Describing Star and Galaxy Growth Without Looking
Astronomers seem to know a lot about star birth and galaxy growth. This is a strange thing, since no one has watched the process from start to finish. Stars and galaxies are clearly observed in various shapes, sizes, and patterns. How reliable is it to arrange them into an evolutionary sequence?
One way is with computers. National Geographic News reported on work by astronomers at University of Edinburgh who got their computers to generate stars as spin-offs of black holes. Imagine a gas cloud approaching a black hole. “It begins rotating, and gas at the leading edge experiences a kickback of energy that flings it outward from the black hole and forms new stars.” One astronomer outside the study had this to say: “As satisfying as the new results are, the case for disk fragmentation as the origin for the disk stars remains unproven.” He pointed out that no such clouds are seen coming anywhere near the supermassive black hole assumed to exist at the center of the Milky Way.
How do galaxies grow? That was the question asked by the title of an article on PhysOrg. More audaciously, Science Daily added the line, “Massive Galaxies Caught in the Act of Merging.” It seems that the European Very Large Telescope (VLT) and Hubble Space Telescope found some cluster members 4 billion light-years away that show peculiar arrangements that suggest mergers are happening. “This discovery provides unique and powerful validation of hierarchical formation as manifested in both galaxy and cluster assembly,” the article claims. Not only that, the astronomers claim that the stars were born 3 billion years earlier and were not affected by the mergers.
Science should thrive on controversy and alternative models. It is disturbing to see astronomers make statements that go far beyond the evidence with impunity. Imagination may roam free among the stars, but the fact is, our bodies are stuck on Planet Earth. Our theories should be grounded in that reality.