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 […]

Cosmic Baby Boom Becomes Baby Explosion

There has been a trend in deep space astronomy to find more and more mature-looking stars and galaxies farther back in time (04/06/2005, 03/10/2005, 07/08/2005).  That trend just doubled or tripled.  An announcement in Nature1 (see press release by European Southern Observatory), a thousand galaxies were found at distances corresponding to estimated ages of 9 […]

Can Atheism Breathe in an Anthropic Universe?

Astronomers Martin Rees and Mario Livio considered “Anthropic Reasoning” in a Science perspectives article.1  The question bears not only on SETI, and whether intelligent life exists elsewhere, but why it exists here.  They state the issue: We can imagine universes where the constants of physics and cosmology have different values.  Many such “counterfactual” universes would […]

Planet Orbiting Triple Star Tightens Noose on Planet Formation Theories

The discovery of a planet orbiting a triple star system (see JPL Press Release), described by Maciej Konacki in Nature,1 has delivered a severe challenge to theorists.  In short, the environment is “particularly prohibitive” for planet formation.  This Jupiter-size planet should not be there.     Planet-formation theories have taken a triple whammy lately.  The […]

Stars: Born of Violence, or Doing Violence to Theories?

Two stunning images from the giant orbiting telescopes are breeding tales of violence, but the reader can decide if the trauma is building stars and planets, or pummeling theories. tells about the new Spitzer infrared photo of Eta Carina, announcing, “As they destroy the huge cloud that is their home, wildly energetic stars may […]

Late Stars Found Early On

A press release from the Spitzer Space Telescope team reports that the oldest, most distant galaxies ever seen already had well-developed stars.  It claims that the light has taken 13 billion years to reach us. “It seems that in a couple of cases these early galaxies are nearly as massive as galaxies we see around […]

Great Telescopes Converge on Kepler’s Supernova

The last supernova in our galaxy seen from earth was described October 9, 1604, by Johannes Kepler, a few years before the invention of the telescope.  Now, on the 400th anniversary of that observation, three of NASA’s “Great Observatory” orbiting telescopes – the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope and the Hubble Space […]

Multispectral Galaxy Studies Contradict Theories

The latest issue of Caltech’s magazine Engineering and Science1 has beautiful pictures of galaxies taken in ultraviolet by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), and in the infrared by Hubble’s sister, the Spitzer Space Telescope.  Combining images of the same galaxy in visible, ultraviolet and infrared is helping astronomers figure out their structure, and as D. […]
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