January 23, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Stardate: Destruction Estimate Was 0.1% Correct

According to a press release from JPL’s Spitzer Space Telescope team, the famous Eagle Nebula “Pillars of Creation” are eroding fast.  A supernova that was possibly witnessed by humans 1,000 to 2,000 years ago is sending a blast wave at the structures.  An earlier supernova that may have occurred 6,000 years ago has probably already torn them apart.  Because the nebula is 7,000 light-years away, humans won’t see the destruction for another 1,000 years, the report says.
    Ker Than reporting this for Space.com mentioned an earlier link on Space.com from 2002 that claimed these pillars were eroding, and “might have only a million or so years to go.”  Rodger Thompson was quoted as saying, “It is hard to estimate the end point, but it will probably be in less than a million years, since most of the material has already been dissipated.”  Yes, far less: about a tenth of a percent of a million years.

Astronomers toss around millions of years recklessly.  If they were charged a penny for every year their estimates are found to be inflated, they would be a lot more careful.  Couching the fluff with qualifiers like a million years or less is like saying “Your house is worth $300 million, or less,” or “Honey, I’ll be home at 3007 AD, or sooner.”

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