A Possible Crisis in the Cosmos Could Lead to a New Understanding of the Universe

Thinking backwards, Lemaître inferred that today’s separating galaxies must have started out together in what he called the “primeval atom.” The VIKING data bolstered the KiDS data set by providing multiple observations of the same region of the sky in near-infrared wavelengths.

He points to the data collected by NASA’s Kepler Space Observatory, which suggests that as many as one out of every five planets is habitable. If that’s right, the cosmos could contain 10²¹ (that’s a billion trillion) habitable planets. Our best bet is probably to study the region immediately outside the event horizon. That’s where a radio telescope array known as the Event Horizon Telescope comes in. The EHT is a sort of electronic hookup of dozens of telescopes around the world — from California, Arizona, and Hawaii to Chile, Spain, and Antarctica. “We have no idea what goes on inside a black hole — unless we’re willing to jump into one,” says Starkman.

The “steady state” hypothesis held that the universe had essentially existed in the same form forever. That source, it turned out, is nuclear fusion—the process by which atomic nuclei join to create a larger nucleus and release energy. In 1925 astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin used the light spectra of stars to calculate their chemical abundances and found that, unlike Earth, they were made mainly of hydrogen and helium. Our first hint of the true nature of stars came in 1860, when Gustav Kirchhoff recognized that the dark lines in the spectrum of light coming from the sun were caused by different elements absorbing specific wavelengths. Astronomers analyzed similar features in the light of other bright stars and discovered that they were made of the same materials found on Earth—not of some mysterious “fifth essence” as the ancients had believed. In 1995, Robert Williams, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute at the time, pointed Hubble at an empty piece of sky and left it there for 10 days. His approach was risky — normally scientists use their precious telescope time to look at known objects.

It also includes the study of the nature of the universe on a large scale. In its earliest form, it was what is now known as “celestial mechanics”, the study of the heavens. Greek philosophers Aristarchus of Samos, Aristotle, and Ptolemy proposed different cosmological theories.

Recent research has introduced two wrinkles into the inflation theory’s cosmic narrative. Work by Steinhardt and others suggests that inflation would have stopped in some regions but continued in others, producing an array of separate territories with “every conceivable set of cosmological properties,” as Steinhardt puts it. Many physicists find this “multiverse” picture distasteful, because it makes an infinite number of untestable predictions. Alan Guth proposed a new picture of the first fraction of a second in the 1980s, suggesting that the universe spent its earliest moments growing exponentially faster than it does today. At some point this process stopped, and putting on the brakes produced a dense and hot mess of particles that takes the place of the singularity. “In my own mind I think of that as the Big Bang, when the universe got hot,” Farrar said. “There was a small window in time where it was possible for nuclei to form,” said Glennys Farrar, a cosmologist at New York University.

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Anaximander provided groundbreaking and, surprisingly, often relatively accurate visions of the cosmos that emphasized naturalistic explanations marking a shift towards a rational and scientific inquiry into the nature of the universe. His ideas were expressed with a clear departure from earlier cosmological views that relied on divine or mythical explanations. The best guess is that it’s made up of some kind of fast-moving particle that barely interacts with the ordinary matter that makes up the stars and the planets. Theoretically, these “weakly interacting” particles can pass unimpeded through miles of ordinary matter — which is why we spent millions of dollars on detectors like the one at Gran Sasso. In the far future, such a Universe would collapse onto itself into what we call a Big Crunch.

However, it is difficult to determine the distance to astronomical objects. One way is to compare the physical size of an object to its angular size, but a physical size must be assumed to do this. Another method is to measure the brightness of an object and assume an intrinsic luminosity, from which the distance may be determined using the inverse-square law. Due to the difficulty of using these methods, they did not realize that the nebulae were actually galaxies outside our own Milky Way, nor did they speculate about the cosmological implications.

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“We’re entering a new era,” says astronomer Swara Ravindranath of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. “Scientists suspect the Milky Way’s bar rotates cylindrically, like a toilet roll holder does as you unravel toilet paper, funneling gas into the galaxy’s center…” An artistic representation of the spiral barred galaxy ceers-2112, observed in the early universe. The Earth is reflected on an illusive bubble surrounding the galaxy, recalling the connection between the Milky Way and ceers-2112.

Probably the best-known of the classical civilizations of Mesoamerica, the Maya developed a sophisticated calendar based on their astronomical observations. Two of the best known, Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland, were already ancient when the pyramids were built and were the largest human-made structures anywhere in the world. The Greeks even came close to correctly calculating Earth’s circumference, thanks to Eratosthenes (276 B.C. to 195 B.C.), chief librarian at the Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt.

Religious or mythological cosmology

A paradigm shift occurs when unexplained phenomena overwhelm a scientific model. Though incredibly successful, the standard model of cosmology may be facing a crisis. This article is the seventh and final in a series exploring contradictions in the standard model of cosmology. Fixing it might require small tweaks to the theory or a complete overhaul.

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