Water, Water Everywhere

A press release from the Max Planck Institute says that water has been detected at a distant quasar 11.1 billion light-years away – the farthest detection of water yet.  “The water vapour is thought to exist in clouds of dust and gas that feed the supermassive black hole at the centre of the distant quasar,” […]

It Takes a Stellar Village

Do galaxies embark on a purpose-driven life?  The language in an article about galaxy evolution in Science Daily makes such seamless use of personal terms with natural processes, it’s hard to know where the data ends and the interpretation begins.     “Galaxy Zoo, which uses volunteers from the general public to classify galaxies, and […]

SETI Could Find Design in Neutrinos

Most of the scientists involved in SETI research are very antagonistic to Intelligent Design.  Nevertheless, they find the design inference perfectly “natural” when looking for ways to comb through natural phenomena for intelligently-designed signals.     Two new methods for detecting alien messages were reported by Science News in the Oct. 11 issue.1  Both involve […]

Bangin’ Around to Get Something New Under the Sun

You’ve heard of the Big Bang, and the Cambrian Explosion.  Now, to get the solar system started, astronomers have added a Little Bang to move things along in the naturalistic path from nothing to everything.  Science Daily, and PhysOrg all reprinted a press release from the Carnegie Institution claiming that a nearby supernova led […]

Star Death Amazing – but Puzzling

Twinkle, twinkle, little stBOOM!  The explosions of some dying stars are so powerful yet so rapid, mere measurements seem inadequate to describe them.  Two death-star events were reported in recent articles.  Despite the bravado of textbook orthodoxy, the articles both mentioned that astronomers really don’t understand what’s going on all that well.     Eta […]

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 […]

What Mean These Stars?

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in current astronomical models.  Two articles recently underscored the fact that astronomers still have a lot to learn. Cluster generation conundrum:  The members of globular star clusters were long thought to be old stars of the same age, like seniors at a care […]

Star Light, Star Bright, I Wish I Knew What’s Going On

Astronomy is fun, if for no other reason than it gives one endless opportunities to be shocked and surprised. Pulsar outside the box:  Theory has it all laid out nice and neat.  Pulsars form when a red giant drops matter onto a binary companion, making it go boom in a supernova, leaving behind a spinning […]

First Galaxies Fast and Compact

The old picture: after the big bang, matter is diffuse.  Out of the darkness, stars slowly begin to form, as the first galaxies take shape.  Galaxies start out large and slowly grow more dense and structured over billions of years.  The new picture: the first galaxies are very compact and dense, spinning rapidly, with stars […]

Hubble Snaps Colliding Galaxies

A new catalog of colliding galaxy images has been released by the Hubble Space Science Institute.  The 59 images show “close encounters that sometimes end in grand mergers and overflowing sites of new star birth as the colliding galaxies morph into wondrous new shapes.”  The release coincided with the 18th anniversary of the Hubble Space […]

Findings vs Surmisings in Astronomy

The Galex satellite (Galaxy Evolution Explorer) found “bright features” with an ultraviolet glow in the outskirts of a spiral galaxy, reported the BBC News.  What are they?  Scientists “think” they are large clusters of stars.  How much is known, and how much is interpreted?     The region imaged is the dark area around spiral […]

Astrobiology Justifying Itself

Is astrobiology a legitimate science?  Seth Shostak, director of the SETI Institute, tried to answer that question in the weekly SETI Thursday column on  He estimates there are “approximately a thousand scientists who would be proud to print ‘astrobiologist’ on their business cards.”  Astrobiology still gets a cool reception in some quarters.  Shostak likened […]

How to Avoid Dark Energy

Who needs dark energy?  Copernicus?  George Ellis (U. of Cape Town) said we could get rid of dark energy by throwing the Copernican Principle overboard.  Writing in Nature,1 he said that dark energy may simply be an artifact of the geometry of space-time.     Copernicus did not invent the Copernican Principle.  He was just […]

Is Cosmology Getting Wimp-y?

Physics and astronomy are usually thought of as the “hard” sciences, where empiricism is king.  Read the following excerpts from a story on the BBC News science page with that in mind (suggestion: replace “dark matter” with “mysterious unknown stuff”). The first stars to appear in the Universe may have been powered by dark matter, […]

Distant Galaxy Surprises Astronomers

Using the Hubble Space Telescope viewing a distant galaxy cluster as a gravitational lens, astronomers detected a new record-holder: a galaxy bright with stars almost as old as the big bang.  The story on Science Daily called this a galaxy, with redshift 7.6, a “strong contender for the galaxy distance record.”     According to […]
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