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Darwin Stars at the Galaxy, by Universal Pictures

A press release from the European Southern Observatory asks, “Do Galaxies Follow Darwinian Evolution?”  One may wonder how stars, which do not bear children, can be considered progeny of Charles Darwin.  They explain: The ‘nature versus nurture’ debate is a hot topic in human psychology.  But astronomers too face similar conundrums, in particular when trying […]

Nature Potpourri

Articles of interest from Nature have been piling up in the CEH queues.  Perhaps a brief mention is better than nothing, before they fall into archive oblivion. Carbon 14:  In the Sept 14 issue, there was a give & take between critics of a carbon-14-dated study and the author.  The critics pointed out, “We appreciate […]

Deep Field Survey Shows Oldest Galaxies Yet

Astronomers continue to find mature galaxies at higher and higher redshifts.  The latest record, reported in Nature,1 is z=6.96, interpreted to mean the galaxy was present 700 million years after the big bang (usually dated at 13.7 billion years ago).  A survey of distant galaxies from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), also reported in […]

Whistling in the Dark Matter Debate

Who’s right?  Douglas Clowe’s team at U of Arizona claimed two weeks ago that they found dark matter in the Bullet Cluster – they even had a picture of it.  The Chandra X-Ray Center called it “direct proof” of dark matter.  Two days later, EurekAlert posted a story about a new proposal to bring back […]

Upset Update: Globular Clusters, Atmospheric Methane Tear Up Textbooks

Here are a couple of updates to stories we reported earlier in the category “Everything we thought was wrong.” Globular cluster ages:  Our 10/05/2003 entry reported that beliefs about globular cluster ages were undergoing a radical revision.  You can almost feel the rumblings in a related story on News@Nature; “In a complex Universe, astronomers thought […]

Early Large Spiral Galaxy Resembles Milky Way

Astronomers using adaptive optics at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile took spectra of a galaxy at red-shift 2.38 described as an “early young galaxy” that must have, according to current theory, formed very rapidly, because it looks like the Milky Way.  The observations by Genzel et al., published in Nature,1 were described […]

Stellar Habitable Zones: Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

Astronomers concerned with the origin of life on earth have long thought about the “habitable zone” (sometimes called continuously habitable zone, or CHZ) of our solar system.  They’ve discussed this aerobee-shaped zone around our sun – or any star – mainly in terms of locations where the temperature would permit water to exist as a […]

Paper View:  Why SETI Hears Only a “Great Silence”

Enrico Fermi posed a curious question in 1950: “Where is everybody?”  If life emerges on planets as a consequence of evolution, there should be other intelligent civilizations out there, and some of them must have colonized other worlds.  He thought there must have been plenty of time for galactic colonizers to achieve technologies far beyond […]

Astrobiology Ten Years Later: Can It Justify Its Funding?

Astrobiology just turned ten years old, but is experiencing growing pains, partly due to a starvation diet.  This “science without a subject” (as George Gaylord Simpson quipped about its predecessor, exobiology) is struggling to justify itself at the Congressional feeding trough.  Proponents tout it as the most important subject in the universe.  Why, then, is […]

More Hints at Early Origin of Stars, Galaxies

Several articles this month showed further evidence for a growing realization in astronomy: stars and galaxies were already mature at the beginning of the universe (see, for instance, 09/21/2005 entry).  Some recent examples: Spitzer Clusters:  JPL issued a press release stating that the Spitzer Space Telescope, on a “cosmic safari,” found evidence for clusters of […]

Planet-Making a Lost Art

Exclusive  Solar system theorists are trying to reverse engineer the planets without the recipe.  Planets exist, but they can’t get from a rotating disk of dust and gas to a solar system from their models.  They are at a loss to explain Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and a host of Jupiter-class planets around other stars. […]

Spiral Galaxies Wind Up Into Blurs In Short Cosmological Time

Cosmic billions of years received another challenge.  Sky and Telescope reported on a announcement by Michael R. Merrifield (University of Nottingham, England), Richard J. Rand and Sharon E. Meidt (University of New Mexico) in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that they measured the velocity of gases in the spiral galaxy, M77, and found […]
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