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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.  Space.com 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. […]

Delicate Planet Dance Disturbs Theories

Theorists have been thrown a curve ball with the discovery of a planet orbiting a binary star.  It appears that the gravitational tug on a hypothetical dust disk would have prevented the possibility of a planet forming around one of its members, but Gamma-Cephei has one.  “The formation of a planet in a binary star […]

Solar Systems Defy Theories

Stuart Ross Taylor (Australian National University, Canberra) feels left behind.  The astronomers have their nice, neat H-R diagrams to explain stars, but no such diagram exists for planetary scientists.  Our hodgepodge collection of planets, moons and small bodies defies classification, to say nothing of the extrasolar planets that have been discovered so far, mostly in […]

Infant Cosmos Was Already Elderly

At first, they weren’t sure it was real or they were just seeing things.  Now, it’s inescapable.  As far back as cosmologists can see, there were already mature galaxies.  That’s the thrust of two papers in the July 8 issue of Nature1,2 and a commentary on them by Keck Observatory astronomer Greg Wirth3, who says […]

Tau Ceti a Star for Life to Avoid

Tau Ceti, a star with a dust disk astronomers had hoped might be an example of a planetary system under construction, is more like a war zone.  A press release from the Royal Observatory calls it “Asteroid Alley – an Inhospitable Neighbor.”  Using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, the astronomers detected 10 times […]

Young Planet Around Young Star Claimed

A star estimated to be one million years old already has a planet in orbit around it, the Spitzer Space Telescope (Hubble’s counterpart for infrared astronomy) has found.  Astrobiology Magazine says this challenges old theories.  Alan Boss (Carnegie Institute) thinks this supports his disk-instability model for planetary formation, in which gas giants can form quickly, […]

Hot Jupiter!  Exoplanets Found Very Close to Stars

Two examples of Jupiter-size planets have been found by the European Southern Observatory.  They are so close to their parent stars, they orbit in less than two earth-days each.  Mercury would be 17 times farther out than one of them.  They belong to a new class of exoplanets scientists are terming “hot Jupiters.” A few […]

Lutherans Helped Copernicus

Every once in awhile, we are confronted to reconsider things we “know” are true, only to find out the truth is closer to the opposite.  The usual spin on Nicolaus Copernicus is that he was a brave scientist who threatened the church with his discovery that the earth orbits the sun, not the sun the […]
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