Los Angeles (AP) -- A NASA satellite has found huge ripples of matter near the edge of the universe, amomentus discovery that explains how stars and galaxies evolved from the "big bang" that created the cosmos, scientists say.
"What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe," said George Smoot, an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley.
The discovery by NASA's COsmic Background Explorer spacecraft caps a 28-year quest for the solution to one of science's most vexing puzzles: How did matter that was uniformly spread out in the newborn universe start clumping together to produce stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies?
If the research is confirmed, "it's one of the major discoveries of the century. In fact, it's one of the major discoveries of science," said physicist Joel Primack of the University of California at Santa Cruz. "If correct it would be the Holy Grail of cosmology and would be considered for a Nobel Prize."
Smoot said the ripples, which are extremely wispy clouds of matter, are "the largest and most ancient structures in the universe," stretching as long as 59 billion trillion miles and dating to almost 15 billion years ago. That's only 300,000 years after the big bang, the cataclysmic explosion scientists believe created the universe, he said. The ripples were created by the universe's rapid expansion after the big bang, Smoot said. Once the ripples formed, gravity made increasing amounts of matter clump together, eventually creating galaxies. "What we have found solves a major mystery, revealing for the first time the primeval seeds that developed into the modern universe," said John Mather, chief scientist of the $400 million mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
"It tells us how the universe developed from an almost featureless explosion to something that's been broken up into huge clusters of galaxies and huge empty spaces." Evidence collected by the satellite also supports the theory that up to 90 percent of the universe is made of invisible "dark matter" that scientists haven't yet been able to identify, Smoot said.
Decisive, Nobel Prize-winning evidence supporting the big-bang theory was discovered in 1964 when Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected the big bang's "afterglow" -- microwaves known as cosmic background radiation.
The Earth-orbiting COBE spacecraft made more than 300 million measurements since it's 1989 launch. It detected nearly imperceptible variations in the temperature of the radiation, which measures 454 degrees below zero. Those variations -- only about thirty-millionths of a degree -- represent slight differences in the density of matter at the edge of the universe, basically ripples of wispy clouds surrounded by slightly less dense matter, Smoot said.
The smallest ripples stretch across 500 million light years of space, or 2.9 billion trillion miles. Until now, the largest known structure in the universe was the "great wall," an arc of galaxies about 200 million light years long. Since the ripples were created almost 15 billion years ago, their radiation has been traveling toward Earth at the speed of light. By detecting the radiation, COBE is "a wonderful time machine" able to view the young universe.
Colossians 1:15, "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:" 1:16 "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him."
St. John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." 1:2 "The same was in the beginning with God." 1:3 "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." 1:4 "In him was life; and the life was the light of men."John is referring to the Word as a way to describe God without forming a mental image or pronouncing the name of God which to the Jews was unknowable and also an error to create idols for worship.
Dark matter could make up 90 percent of the universe, but scientists don’t know what it is – and they can't see it. They strongly suspect it’s there because they can measure its gravitational pull on stars. If dark matter turns out to be something very different from ordinary matter, what would that say about us and what we are made of? Here’s how it might fit into the timeline of great discoveries that have shaped the way we see ourselves:
The Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, according to startling new evidence suggesting that a mysterious antigravity force permeates "empty" space and is counteracting the pull of gravity on a cosmic scale.
If the new results hold up, scientists said, they could have enormous ramifications for theories of cosmic evolution. It would resolve some conflicts and create new dilemmas as they reverberate through studies of the largest-scale structures in the cosmos, the smallest particles in nature and the frustrating quest for a "theory of everything" that would unify those fields.
The question of the fate of the universe – whether it will expand to infinity, contract in a "cosmic crunch" or end up somewhere in between – is one of the oldest and most controversial in cosmology.
Most astronomers agree that the universe began in a Big Bang up to 15 billion years ago, when all of time and space were contained in a single dense point – a singularity – that abruptly expanded outward in a fireball of particles. The most popular, and the simplest. Big Bang model holds that the resulting universe should contain exactly the "critical density" of matter required to keep it geometrically "flat," with just enough gravity to balance the outward momentum, slowing it down. The result: a cosmos coasting indefinitely on the verge of collapse.
Instead, the new evidence indicates that stars and galaxies are flying apart in all directions at an ever-increasing rate – thanks to an anti-gravity boost. This means there must be an unexpected mix of ordinary matter and some kind of unseen "dark matter" of an exotic nature (See the following article).
The emerging picture of the universe represented in the state of recent findings appears to resurrect a controversial concept known as the "cosmological constant," which Einstein first proposed in his theory of general relativity. At the time he introduced the notion of a repulsive force in space – pushing objects apart – to counterbalance the attractive force of gravity – pulling objects together – to support his theory that the universe is static; that is, neither expanding nor contracting. Observation soon showed that the universe actually is expanding. Einstein renounced the constant as his greatest blunder.
But the concept has been kept around for use as a "fudge factor" whenever it is needed to make theory and observation conform.
The recent spurt of findings could pose a challenge to particle physicists to explain this anti-gravity mechanism.
Somewhere relatively nearby, a galaxy known as SagDEG (Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy) has been orbiting the much larger Milky Way, remarkably holding its own against the gargantuan bully whose immense gravity should be tearing it to pieces.
Scientists now suspect they know the secret of this strength: Dark matter, a mysterious substance that helps hold the small galaxy together despite tremendous forces.
Dark matter remains one of the great mysteries of the universe. Scientists do not know what it is and cannot see it. But they strongly suspect it exists throughout the universe because they can measure its gravitational pull on stars and galaxies.
Recent observations show SagDEG (at one-tenth the size of the Milky Way) is holding together even though it appears to be on an orbit that has carried it through Goliath’s gravitational gauntlet at least ten times.
Solving the dark matter mystery would not only explain SagDEG’s strength, but also answer some of cosmology’s most vexing questions. Knowing the nature, distribution and amount of dark matter should help explain the formation of galaxies and predict the fate of the universe – whether it will keep expanding, stabilize, or collapse of its own mass.
Over the years it has become clear that if the prevailing cosmological theories are correct, the vast majority of the universe must be made up of this dark matter.
Without dark matter, scientists would be at a loss to explain where 90 percent of the matter in the universe is hiding. Based on the movement and swirling of the galaxies, scientists have calculated how much gravity there must be and how much matter is required to exert that gravitational force. So far, they have found only a small fraction of that matter. Without dark matter a lot of otherwise highly successful theories are in deep trouble.
For 19 years space scientists, astronomers and physicists have been seeking an explanation of a mysterious force that seems to be pulling spacecraft toward the sun. It has been determined that some unknown phenomenon might be at work: "new physics," or some error in calculation or observation is responsible for the anomaly.
Heading the group of six scientists who studied the anomalous attraction mystery was John Anderson, an astonomer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Anderson said he noticed the peculiar effect in 1980 while analysing the trajectories of two outward-bound and very distant space craft, Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11. Both explorers launched in 1972 ad 1973, are now at the very edge of the solar system 68 times as far from the sun as the distance between the Earth and the sun (which is 93 million miles).
Galileo, was launched toward Jupiter in 1989, and Ulysses, launched into a polar orbit around the sun in 1990, providing trajectories of all four spacecraft which revealed evidence of a weak force that slightly perturbs their directions and velocities.
The force was discovered by adding the effects of all other known forces acting on the craft and finding that something unexplained was left.
Their calculations took into account possible errors in the software and hardware used in computer analyses:
"The momentous findings supporting the 'big bang' theory of creation provide a common ground for two old antagonists -- religion and science -- in the eternal debate over whether the universe is the work of a majestic guiding hand."
The discovery, indicating that an explosive birth billions of years ago led to today's expanding cosmos of stars and galaxies, reinforces religious themes that order was created out of chaos by divine intervention, some scientists and theologians say.
"Christian cosmology and the big bang are very compatible understandings of the arrow of time," says the Rev. Frederic B. Burnham, a science historian and director of the Trinity Institute in New York City. "There was a beginning and there will be an end."
Astronomers announced Thursday they had discovered distant, wispy clouds or ripples of matter that indicate how matter that was uniformly spread out in the newborn universe may have started clumping together to produce stars.
That the announcement was greeted with Christian equanimity is indicative of the new state in the relationship between religion and science.
Many Americans still believe strongly in a traditional biblically based creation. In a 1991 Gallup Poll, 47 percent of respondents said God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years, while 40 percent said man has developed over millions of years, but God guided this process. Only 9 percent said man evolved without God, while 4 percent had no opinion.
Few minds will be changed by the latest discoveries, said Hershel Shanks, editor of Moment, a magazine of Jewish culture and opinion.
"The importance of the biblical story stands on its own regardless of scientific facts of the origin of the universe," Shanks said.
On a more formal level, relations between religion and science have improved. The conservative institute holds that the weight of scientific evidence supports the biblical record that the world was created in six days sometime within the last 10,000 years.
Biblically, the amount of time that may have passed from the literal interpretations Genesis 1 to Genesis 2 that the world was created in a six day period of time or when the first moment of creation occurred is beyond the domain of science.
In 1994 a physics professor before colleagues at a prestigious scientific meeting discusses new data on the universe’s origins and even cites parallels between these findings and the Kabbala, a set of Jewish mystical beliefs from the Middle Ages. Although not a Kabbalist or capable of reading or understanding the Hebrew language, some scientists seem to have a growing interest concerning connecting science and spirituality.
Thousands of scientists have joined organizations created since the 1940s to bridge the religion gap, including the American Scientific Affiliation, an evangelical Christian group with 2,500 members, and the non-denominational Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, with a few hundred. Science is a method, if one sees God in the complexity of the universe then one goes beyond their data and is misusing science to validate their positions. Galileo stated "The Bible tells how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."
The universe was constructed very carefully and not by accident according to some astrophysicists. There had to be creator since the mass density of the universe is just right. If the mass were larger, there would be too much deuterium (heavy hydrogen) from the big bang, and stars would burn too rapidly. If smaller, there would be insufficient helium from the big bang, and too few heavy elements would have formed.
I did not write this book to do battle with the evolutionist or the creationist. Mankind as we know him today is not a blind time-and-chance evolutionary process, on some speck in a vast cold universe. Also if one does not have great faith that this is true it is hard to imagine why, if God in his sublime form would bother coming to a tiny speck in that universe just to meddle in the affairs of a nomadic tribe of mankind.
One must read the Scriptures to find these answers.