Articles » Astronomy
More Excitment from Cassini
As far as our solar system is concerned, astronomers have grown accustomed to expecting the unexpected. Certainly nobody expected liquid water spewing from a small moon of Saturn. Read the rest of this entry »
Mankind has always been fascinated by the night sky. Indeed it seems that some of the earliest recorded observations from nature were astronomical. For example, in the mid nineteenth century, English archaeologists uncovered a huge library of clay tablets in the palace of Assyrian Emperor Sennecherib of Nineveh, who lived about seven hundred years B.C. Among other clay tablets were detailed records concerning the planet Venus. It’s interesting that the pattern of appearances and absences from the sky is different from what we see today. It’s hard to say if the observations were accurate, but we do know that many of these ancients took their studies very seriously. The wise men in the gospels are a good example. Moreover an earlier document, the book of Job, mentions constellations such as the Pleiades. Read the rest of this entry »
Nothing New Under the Sun
Ever since the efforts of mankind at the tower of Babel, when the people sought to construct their own society based on their own agenda, the search for the perfect man-devised society has continued through the centuries. Indeed, since the advent of Enlightenment thinking in Europe in the eighteenth century, secular mankind has placed a particularly high value on his ability, based on reason alone, to find solutions to social problems. Recently we saw an example of this attitude in the pronouncements of Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. This man is the philosophical successor of Carl Sagan who declared: “The universe is all there is, or was, or ever will be” (in his famous Cosmos series on the history of the universe). More recently Dr. Tyson has hosted a remake of Sagan’s Cosmos series for public television. Read the rest of this entry »
Pioneer 10 Just Keeps Going and Going
It seems almost too amazing to contemplate. Measured from its antennae, Pioneer 10 extends less than 3 m (9 feet) and weighs about 270 kg (570 lb.). Its power comes from four nuclear generators each of which provided only 40 watts at launch, 29 years ago. Now that spacecraft is almost 12 billion km alway (7 billion miles). Despite the immense distance and the tiny onboard power source, a message from Pioneer 10 was successfully detected on April 28/01 by a tracking station in Spain. Some people might wonder how signals from Pioneer 10 are recognized from so far away. Apparently there is a new analytical technique based on chaos theory, which may enable scientists to sift real signals out of background noise. Read the rest of this entry »
According to astronomer/author Timothy Ferris in his new book The Whole Shebang: A State of the Universe(s) Report, cosmologist Andrei Linde considers speculation on ultimate origins an excitingly “dangerous” subject. (1997 published by Simon and Schuster see p. 260) Apparently Dr. Linde sometimes wakes up wracked by doubt. Maybe all the speculations in cosmology are simply myths, with no foundation in reality at all. Author Ferris quotes Linde as remarking “Maybe actually the solution is quite aside from what we’re thinking about. It is a very dangerous feeling, this feeling that you’re not totally secure in what you’re doing.” It is one thing to have tentative views, but why should this scientist consider his to be dangerous? What or whom does he fear? Certainly fellow cosmologists have no similar scruples. A review of Dr. Ferris’ book in Astronomy magazine July 1997 p. 108 claims “His work is a tour de force, a spiral galaxy of thoughts recounted in eloquent and vibrant prose.” We are advised to “Relish its prose, ponder its implications.” Well then let’s do it. Let’s see what the implications of cosmology are for us today. Read the rest of this entry »
So NEAR yet so far
Most of us appreciate the word “young”, especially when it is used to describe us. However there is one class of individual that does not particularly like this adjective. These are astronomers. They don’t mind looking young themselves. However they do not want to hear about phenomena in space which appear recent or young. Many astronomers believe that our solar system is billions of years old. There should not be too many phenomena (or any) in space that are of very recent origin. Read the rest of this entry »
The Universe: Elegant, Ugly, or Complex?
While secular astronomers and cosmologists agree that the universe is beautiful, they mean something altogether different from mere appearance of celestial objects. What the scientists appreciate is elegant mathematical equations. They care very little about actual bodies out in space. However, the relationship of mathematics to the universe is a matter of assumption. Read the rest of this entry »
They Didn’t Need Pluto Anymore
It is easy to imagine the excitement astronomers felt when the telescope was invented early in the seventeenth century. Until that time, mankind’s observations had been confined to five bright planets, moving against a starry background. Nevertheless 150 more years passed until another planet was discovered. In England in 1781, German-born musician and telescope maker, Sir William Herschel, announced that he had discovered a new planet. This body was named Uranus after the most ancient of the Greek gods. Read the rest of this entry »
Voyager I Finally Did It!
Launched in 1977, the two Voyager probes have seen some strange and unexpected sights as they cruised through our solar system. After passing the planets, the probes have continued outward towards the farthest reaches of the solar system. In the summer of 2012, Voyager I was now 18.2 billion km away from us, more than three times the distance between the sun and Pluto. The solar system however by definition consists not only of the planets, but of the volume in space to which the sun’s particles extend, or in other words the volume in space which is impacted by the sun. The question everybody was asking, was how long would it take Voyager I to leave the solar system and enter interstellar space? And what would Voyager find when it got to interstellar space? Read the rest of this entry »
Watch Out For Deep Space
It’s a scary place out there. Dangerous rays and strange bodies make deep space a good place to avoid. The Hubble Space Telescope (functioning since late 1993), and other observatory satellites like the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory or CGRO (launched April 5, 1991), and Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer or XTE (launched December 30, 1995) and Beppo-SAX (launched April 20, 1996), have provided us with an information overload when it comes to the wonders of space. If each type of body in space, such as stars and galaxies, functioned in predictable ways, then astronomers might have a pretty good grasp on what is going on out there. Recent observations made with these fancy new observatories however, have revealed a plethora of unexpected and unexplained phenomena. Vast numbers of objects which should act in similar ways, all seem to be doing their own thing. Read the rest of this entry »
Watch That Speed Limit
One of the few laws strictly adhered to in modern physics is that the speed of light is, was, and ever shall be 300,000 kilometres per second. Light represents the fastest speed attainable by anything in the universe. It is the universe’s speed limit. Nothing can exceed it. Read the rest of this entry »
Who Cares About Astronomy Anyway?
Once the heady days of the moon landings had faded into history, many people grew bored with space exploration. Some Christians even concluded that the main objectives were atheistic or evolution-based anyway, so why should we support such endeavours?
It is certainly true that the main objectives for exploration of the solar system are based on evolutionary preconceptions. According to longtime NASA scientist Dr. Robert Jastrow, exploration of the moon initially did not seem very interesting to the NASA planners. In his 1989 book Journey to the Stars, Dr. Jastrow declares that the top people at NASA “were not terribly interested in the moon at that time, in fact, from a scientific point of view they did not know it existed …” (p 12). This was certainly strange when one considers that the mandate for the fledgling organization was to launch the US into space as soon as possible, and to explore what was there. Read the rest of this entry »
Why Smash the Model?
It is unusual in science to find most experts anxious to destroy the reigning paradigm. This however is the situation in physics where just about everyone is anxious to “break” the “frustratingly successful standard model” (Nature September 11/08 p. 156). This model “describes every known form of matter, from individual atoms to the farthest galaxies” (p. 156) and also three of the four fundamental forces in nature. The data to develop the Standard Model were collected from fancy particle smashing experiments. One might imagine that these scientists would be pleased with such a successful model, but they are not. The mathematics behind the model does not suit their philosophical assumptions. Read the rest of this entry »