and more mature galaxies with mature stars in them will continue to show up in surveys from earliest epochs of the universe.  One astronomer admitted, “There could be a problem with the theory.”  Another feared, “the theory won’t be salvaged with just a small bit of tinkering.”
    Meanwhile, another pair of astronomers is saying, “Cold dark matter – who needs it?”  Cooperstock and Tieu published a paper on ArXiv that demonstrates how galaxy rotation curves could be understood without invoking massive, unseen halos of dark matter.  Britt also took note of that proposal on  Their model, which uses ordinary general relativity instead of dark matter, was tested initially with individual galaxies.  Next, they want to test it with clusters of galaxies.

Instant galaxies and stars with appearance of age – that sounds like creation, not evolution.  If God stretched out the heavens in the beginning, as it says multiple places in the Bible, it could have done weird things to space and time, such as making things look older than they really are.  But abrupt appearance would be the rule, just like it is in the fossil record of life on earth.

No comments have been left

Leave a Reply