Another record breaker: ultra-deep image reveals ultra-distant galaxy

By Phil Plait | January 26, 2011 11:03 am

Astronomers have just announced they have discovered what may be the most distant galaxy ever seen, smashing the previous record holder. This galaxy is at a mind-crushing distance of 13.2 billion light years from Earth, making it not just the most distant galaxy but also the most distant extant object ever detected!

Here is the object in question:

The small box shows the location of the galaxy, which is invisible by eye in the image. The zoomed region shows it in the infrared, where it glows more strongly.

[NOTE: Let me be clear up front and say that this is a candidate galaxy, since it hasn't been confirmed using other distance determination methods. However, having read the paper I think the astronomers did an excellent job showing this is very likely to be a galaxy 13.2 giga-light years away. From here on out I'll refer to it as if it's real, but to be fair bear in mind there is some small chance it may turn out not to be real.]

Named UDFj-39546284, the galaxy is seen as it was just 480 million years after the Universe itself formed! The previous record holder — which was announced just last October — was 13.1 billion light years away. This new galaxy beats that by 120 million light years, a substantial amount. Mind you, these galaxies formed not long after the Big Bang, which happened 13.73 billion years ago. We think the very first galaxies started forming 200 – 300 million years after the Bang; if that’s correct then we won’t see any galaxies more than about 13.5 billion light years away. Going from 13.1 to 13.2 billion light years represents a big jump closer to that ultimate limit!

The galaxy was found in the infrared Hubble Ultra Deep Field, or HUDF, an incredible observation where Hubble pointed at one patch of sky and stared at it for 173,000 seconds: 48 solid hours! After Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 observed it, this supposedly blank patch of sky came alive with thousands upon thousands of distant galaxies, and in fact the last record-breaking galaxy was found in the image. The picture here shows the whole HUDF image, with the first picture at the top of this post outlined. Click it to see it in full size, and you’ll start to get an appreciation of just how freaking tough these observations are. The sky is full of faint galaxies!

This new discovery was found using what’s called the dropout technique. It works in a clever way: hot stars inside a galaxy can produce ultraviolet light that can ionize hydrogen, that is, remove the electron from a hydrogen atom. So if there is a cloud of hydrogen atoms between you and a galaxy filled with such hot stars, the UV light you see from that galaxy is absorbed handily by that gas, and you don’t see the galaxy. However, visible light can pass through the gas, so if you use filters to observe the galaxy, you’ll see it in the red filter, the green filter, the blue filter, but then pop! In the UV filter it’s gone. The galaxy has dropped out of sight.

The thing is, because the Universe is expanding, light from a distant galaxy gets red shifted — literally, the light we see from it has a longer wavelength, similar to the way sound from a receding car drops in pitch — and the farther away a galaxy is the more its light gets shifted. If it’s at the right distance, then the dropout happens in the blue filter (as well as the UV), because the UV light emitted from the galaxy has shifted to the blue. A more distant galaxy will have its UV light shifted into the green so the galaxy is now invisible in the UV, blue, and green filters, and so on.

This becomes a handy way to measure a galaxy’s distance! All you need to do is observe it in a bunch of filters and see which one it disappears in. While it’s a bit crude — you can’t get an exact distance, just a rough estimate — it works well enough to find the most distant galaxies. Thousands of distant galaxies have been found this way, confirmed later using more sophisticated, accurate, and sensitive techniques.

And that’s what these astronomers have done. The image above shows UDFj-39546284 in various filters of the Deep Field; the left image is visible light, and the next three in near-infrared filters. You can see the galaxy suddenly pop up in the H filter, at a wavelength of 1.6 microns (a little over twice the wavelength the eye can detect). They analyzed the light in that filter carefully, making sure the galaxy is indeed real and not some random fluctuation in the background noise, a nearby star, or a closer galaxy masquerading as a more distant one.

The fact that the galaxy is not seen in the shorter wavelength filters means all its light must be redshifted by a factor of about 11.3 (what those in the know refer to as z = 10.3*) , meaning the wavelength has been stretched by that much. Using models of the Universe’s expansion and age, the astronomers could then determine its distance of 13.2 billion light years.

In fact, they found several other galaxies in the HUDF at large distances, though none as far as UDFj-39546284. These other galaxies are at redshifts of roughly z = 8, putting them a little over 13 billion light years away, which is still really, really far away.

Let me note that this research wasn’t done just to break a record. There’s real science here, and important science. The brightness of the galaxy reflects how many stars are forming there, so comparing galaxies at a z = 8 and 10.3 tells us how the Universe was changing over time when it was young. What was found was that the star formation rate increased rapidly between those two epochs. That’s interesting! We know that if we start at the present and wind the clock backwards, we see stars forming more rapidly in the past than today. But if you go far enough backwards that trend reverses, and apparently at some point between 480 million and 600 million years after the Big Bang star formation rate really hit the gas. So to speak.

Not only that, but the number of galaxies seen at that whopping distance will tell us how galaxies formed, too. As more of these galaxies are detected — especially with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which should find them by the hundreds or more — we’ll start to get a grip on just what our Universe looked like when it was very young.

All of this is part of the ultimate goal of understanding the Universe itself: how it was formed, how it’s aged, what’s inside of it… and maybe even if the Big Bang itself was a singular event, or if there could be other Universes out there — if we’re part of a bigger metaverse. All those answers are out there, waiting to be found. And the deeper we look, the more answers we’ll get… as well as more questions. But that’s why this is so much fun!

Image credit: NASA, ESA, Garth Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz) and Rychard Bouwens (University of California, Santa Cruz and Leiden University) and the HUDF09 Team.



* That’s not a typo; z refers to a mathematical term that is the actual redshift factor minus 1. It makes the math easier to use it that way.


Related posts:

- Record-breaking galaxy found at the edge of the Universe
- How deep the Universe
- Galaxy cluster at the edge of the Universe
- Found: 90% of the distant Universe


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Comments (177)

  1. kaellinn18

    When you say 10.2 in the first and second paragraph, do you mean 13.2?

  2. Oli

    If it’s 10.2 billion ly away, how is it farther than the other one?

  3. Nico

    There’s something I don’t seem to be getting: this galaxy is 10.2 GLy away, and beats the previous record holder that was 13.1 GLy away? Is this a typo or I’m missing something?
    Thanks Phil!

  4. Benjamin

    I was wondering why 10.2Gly was such a big deal. I understand now after reading more. 13.2. There.

  5. Navneeth

    It’s a typo, of course. It should be 13.2.

    NOTE: Let me be clear up front and say that this is a candidate galaxy, since it hasn’t been confirmed using other distance determination methods. However, having read the paper I think the astronomers did an excellent job showing this is very likely to be a galaxy 10.2 giga-light years away… there is some small chance it may turn out not to be real.

    Looks like another instance of NASA wanting to be in the news badly. I wouldn’t mind if this had been only a scientific paper, since most people wouldn’t be taking a look at it. However, this is unlikely to go to the way of Mono Lake bacteria as this is ‘just’ a case of a record break and not one of a “paradigm shift.”

  6. Yeah, I fixed the distance. My fingers kept substituting the “10″ from the redshift into the distance in light years. Grrr. That’s what happens sometimes when you translate science jargon into human words.

  7. aiken

    >>This galaxy is at a mind-crushing distance of 10.2 billion light years
    So is it 10.2 or 13.2 billion ly away?

  8. chris

    i’m assuming the ’10.2′ is a typo.

    it had me confused for a minute.

    edit: should’ve refreshed! already fixed.

  9. I’m sure it’s a typo because of the redshift being 10.2. We astrophysicists use redshift better than light years to calculate distances… :P

    He already corrected it in Twitter, the correction here will be soon.

    EDIT: Yep, it was corrected earlier than when I clicked on ‘post’.

  10. kevbo

    How big was the universe at that time?

  11. Mika

    Right. I was just gonna comment on the same typo that dozen others already did. Things move fast in the web, the typo was still there with no comments when I loaded the page and started typing. :-)

  12. Kemp

    “the most distant galaxy ever seen [...] at a mind-crushing distance of 10.2 billion light years from Earth”

    “The previous record holder [...] was 13.1 billion light years away”

    I sense a typo in one of these two.

    Edit:
    Sorry guys, when I opened this page there were no comments and it was still wrong. The web moves fast.

  13. breadbox

    Thanks for the explanation of how the redshift is calculated, Phil! I’ve never heard of that technique before, but it must be used all the time with deep field objects.

  14. OmegaBaby

    We have no idea what the topology of the universe is. For all we know, that’s OUR galaxy we’re looking at from 13.2 billion years ago. In fact, perhaps the universe is much smaller than we all assume, and many of the galaxies we see up in the sky are actually copies of our galaxy, only at different points in time. Kind of like a hall of mirrors.

  15. davidlpf

    I wonder how this will affect my astrological readings. :-)

  16. Jeff

    Hmm… in the 1st paragraph you state that UDFj-39546284 is 10.2 billion light years away, is that a typo? In later paragraphs you state that the previous record holder is 13.1 billion light years away…

  17. Charlie Young

    Question (raises hand)…About that Hubble image: to focus on something that far away, I imagine there must be an immense number of adjustments needing to be made to get a good 48 hour exposure. I mean even the revolution of the Earth about the sun must throw inaccuracy into the tracking. Is it necessary to keep track of all those possible movements from that distance, or is the angular change so insignificant, it doesn’t make a huge difference?

  18. Oli

    @17. He’s right. There is a theory that the universe is smaller than the visible universe, so in fact we might be looking at light from galaxies that has travelled around the universe and then to us.

  19. Eugene

    @17 – Think of how the game “Asteroids” works, with the wrapping screen. If you were in that ship and looked forward, you’d see copies of yourself out to infinity.

    Hey, how about all those other dots in the spectrum images? Or in any Hubble image for that matter? It always looks like Hubble pictures are *made* of dots – there’s never an area of black that’s actually smooth. I’ve always wonder if those were also stellar bodies, or if Hubble had some sort of “grain”. Like being slightly too zoomed into a photograph.

  20. The deeply shifted UV FLASH! when the universe cooled and decoupled into optical transparency 377,000 years post-Big Bang is the cosmic radiation background. There’s a lot of spectrum still to be scanned. Homeland Severity’s jilted lover, terahertz radiation (0.1-1 millimeter wavelength), will be hot, hot, hot!

    10-20 kelvin dust in the Milky Way’s interstellar medium is a bother. Look normal to the disk. Atmospheric absorption argues for spacecraft or a backside lunar array. Calibrate detectors with pulled adhesive tape (peak at 2 THz, lump at 18 THz). “Harmless” THz radiation diddles DNA with a non-linear resonance disrupting interchain hydrogen and hydrophobic bonding on paper. This is Officially nonsense, empirical studies having never been Officially performed before Homeland Severity THz body scanners were frantically shoved into a black hole.

  21. Orlando

    I’m wondering if in that galaxy there’s another species measuring our own redshift…

  22. Joseph G

    Words like “wow” don’t really do this justice. My mind is officially crushed :)

    One question – I thought IR telescopes needed cooling, like Spitzer’s liquid helium and the upcoming Webb with its spiffy sunshades. How can Hubble take such faint IR images by simply using IR filters?
    Or am I not properly understanding how IR filters work?

    Also, yay for UCSC! My home town school’s got one heck of an astronomy department (I noticed they’re among the credits).
    I wish I had the grades to actually go there :(

  23. Joseph G

    Uncle Al: 10-20 kelvin dust in the Milky Way’s interstellar medium is a bother. Look normal to the disk. Atmospheric absorption argues for spacecraft or a backside lunar array. Calibrate detectors with pulled adhesive tape (peak at 2 THz, lump at 18 THz). “Harmless” THz radiation diddles DNA with a non-linear resonance disrupting interchain hydrogen and hydrophobic bonding on paper. This is Officially nonsense, empirical studies having never been Officially performed before Homeland Severity THz body scanners were frantically shoved into a black hole.

    Can you translate any of that to English? It sounds like it might be interesting.

  24. Tod R. Lauer

    @19 – There is nothing special that HST has to do to lock onto this field that it doesn’t do routinely for all observations. The telescope has 3 fine-guidance sensors (used two at a time) that lock onto relatively bright guide stars in our own galaxy close (in angle on the sky) to the objects of interest. The telescope cares not what is being captured in its cameras, the bright stars are the only thing that it sees and reacts to. The game then is to spin up or down a set of reaction wheels to jink the spacecraft around if it starts to drift off of the guide stars (a set of gyros is also used to sense attitude changes on very rapid time scales). Doing this with the high degree of accuracy required was one of the big problems solved in the development of HST, but it’s been doing this with a high degree of reliability for years.

    Also, the 48-hour exposure is made of roughly a 100 or so (I’m not privy to the actual sequence) of much shorter exposures, probably none of them lasting even 45m (its possible to go longer in small parts of the sky where the earth doesn’t get in the way once per orbit, but cosmic rays severely degrade long exposures in any case). Typically, the telescope will move a little bit between exposures to make sure that no objects fall all the time on defects in the cameras. The astronomers add up all of these sub-exposures into a reduced set of final images (plural because different filters are used over the sequence) using faint stars in the images for alignment.

  25. Duane

    Something caught my eye just now. The most up-to-date figure for the universe’s age, at least from what I’ve read, is 13.7 Gyr, and I’ve understood that to mean “plus or minus 100 Myr.” Phil wrote 13.73 Gyr, which means we’ve narrowed the age down to “plus or minus 10 Myr.” Is this a recent development?

    If it really is true, then I’d say our understanding of the universe has leaped forward an order of magnitude or so!

  26. Charlie Young

    @Tod R. Lauer thank you for the clarification. IMHO, the engineering in the Hubble is almost more astounding than the images.

  27. D R Lunsford

    The apologists are out, the apologists are out!

    I’m sorry but a redshift involves actually having a spectrum to shift. This is a blip of light and a very elaborate model. Notwithstanding your apologia, it’s not a redshift unless one has shifted spectral lines – meaning a spectrum. Is science really this degraded? Does NASA get paid by the billions of light years?

    If you never expect to find anything new, then science is dead.

    -drl

  28. Misora

    i would love to see a composite image of all the Hubble Deep space pics; though i suppose they were not taken side-by-side. maybe one day!

    /waits patiently

  29. My humorous (or not?) thought for the day is that as the truths revealed by science become ever more mind-blowing, maybe science is becoming a Lovecraftian enterprise which threatens to destroy the sanity of anyone who delves deeply into it. Maybe Lovecraft was right when he said “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far”? ;)

  30. Brian

    Is anyone else’s Google Reader abbreviating these blog posts?

  31. D R Lunsford (30): Perhaps you don’t understand the meaning of spectrum. It is simply the light from an object broken down into components. The galaxy is emitting light at all wavelengths, but filters divide that light into a coarse spectrum. The UV gets shifted to the IR, and the bluer filters block that.

    A spectrum doesn’t need to be hundred or thousands of colors. It can be just two, and much information can be gleaned from that.

    You should read up on this method of distance determination before commenting again, I think.

  32. The observable universe is around 45 billion light years away….due to the expansion of space. Is this galaxy truly only 13.2 billion light years away or has its distance been corrected for the expansion of space, so that it is actually much farther away?

  33. D R Lunsford

    Phil, that’s pretty funny, made my day.

    Ok I looked it up on the Internets – yep a spectrum is just what I took it to be, in all my 45 years of doing science – a set of emission and/or absorption lines that can be shifted hither and thither by physical processes, some of which may be new.

    So I’ll repeat – there is no redshift to measure until a spectrum has been taken with identifiable spectral lines. There is no substitute. You do not infer a redshift with an elaborate model that is constructed from pathologies, you measure it with a spectroscope.

    Let me quote a superb astronomer, not a bad one:

    “I never thought of myself as an astrophysicist. As a matter of fact, that’s an anecdote I can tell. When I arrived from Harvard I was convinced I was an astronomer. There was never anything else in my mind. And when I went into nuclear physics course with Willie Fowler, who was teaching at the time, we all handed in our blue slips in the beginning. When he went through the blue slips and he announced proudly to this group, he said, oh, we have an astrophysicist in the class and I started looking around to see an astrophysicist, pretty interesting. I tried to find this astrophysicist, but finally Willie pointed to me and said, “you!” And I said, “I’m not an astrophysicist, I’m an astronomer.” I never accepted that term about astrophysicist. I think, that one of the underlying currents right now in astronomy today is a deep seated struggle between the physicist, to be blunt about it, and the astronomer. Physicists believe that the universe is just another example of laboratory physics, just another arena for their laws to work in. And I think a few true astronomers, at least I believe, that there is in astronomy most important fundamental new processes which have yet to be discovered which are transcendent to physics in a sense. I don’t know if it’s going to be right, we’ll have to see. But a lot of physicists are shifting in to astronomy so I mean, I think, for other reasons, I think they sense it. But they bring different skills and different approaches to the astronomy. They approach it as a deductive exercise, as if they were trying to prove again and again the things they learn in the laboratory and learn in their courses and I think the reason that they are going to fail is that they don’t look on astronomy as an arena for discovering new things. They look at it as an arena for proving old things.”

    -drl

  34. CB

    maybe science is becoming a Lovecraftian enterprise which threatens to destroy the sanity of anyone who delves deeply into it.

    Maybe.

    Every time I look at the HUDF — and I can never resist looking at it whenever a link appears on a web page — I think about the fact that outside of a few foreground stars, themselves already at unfathomable distances, every single tiny spec in that image of a tiny scrap of the sky is an entire galaxy and am filled with a combination of deep existential dread, and overpowering wonder. It brings tears to my eyes. Sometimes I think that if I looked at it too long, I would indeed go mad.

  35. Lucian

    Let’s assume tomorrow NASA will find another galaxy at the 13.5 bilion ly limit. Wouldn’t that mean we’re in the center of the Universe (or, in a multiverse paradigm, Our Universe)?

  36. Tod R. Lauer

    @36 Yes, yes, yes, it’s wonderful if your cosmologically distant object is bright enough that you can get a spectrum of it to see all the lines that will help you pin down exactly what it is. In this case, though there’s not a technology on earth or space that can do so for this object prior to the launch of JWST.

    The investigators who did this pushed everything right to the edge and have plausible candidate for a forming galaxy at a higher redshift than has been seen before. The technique of “photometric redshifts” is an idea that goes back longer than 45 years (I think Bill Baum was the first to think about it), which has been well-established by extensive work done over the last couple of decades. It is the bread and butter of cosmologically deep surveys. It is not perfect, but there is no other game in town for this kind of work – full stop.

    The group that did this has shown exactly what they did and how they have arrived at their conclusion. There are uncertainties associated with it, and alternative explanations that fit within them will certainly be advanced. This is exactly what frontier research is about and what it should be. Wating for JWST to launch to say anything at all would not be responsible.

  37. Note that the paper published now is already the 5th iteration – and had been widely discussed in late 2009 and early 2010 (see the “blog links” page) already when it was first submitted. (And – as I’ve said again & again – z=10.3 means that the galaxy’s light travelled for 13.2 billion years, but the distance today (by any definition) is vastly larger due to the expansion of the cosmos. The press releases from both NASA and ESA today try to explain that and avoid the incorrect “13.2 billion light years” – kudos to their writers.)

  38. D R Lunsford

    Well I would have been a lot happier with real data from identified objects that can be studied based on direct knowledge provided by fine measurements of actual data. The fact is, this observation is nothing without the HBB relig-er-model to interpret it. That is bad physics, and worse astronomy (the two things are not the same).

    -drl

  39. Ed N

    @35 – That number (13.2) is not really a proper distance, but lookback time. The
    co-moving distance depends on which cosmological model you choose. There is also
    the luminosity distance and the angular diameter distance. At high redshift, all these
    methods of specifying distance are different, because the very concept of distance
    becomes ambiguous in an expanding universe with a finite velocity of light.
    I wish blog posts (and NASA press releases) would make that clear.

  40. CB

    @ 36 D.R. Lunsford: Wait, are you attributing that quote to yourself? Either way, nice use of the “physicists don’t hope to find new things” canard of laughable falseness.

    And what exactly is wrong with using a spectrum of only a limited number of wavelengths to get an approximate red shift? I mean sure they’re making a uniformitarian assumption that the absorption spectrum of hydrogen is the same in distant galaxies as it is in closer ones, but it seems like a reasonable one to me. Until there’s compelling reason to believe it isn’t true, let’s just note that we’ve made this assumption and it seems to be consistent with the universe as we know it so far and move on, okay?

  41. D R Lunsford

    @38, the important issue lurking in the shadows is the blurring (haha) of the distinction of physics and astronomy. All these breathless announcements are all done to prop up existing models – which, surprise, are always upheld. But just try to get some telescope time to study NGC 7603 or 7331 or 4319. Forget about it. Those are “coincidences”. I often wonder is science is dying before our eyes.

    -drl

  42. NoAstronomer

    DRL : “there is no redshift to measure until a spectrum has been taken with identifiable
    spectral lines”

    With all due respect, that’s not true.

    That is certainly the most well know method of determining red-shift. Another way might be to graph intensity against wavelength and match the curve to an ideal black-body radiation if you have some idea of the temperature of the object you’re examining.

    I think Phil did touch on how the red-shift was determined in this case but since it’s not the main focus of the article his description is a little short:

    “The fact that the galaxy is not seen in the shorter wavelength filters means all its light must be redshifted by a factor of about 11.3…”

    If the theory, in this case the ionization of hydrogen by UV light, allows you to calculate the limit on the emitted wavelengths that will make it out of the galaxy then if you look at where the cutoff is in the detected radiation it is possible to determine the redshift without seeing the traditional spectral lines.

    Though I might argue that this technique is actually using spectral ‘lines’ in a somewhat crude manner. If I was actually an astronomer I’d be interested in seeing the how the margin of error was arrived at.

    Mike.

    edit: I see others were there before me. I think they put it better.

  43. D R Lunsford

    @40 – I can’t say it any more clearly. A redshift is not inferred. It is measured with a spectroscope. If there is not enough light for a spectrum then you are SOL unless you have a preconceived model in which to place the object, in which case you are not observing, you are model-building by invoking plausibility arguments.

    No that quote is not from me. I leave hubris to the professionals.

    -drl

  44. Eugene

    “Never use your own quotes. They lose their usefulness when you can’t blame them on someone else.”
    - Me

  45. Tod R. Lauer

    @DRL – There are extensive data in the Hubble archive on NGC 7331, NGC 4319, and even some for NGC 7603. Given how precious HST time is, someone must have made an excellent case that these objects were interesting, which a committee of his or her peers accepted.

  46. CB

    @43: Um, no, a spectroscope does not measure redshift, it measures a spectrum. Redshift is then inferred by comparing the emission/absorption lines of that spectrum to the spectrum of an un-red-shifted object with presumed similar properties.

    The only difference between a complete spectrum and the partial spectrum obtained by Hubble would be the error bars around the wavelength at which the galaxy no longer appears. In both cases, you can only make sense of the spectrum by placing it inside a model, otherwise you have no way of saying that a given absorption line at a given wavelength is due to hydrogen absorbing UV red-shifted by a certain amount and not some completely different phenomenon.

    In a more complete spectrum you might be able to make use of other absorption lines that are predicted by your model of whatever you think you are looking at to make a stronger case that your redshift value is more plausible than that those lines are caused by unknown phenomenon. It’s still a plausibility argument based on a model.

    Did you not realize this? Did you really think a spectrograph truly and directly measures red shift?

    Anyway, you should attribute quotes like that. But I forgive you due to the extreme irony of your last sentence there. “I leave hubris to the professionals.” Ha!

  47. D R Lunsford

    @Tod, well I have no idea how the star chambers work, but let me remind the readers that NGC 7603 consists of a Seyfert, two quasars, and a companion galaxy all apparently linked by a luminous filament. Their (actually directly determined) redshifts are, from the Seyfert outward, 0.029, 0.391, 0.243, and 0.057.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/astroph/0203466

    This was dismissed as chance alignment, even though the probability of this is fantastically remote. This paper is from 2002 – and so no observations of this extraordinary object for nearly 10 years!

    Compared to this object, which can even be profitably studied from the ground, today’s “big announcement” is pretty tame.

    -drl

  48. D R Lunsford

    Please don’t lecture me CB, it’s in bad taste.

    -drl

  49. CB

    I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you had reserved the podium for yourself alone.

  50. Gus Snarp

    @DRL – It’s also in bad taste to offer a quote without attribution. For the rest of you, the quote is from Halton Arp, who apparently had a similar ax to grind to DRL. But I’m out of my depth on this particular issue, so if anyone else wants to address whether Arp’s theories on red shift and the big bang have been completely discredited by Hubble observations, including those with fairly complete spectra, please do. And DRL, since I find you a lot harder to Google than Dr. Arp, perhaps you could explain your contributions to the discipline and why they make it “bad taste” to lecture you in blog comments any more than any other anonymous commenter?

  51. D R Lunsford

    Well the D is for Danny and the R is for Ross – try that.

    Yes the quote is from Arp, in 1975.

    -drl

  52. D R Lunsford

    And Gus, I’m a physicist, not an astronomer – there is an enormous distinction. And the only ax I have to grind is to see the proper methods of each discipline followed scrupulously. That was Arp’s point. Astronomy is about looking first, and model-building later. Physics is about setting up experiments based on theoretical ideas. If you never look, or always look through the same window your working model provides, then no progress is possible.

    -drl

  53. justcorbly

    So, which came first, galaxies or… something else?

    After the Big Bang, did stars form in the primordial ooze and then coalesce into galaxies? Or, did gravitational fluctuations produce the odd collection of slightly denser ooze, out of which stars and a galaxy eventually formed?

    And, if there’s a black hole at the center of most galaxies, how did they get there? Do they predate galaxies, i.e., providing the nucleus around which galaxies form? Or, were they created as part of the galaxy formation process, maybe as many stars were created at the center and close enough to each other to allow gravity to pull them together?

  54. Tod R. Lauer

    Sorry DRL, but I’m afraid that I do not understand the logic here. You have a team of astronomers who were privileged to be awarded 48 hours to look deeply with the Hubble, and they then attempted to understand what they saw. They could have just made a catalog of object fluxes in each filter and left it at that. That’s hardly what I or any one else would consider to be progress. In fact it would indicate a grotesque lack of curiosity.

    They actually made some rather modest assumptions about how the images were formed and in doing so found something of high interest to any one interested in how galaxy formation got started. What ever model they started with would have had immense freedom. They could have seen nothing, or 100X the number of goodies. The object might have been clustered, unusually bright or extended, and so on. You have called this bad astronomy and further imply that this is uninteresting in the sense that this particular result was fore-ordained by the simple act of observation. This is where the logic fails – just because someone thinks they will see something, doesn’t mean that they will, or even worse, will fail to see something that they did not expect.

    Since no object has been seen at this redshift, it is new territory, and certainly would be understood as progress. If you do not accept the redshift, then it remains as an anomalous object wanting of an explanation, which would certainly engender progress in other directions. You are welcome to take this up and make your own progress with it.

  55. Regner Trampedach

    @D.R. Lunsford, various posts:
    The effect, the blue drop-out, has been confirmed in many high red-shift cases, with high-resolution spectroscopy, as well as radio observations to identify the actual intervening clouds of hydrogen (and helium and everything else, but the method is only sensitive to the about 90% fraction by numbers of hydrogen). Everything fits nicely together, and there is nothing elaborate, construed or weak about that model.
    @ 39: “Well I would have been a lot happier with real data from identified objects that can be studied based on direct knowledge provided by fine measurements of actual data.”
    The object was identified in that observation/measurement/data-collection. And what is it about Hubble that it doesn’t make real observations/measurements/data-collection? And we are indeed very sorry that we cannot pull that object (probably galaxy) any closer, so we can put it in your lab so you can make your “fine measurements”.
    Another thing, D.R. Lunsford: Science is about continuous interactions between models and observations/experiments – it is not just one way or the other. Sometimes theory comes up with new ideas for observations/experiments which then either falsify or confirm that theory (well, or often the results are too vague and a new iteration is needed). Other times observations/experiments reveals things that are not currently covered by theory and the theoreticians have to catch up.
    And I apologize if I lecture you, but you frankly ask for it in big, bold, unfriendly language.
    What is your reason for being so disdainful of astronomers.
    – Regner

  56. D R Lunsford

    @Tod, well I have no idea how the star chambers work, but let me remind the readers that NGC 7603 consists of a Seyfert, two quasars, and a companion galaxy all apparently linked by a luminous filament. Their (actually directly determined) redshifts are, from the Seyfert outward, 0.029, 0.391, 0.243, and 0.057.

    This was dismissed as chance alignment, even though the probability of this is fantastically remote. This paper is from 2002 – and so no observations of this extraordinary object for nearly 10 years!

    Compared to this object, which can even be profitably studied from the ground, today’s “big announcement” is pretty tame.

  57. D R Lunsford

    Yes Regner, that is possible – but it’s also possibly a foreground star trapped in some thick dust. Without an actual spectrum it is just speculation.

    What I am trying to emphasize is that something has gone awry – these breathless announcements are all done within the context of ONE model, when objects like NGC 7603 go unstudied for an entire decade after what is really a shocking discovery – deeply, absolutely shocking.

    Something has gone “sideways” in astronomy – it’s no longer about looking, it’s about propping up preconceived notions. Too much science is done by press release and not enough by spectroscopes. Good people are denigrated and ostracized.

    You cannot make progress in astronomy unless you look with an open mind. How many times does this simple fact have to be demonstrated? The same trap that consumed physics and allowed something as unphysical as string theory to flourish, threatens to feast on astronomy. Oh I hope it is not so! Because in many ways, the only hope we have down here is to keep looking up with open minds.

    There is hope – string theory has been exposed finally and even its most vocal supporters have been chagrined. Let us hope astronomy finds news sinews to break out of the strait-jacket it all too willingly donned.

    -drl

  58. Tod R. Lauer

    @DRL – There are 49 observational papers over 2003-2010 that consider NGC 7603, most of which contain new observations of it. If you feel that something is missing from that set, you are welcome to propose new observations, yourself.

  59. PP

    @justcorbly (52): I very much liked the book “How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form?” by Abraham Loeb. It covers many of the questions you raise.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/First-Galaxies-Princeton-Frontiers-Physics/dp/0691145164

  60. D R Lunsford

    Regner said “Science is about continuous interactions between models and observations/experiments – it is not just one way or the other.”

    One – there are no labs in space, there are no experiments in space. We have an essentially static picture whose only information comes to us through electromagnetism and the occasional burst of neutrinos.

    Two – there is no interplay of models, there is one model with its five interlocking wheels of expansion, CMB, inflation, dark matter, and dark energy. Show me a single model other than this one that has been taken seriously in the last 30 – 40 years. I agree, it SHOULD be about the interplay of observation and theorizing – and once was – but no longer. People cannot get telescope time.

    -drl

  61. PP

    D R Lunsford appears to be your typical conspiracy thinker who thinks one alleged anomaly completely invalidates all of science.

  62. D R Lunsford

    @Tod feel free to send me a link or post a search URL here.

    -drl

  63. D R Lunsford

    Ah and now the attacks! Yes I’m a conspiracy thinker. I think New Coke was a deliberate ploy to get people weaned from real sugar! Scoundrels!!

    -drl

  64. Tod R. Lauer

    @DRL – You are welcome to do your own searching at NED, ADS, MAST, or any other data site. WRT to dark energy, this is an observational discovery made only a little more that 10 years ago. While possibly anticipated by a few people before then, it marks a recent occasion of observational astronomy forcing a strong sea-change in theoretical thinking. What more do you want?

  65. D R Lunsford

    Another thing to point out – what happened to good old Baade-ain, Hubblish, Sandagean astrophysics? Why is everything about cosmology? To the real scientist, cosmology is a parlor game with negative significance (more assumptions than significant observations). Why waste the precious limited lifetime of the HST on these pointless speculations about – ooh! – the origin and fate of – ooh! – the Universe? Or is it a multiverse? I can’t remember now. It would be good to forget all about it for some time and return to intensive, open-minded study of AGNs and at least a half-assed attempt at a theory of galactic evolution that did not simply reflect a computer modeler’s preconceived notions.

    Remember Cooperstock and Tieu? They tried. They were attacked and ignored. The train rolled on.

    -drl

  66. D R Lunsford

    No Tod, that is false – DE is another epicycle added to the existing model because once again, new data put it into a hard place. Everything is filtered through the model. New observations are assimilated into it, and so by fiat nothing new can ever come into being.

    The situation is very similar to the decades before relativity and QM were born – people went to extreme lengths to build elaborate, rickety mechanical models of the ether to “explain” electromagnetism. The difference was, in those days, people looked with open minds, and believed what their instruments told them without reference to these models. So when relativity arrived, it was embraced – perhaps slowly at first – because it side-stepped the “more epicyclum” that has returned with a vengeance.

    -drl

  67. Maria

    Pardon if this is a silly question, I feel out of my depth when wading around outside my everyday space time relationships here on Terra, but would this be (theoretically) how our galaxy could look to someone observing it from within UDFj-39546284?

  68. CB

    Well if a physicist feels entitled to lecture astronomers, an engineer feels entitled to lecture a physicist.

    Observation always comes first, theories later, then more observation. You can create a physics experiment based on a theory, yes, but before creating the next experiment, you must look at the results of your previous one with an open mind and look beyond your working model for what the data is telling you about reality. As an engineer, I know all to well that models are well and good but reality is always the ultimate determiner and it doesn’t care how nice your model is. And if I forget that, stuff simply doesn’t work.

    This applies everywhere, too.

    For example, you should look past your working model of how red shift is determined, the usefulness of partial spectrums, and what data the HST is actually able to provide and what analysis is undergone to eliminate hypothesis like “it’s a nearby star shrouded in gas”.

    You should also question your preconceived notions of how any contrary science or observational evidence is ignored. You continue to insist “people [looking at anomalies] cannot get telescope time” despite this being demonstrably untrue. You asserted this without even bothering to do so much as a google search.

    What was that about “look first, form theories later”?

    And show you a model other than CMB, inflation, dark matter, that has been taken seriously? Show me a model that has made as good or better predictions! These weren’t just assumed to be good models; none of these models were taken to be the best until they had made significant predictions that other theories did not! But to answer your challenge, MOND was taken fairly seriously as an alternative for explaining galactic rotation without dark matter, even though that was its only accomplishment. Then further observations were made which it could not explain, without incorporating dark matter.

    Observation always wins. Even if it doesn’t agree with your preconceived notion that the Establishment must be wrong. The Establishment didn’t become the Establishment until observation showed it to be superior to alternatives. When observation shows there’s something else, the Establishment changes.

    @ Tod R. Lauer

    it marks a recent occasion of observational astronomy forcing a strong sea-change in theoretical thinking. What more do you want?

    He wants the current cosmological “religion” to be shown to be false. Pretending that astronomers are neglecting the basics of science so their theories and observations are bogus helps him believe that eventually the “truth” will out. Just another hypocrite accusing scientists of being dogmatic and ignoring evidence that they’re wrong, while in the same breath being dogmatic and ignoring the evidence that they’re wrong.

    It’s just weird hearing a physicist saying this (if I dangerously assume this is the real DR Lunsford).

    “DRL” — your reference to the aether is timely. No matter how much supporters wanted to believe in it, eventually the repeated failure of the M&M experiment could not be ignored. Observation had to win.

    Has it occurred to you that maybe in this instance it’s your idea that the CMB, dark matter, dark energy are all bunk and some other theory will prove correct is the aether theory? The observational evidence keeps mounting. When will it finally win over preconceived notions? When the observation you say wasn’t done is done ? Well it was. So when?

  69. Skeptic Teen

    Okay. It’s time for me to ask a somewhat uninformed question. Pardon me if I’m over-analyzing things; I just enjoy being curious.

    “The small box shows the location of the galaxy, which is invisible by eye in the image.”

    I see a very dark red splotch in the middle. Is this an artifact of my screen? Does it really have nothing to do with the proposed galaxy? Could it just be “noise” in the data?

    Can anyone else see this?

  70. CB

    @72

    “The small box shows the location of the galaxy, which is invisible by eye in the image.”

    I see a very dark red splotch in the middle. Is this an artifact of my screen? Does it really have nothing to do with the proposed galaxy? Could it just be “noise” in the data?

    I can see it too. But when I zoom in enough to see the splotch in the box, I can see similar things elsewhere in the image also. So I don’t know, but there’s a good chance it’s just noise or at least has nothing to do with the galaxy in question.

  71. Regner Trampedach

    DRL @ 63: 1st point: I wrote about science – which includes your field of physics where experimentation is possible. You really believe that I am not aware that we can’t do experiments on the stars?!?!?
    2nd point: You cite 5 ingredients of cosmology and claim they are the only models available to astronomers. You obviously have a very limited view of astronomy. There are no stars in any of those ingredients, just to name one example.
    DRL @ 63: “People cannot get telescope time.” Which is simply not true.

    Also, how can you claim to want “to keep looking up with open minds”, when you describe theories that don’t mesh with your worldview in such despising and hateful terms?
    You do not sound openminded. By far most of the astronomers I know are openminded – as far as the observations allow.

    Also: dark matter and dark energy are working hypothesis, not the final answer (which should be obvious from their names). These hypothesis work vere well, but we are also all acutely aware that neither has been directly observed. If another theory comes up, that explain everything much better, then I am sure you’ll see a lot of astronomers embracing that idea. That has, however, not happened yet.
    – Regner

  72. Tod R. Lauer

    @Maria – Your question is not silly at all, but in fact why work like this is done! We cannot see the first stages of our galaxy’s formation, but we can study the same phases in extremely distant galaxies. We infer our own history from what we see far away.

    To address your question literally, yes the observations are symmetric. An observer of our age in UDFj-39546284 would see us at the same early stages at which we saw them. The trouble is that there may have been nothing to see! Most of the stars in our galaxy were formed at much later times. UDFj-39546284 maybe a rare early arrival. It’s possible that we were all cold clouds of diffuse gas back then…

  73. Patrick Karnes

    You see what I have noticed is that it generally is reduced to attacks when people dont think the same on these types of forums, and actual debate and arguments that are meant to show your actual point of view. These points of view are then used as what people think to be attacks on other peoples point of view or beleif. It just escalates from there. Although, there are some people here that I do seem to think have a pompous or arrogant attitude about there views, it is there right to have that attitude and if the other people can simply get passed that, or in fact, verify that that is how the person is actually comming across, since its actually hard to show emotion in a post, and then make points and counterpoints, and that is how conversations, and science, progresses!

  74. qbsmd

    14. OmegaBaby Says:
    “We have no idea what the topology of the universe is. For all we know, that’s OUR galaxy we’re looking at from 13.2 billion years ago. In fact, perhaps the universe is much smaller than we all assume, and many of the galaxies we see up in the sky are actually copies of our galaxy, only at different points in time. Kind of like a hall of mirrors.”

    How would someone test for that? Would it be possible to find patterns of superclusters that match, or would even they have moved too much over billions of years? Would better measurements of the rate of expansion of the universe or anything else tell how large the universe is and how much of it we can see?

  75. Firemancarl

    I found an article that seems to point out some ” errors ” in Arps work. It sounds like he has/had a “distaste” for blue shifting

    http://stupendous.rit.edu/richmond/answers/controversy.html

    “Arp and Hoyle have discussed ideas involving creation of mass and a finite sphere of graviton exchange, perhaps producing a homogeneous microwave background while they’re at it. Some ideas involving backwards beaming from moving quasars have also been discussed to avoid blueshifts. “

    The author states that for Arps theories to be true, it would require brand new physics.

    I could, of course, be wrong in my understanding of the paper. Firefighting is where I excell. Astrophysics, not so much.

    I think NGC 7603 is very interesting, and it seems that there is not a difinative answer as to what we are seeing when we look at it. It’s a Seyfert galaxy for sure, but are the other objects connected? If so, wouldn’t that make for the longest connected string of stars/dust in the known universe? Anyone have anything more of NGC 7603?

  76. Messier Tidy Upper

    Wow that new’s is far-out indeed! ;-)

    Wonderful. :-)

    @70. Maria :

    Pardon if this is a silly question,

    Its not! There’s NO such thing in my view – but even if there was, this wouldn’t be one. ;-)

    I feel out of my depth when wading around outside my everyday space time relationships here on Terra, but would this be (theoretically) how our galaxy could look to someone observing it from within UDFj-39546284?

    I’m really not too sure, but possibly so. I guess it would depend on exactly how much mass and what shape our Galaxy was in at back in that far distant age.

    Afraid that’s not terribly useful or informative for you but hope it helps anyhow. ;-)

  77. NAW

    Calm down yall.

    I am guessing everyone in the above flamewar, has read all of the available information and waded through the data taken on this. So I am really behind compared to the rest of you.

    But, of what I understand. This is “not confirmed” yet. So there will be others going through this stuff and observing the “galaxy” to see if their numbers are right. So just take a breath, and wait for the others to check on this. Then you can start throwing mud at the scientist that made the announcement.

  78. Messier Tidy Upper

    PS. Oops! I’ve only just now seen that (#75.) Tod R. Lauer has just answered that one & much better than I did. Oh well.

    Thanks Tod. :-)

    [Reminds self to read through the comments properly next time & scrolls up to the top to see what the rest of y'all have had to say.]

  79. Messier Tidy Upper

    @68. D R Lunsford :

    Remember Cooperstock and Tieu? They tried. They were attacked and ignored. The train rolled on.

    No, I’ve never heard of either of them that I can remember. Who were they and what did they try to do that apparently got them attacked & ignored?

    @53. Gus Snarp :

    @ [#36]DRL – It’s also in bad taste to offer a quote without attribution. For the rest of you, the quote is from Halton Arp, who apparently had a similar ax to grind to DRL.

    Thankyou. I was wondering who that quote was from – & wondering why it wasn’t properly cited.

    Please D R Lunsford allow me to suggest that when quoting in future you include the source and ideally more information such as the text quoted from, the page number, the publisher and the date whichis what I try to do myself.

    I, personally, also like to put quotations in blockquotes to clearly distinguish them from the rest of the comment and if I’m quoting from somebody earlier in the thread incl. the opening blog post /article I’ll use italics and if quoting from outside for refrence I’ll use non-italicised text so folks can see the difference between a response and a separate quote.

    For instance, if I may demonstate please, I’d give your quote from # 39 as :

    Let me quote a superb astronomer, not a bad one:

    Note here that I think Dr Phil Plait is actually a very good astronomer (& writer) who exposes bad astronomy (ie. misused and ‘urban legend’ astronomy eg. the idea of eggs standing on end *only* during equinoxies, etc..) hence his chosen moniker.

    “I never thought of myself as an astrophysicist. As a matter of fact, that’s an anecdote I can tell. When I arrived from Harvard I was convinced I was an astronomer. There was never anything else in my mind. And when I went into nuclear physics course with Willie Fowler, who was teaching at the time, we all handed in our blue slips in the beginning. When he went through the blue slips and he announced proudly to this group, he said, oh, we have an astrophysicist in the class and I started looking around to see an astrophysicist, pretty interesting. I tried to find this astrophysicist, but finally Willie pointed to me and said, “you!” And I said, “I’m not an astrophysicist, I’m an astronomer.” I never accepted that term about astrophysicist. I think, that one of the underlying currents right now in astronomy today is a deep seated struggle between the physicist, to be blunt about it, and the astronomer. Physicists believe that the universe is just another example of laboratory physics, just another arena for their laws to work in. And I think a few true astronomers, at least I believe, that there is in astronomy most important fundamental new processes which have yet to be discovered which are transcendent to physics in a sense. I don’t know if it’s going to be right, we’ll have to see. But a lot of physicists are shifting in to astronomy so I mean, I think, for other reasons, I think they sense it. But they bring different skills and different approaches to the astronomy. They approach it as a deductive exercise, as if they were trying to prove again and again the things they learn in the laboratory and learn in their courses and I think the reason that they are going to fail is that they don’t look on astronomy as an arena for discovering new things. They look at it as an arena for proving old things.”
    - Halton Arp, 1975. [Source text or event? Page number or link?]

    Posting quotes like that is I think much better for clarity, understadning and verification & I for one appreciate people quoting in that more specific, more detailed manner.

  80. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 36. D R Lunsford : I hope you don’t mind if I also note that your quote there is fairly long and could perhaps benefit with a more concise shorter form of quoting that makes its point clearer, eg.

    I think, that one of the underlying currents right now in astronomy today is a deep seated struggle between the physicist, to be blunt about it, and the astronomer. Physicists believe that the universe is just another example of laboratory physics, just another arena for their laws to work in. And I think a few true astronomers, at least I believe, that there is in astronomy most important fundamental new processes which have yet to be discovered which are transcendent to physics in a sense.
    … [SNIP - hence ellipsis] .. But they [the Physicists] bring different skills and different approaches to the astronomy. They approach it as a deductive exercise, as if they were trying to prove again and again the things they learn in the laboratory and learn in their courses and I think the reason that they are going to fail is that they don’t look on astronomy as an arena for discovering new things. They look at it as an arena for proving old things.” – Halton Arp, 1975.

    [Square brackets are added NOT original.]

    Afraid I don’t agree with Arp’s quote there but that’s how I, personally, would quote it, adding in further info. such as the source text, page no., exact date, etc .. if I had them available.

    I hope that helps. :-)

    Sorry, DI also respectfully but strongly disagree with most of your apparent negative opinion of science such as #68. :

    To the real scientist, cosmology is a parlor game with negative significance (more assumptions than significant observations).

    & #60. D R Lunsford :

    .. Something has gone “sideways” in astronomy – it’s no longer about looking, it’s about propping up preconceived notions. Too much science is done by press release and not enough by spectroscopes. Good people are denigrated and ostracized.

    UI do NOt think that is true and sugegst that you either back that claim up wuth specific cases and arguments or withdraw it.

  81. TMB

    I love when people quote a star formation rate of the universe based on one object. ;-)

  82. Messier Tidy Upper

    D’oh! @#!#@@##$! Typos & the lack of sufficent time to edit them :-( :

    My last sentence in comment #83 above was meant to read :

    I do NOT think that [DRL's claims quoted here from #60] is true and suggest that you either back that claim up with specific cases and arguments or withdraw it.

    Naturally. Sorry.

    For more on Halton Arp see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halton_Arp

    For the wikibasics.

    This :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redshift

    Gives the wikibasics on redshift which may be helpful / interesting in this context, I hope.

    For Cooperstock & Tieu this :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperstock%27s_Energy_Localization_Hypothesis

    seems to be about all I can find on wikipedia which isn’t terribly enlightening, sorry. Anyone got more info. on them?

  83. Ema Nymton

    Wow.

    D R Lunsford is a first rate nutter!

  84. Messier Tidy Upper

    @^ Oh Ema Nymton, how may I ask, please, is that sort of comment helpful or informative or constructive? :-(

  85. KenC

    So how long till that galaxy can watch our re-runs of “I love Lucy” ?

  86. Patrick Karnes

    Another thing I find funny is that I come here to learn and talk about stuff that other people have more knowlege on than I, so I can learn from them, and the bickering and arguing makes me want to find my knowlege fix elsewhere. I must say that if Mr. Lunsford was a professor, or if he is a professor, I would not want to take his class, because he may argue with me instead of teach me.

  87. Nigel Depledge

    DR Lunsford (36) said:

    Phil, that’s pretty funny, made my day.

    Ok I looked it up on the Internets – yep a spectrum is just what I took it to be, in all my 45 years of doing science – a set of emission and/or absorption lines that can be shifted hither and thither by physical processes, some of which may be new.

    Right, so the fact that light known to be emitted as UV is only detected in the IR means what, then?

    Have you only ever done science with a cudgel? Never heard of induction? Or subtlety?

    If you’ve been doing science for 45 years, you must have a pretty extensive publication record, right? What field are you in?

    So I’ll repeat – there is no redshift to measure until a spectrum has been taken with identifiable spectral lines. There is no substitute. You do not infer a redshift with an elaborate model that is constructed from pathologies, you measure it with a spectroscope.

    I reiterate my question, using different words: if the light is known to be of one specific wavelength when it is emitted, and is detected at a completely different wavelength, what else can one infer but redshift?

    Let me quote a superb astronomer, not a bad one:

    Argument from authority, you lose.

  88. Nigel Depledge

    DR Lunsford (68) said:

    To the real scientist, cosmology is a parlor game with negative significance (more assumptions than significant observations).

    So, how do you explain the following:

    1. That the cosmic microwave background exists
    2. That the cosmic microwave background has exactly the shape of black body radiation
    3. That the cosmic microwave background has a temperature of 2.7 K
    4. That the cosmic abundances of H, He, D and Li tally with prediction to several decimal places
    5. That distant objects are receding, and that their recession velocity is directly proportional to distance
    6. That the sky is dark
    7. That the cosmic microwave background is “smooth” to 1 part in 10,000
    8. That the cosmic microwave background contains irregularities at 1 part in 100,000 and finer
    9. That the universe is – as far as anyone can tell – isotropic
    10. That – at coarse scales – the universe is homogeneous
    11. That – at finer scales – the universe is clumpy (galaxy clusters and superclusters), consistent with an expanding universe with an age less than 20 billion years
    12. There are only three families of neutrinos
    13. There are no objects with ages indisputably older than the universe
    14. There are about 10 billion photons in the CMB for every proton and neutron of matter
    15. No elements heavier than lithium are universally detected
    16. The universe is dominated by matter, not a mixture of matter and anti-matter
    ?

    IIUC, modern cosmology explains all of these facts (indeed, Big Bang theory predicted several of them).

    So, which of these observations is “[not] significant” and – importantly – why?

  89. 84. TMB Says:

    I love when people quote a star formation rate of the universe based on one object.

    You do? Really? ;-)

    I’d like to state that the star formation rate is X based on one object then .. my posterior! ;-)

  90. JohnW

    @33 Brian – Yes, they’re cut off on mine, too. Maybe it’s a new Discover website policy to make us click through to the actual post?

    @35 Healthphysicist – You know, just when I think I’m getting my mind wrapped around some of these concepts, a troublemaker like you comes along and blows it all apart again!

  91. If it’s at the right distance, then the dropout happens in the blue filter (as well as the UV), because the UV light emitted from the galaxy has shifted to the blue.

    So, the invisible UV light has red-shifted into the visible part of the spectrum, where you can’t see it anyway, because it was absorbed at its source? :-)

  92. Nigel Depledge:

    So, how do you explain the following:
    [...]
    5. That distant objects are receding, and that their recession velocity is directly proportional to distance

    Well, to be fair, that statement is “true” because scientists use the redshift (ie: the “recession velocity”) to calculate the distance. If the theory is wrong (and, at the moment, there’s no way to directly test it, AFAIK), then the distance calculations could be wrong as well.

  93. Peter Davey

    As a famous Victorian philosopher once put it:

    “If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me,
    why, what a singularly deep young man, this deep young man must be.”
    (You will have to imagine the accompaniment).

  94. Tod R. Lauer

    @Ken B – Not to make too much of a fine point about it – a huge part of extragalactic astronomy for the last 80 years has been measuring distances to galaxies independent of their redshifts, starting with Hubble, himself.

  95. D R Lunsford

    I always find it interesting how people who’ve never even cracked a copy of Halliday & Resnick feel qualified to pass judgment on advanced ideas from physics. Part of the modern culture of the Internets, I suppose, where every mouth is constantly open, like a squealing infant, and expertise is only a wwwdotwikipedia away.

    -drl

  96. Messier Tidy Upper

    @97. Petey Davey : Gilbert & Sullivan quote right?

  97. Anyone want to guess who’s a specialist in “electric universe” “plasma physics”?

  98. Messier Tidy Upper

    @^ Kuhnigget : “Anaconda?” ;-)

    Now where’d he go?

  99. 35.Healthphysicist Says:
    “The observable universe is around 45 billion light years away….due to the expansion of space. Is this galaxy truly only 13.2 billion light years away or has its distance been corrected for the expansion of space, so that it is actually much farther away?”

    Then I believe it is incorrect to say “13.2 billion light years away”, that’s why in Hubble press release the statement worded as “light travels for 13.2 billion years”.
    So is there way to estimate what would be the actual distance to the galaxy?

  100. Ema Nymton

    Actually, that comment was based on a quick search on the objects mentioned. Web pages with background music and nut-job speculation lead the pack. From other similar posts on other pages, it’s pretty clear that Lunsford isn’t going to offer anything at all useful in any sort of discussion.

    He’s a nutter. Like the electric universe types. Heck, he may very well be an electric universe type–kuhnigget seems to suggest as much. Any posts, like this one, taking time to discuss him or debate with him are, without a doubt, wastes of time.

  101. @ Ema Nymton #104:

    Indeed. It is both fair and constructive to call the nutters what they are. If they object, they need to stop acting like nutters.

    Paranoia, conspiracies, arguments from dubious authority, general belligerence toward those who don’t immediately bow down before your infinite wisdom, and the inability to produce decent evidence in support of one’s position plants you firmly in the nutpatch.

  102. guinness

    Wikipedia says this galaxy is ~31.7 billion light-years away (present comoving distance). The candidate galaxy’s light took ~13.2 billion years to reach us, but the space itself between us has expanded during that time period.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UDFj-39546284

    It’d be great if people would be clear about their units (present comoving distance vs. light travel distance) so everyone would stop confusing age and distance.

  103. Captn Tommy

    (1) These arguements on Red Shift are amazing. I am not a physicist, nor an astronomer, I am an engineer. To me red shift is just a fancy word for dopler effect. Any wavelenth can be affected by the motion toward or away, but what makes me curious is that is this doppler the result of the slowing of the speed of light, which I thought was constant, and frictionless, or does light (photons) have a mass the can be slowed? This in turn would creat the doppler effect. Interesting, if Einstien had not based his relativity on C being constant, would the universe self destruct?

    (2) On the “Beetlejuice” star going Nova… won’t we be red faced if it actually blows in 2012????

    think about it :)

    Captn Tommy

  104. At Captn Tommy:

    It is my understanding that the redshift in question is not caused by the slowing of light, but rather the expansion of space itself. The wavelengths are literally (?) stretched as space stretches.

    Which is also a good excuse for why my diets never succeed.

  105. Keith Bowden

    @ Healthphysicist & John W:
    This comes up a lot on BA, but basically when we say that an object (in this case galaxy UDFj-39546284) is x light years distant, the measurement always refers to its apparent position, understanding that it physically has moved and changed in the intervening time (and may no longer exist).

    For instance, when a star goes nova we mark the time relative to when the light reached We say SN1987A went nova in 1987; even though it’s 168,000 light years away we don’t (generally) say that it went nova 168,000 years ago.

    As the universe is (as Phil mentioned) is 13.7 billion years old, this is just about as far as we can see, which is what makes this so tantalizingly exciting. :) [There's more to it than that, of course, but this is the nutshell...]

  106. David

    Wow, I actually read through all that. I’m being incredibly lazy today.

    I’m an engineer, not a scientist, and this debate sounds like a bit of a proxy war. We don’t have to judge all of astrophysics or astronomy right here.

    What we have is a point source with intensity measured through a small number of filters. The difference in distance from the previous record holder is 1%. Clearly a mathematical model was used to extrapolate a precise value from a small number of scientific readings. The scientific significance does not seem to reflect the significant figures.

    It would be very nice if Phil reported the error bar on the distance measurement. Surely it’s given in the original research. But he included a disclaimer, right from the beginning, that it’s only a candidate galaxy.

    It’s not at all unreasonable to suppose that there may be something that would disturb the distance vs redshift relationship from the current model. And it’s a little silly to make such a fuss over such little actual data. This point of light is only significant when it forms a statistical model with many others, which presumably are being turned up the same way.

  107. Joseph G

    Kuhnigget: So you really ARE getting slimmer, it’s just that gravity is causing light to red-shift as it moves away from you.
    Wait, that doesn’t make sense :P

  108. CB

    @DRL: Cracked that and other physics books, but whatever. I can certainly understand how the Age of the Internets must irk you. I bet your “people aren’t allowed to look at the most interesting objects because the Church of Cosmology won’t let them!” bit worked a lot better when your audience wasn’t a 5-second google search away from finding out that you’re full of it.

    I bet it’s even worse now that smartphones means you can’t even get away from the Internets in a pub! Is there nowhere left where someone can spout off fabrications to bamboozle the credulous?!

  109. CB

    I’m an engineer, not a scientist, and this debate sounds like a bit of a proxy war. We don’t have to judge all of astrophysics or astronomy right here.

    It would be very nice if Phil reported the error bar on the distance measurement. Surely it’s given in the original research. But he included a disclaimer, right from the beginning, that it’s only a candidate galaxy.

    It’s not at all unreasonable to suppose that there may be something that would disturb the distance vs redshift relationship from the current model. And it’s a little silly to make such a fuss over such little actual data. This point of light is only significant when it forms a statistical model with many others, which presumably are being turned up the same way.

    Yeah, you’re totally right. I’ll admit my fault in getting trolled into responding to the whole “all of modern cosmology is a religious sham and astronomers no longer know how to conduct science” angle.

  110. Joseph G

    @ 97 Peter Davey: Hmm… Was it Oscar Wilde? ;)

  111. Joseph G

    @CB: My first impulse was to beg Phil not to feed the trolls, but I thought that I might have judged DRL prematurely.

    Now I see that I did not.

  112. @ Joseph G:

    The electric universe gremlins make semi-regular appearances here on the good doctor’s blog. While the regulars should know better than to dangle sparkly bits of logic in front of them, it’s just too damn tempting sometimes. They do light up so.

  113. Joseph G

    @ kuhnigget: I guess I’ve been fortunate enough not to run into too many of ‘em in the past. I was wondering why he was being so damn confrontational about… well, nothing. I didn’t see the word “electric” in there, but I guess it’s kind of a dog-whistle thing.

  114. I read the write up on this paper in Nature and then the paper itself but I was confused about this dropout technique. Though: I wonder if Plait has explained it on BA.
    Yes!

    Thanks much Phil Plait!

  115. D R Lunsford

    I never fails to completely amaze me that people who know absolutely nothing of the actual results of physics, not to mention how it gets done – the long hours of endless study, the breaking of one’s head on a difficult problem for years – and then the final moment when it comes together and you move on to the next problem – how people who have not the faintest idea of what goes into the study and understanding of physics – can be so sure of themselves as to attack someone they have never met, whose work they know nothing of.

    We wonder why so many problems in modern life seem intractable – well, have a look in the mirror oh ye bleating hordes. Fat, lazy, ugly, and stupid.

    -drl

  116. CB

    Some of us do understand (and are familiar with spectroscopy and what it does and does not measure). That’s why when we attack someone, we don’t attack the results or methods of their field, we attack their decision to attack an entire profession, its results, and people in that field they have never met. Their decision to denigrate the endless hours of work and study that went on which they obviously have no idea about.

    In short, look in a mirror, you hypocrite.

    P.S. This DRL is clearly not an EU kook. Troll, sure, but not a kook. While similar in the “astronomy == religion” nonsense, an actual EU kook would have at least found a chance to insinuate that there’s actually a simple and obvious answer to all the problems in cosmology that the Priesthood is ignoring. The real Lunsford is also not a kook, but it would be silly and unfair to attribute such gross unprofessionalism to him based on an anonymous internet post.

  117. davidlpf

    Don’t feed the troll, don’t feed the troll.
    My laptop dies and an electric universe crank shows up talk about timing.
    Some here do know the process of science and the process of red shifting that is light is shifted to the red end of the spectrum. It would not only show up in the spectrum but the overall light of the star would be shifted. All I see in you is epic fail.

  118. @ davidlpf:

    Aw, but they’re so cuuuuuuute when they stamp their widdle feet!

  119. Okay, that last one probably was a bit too snarky.

  120. D R Lunsford

    @davidplf, I am firmly opposed to ALL cosmology, electric, gravitational, and pudding-based. It’s a parlor game, as Michael Disney has pointed out in numerous places. Cosmology has “negative significance” – meaning more assumptions that decisive observations. Among creaky worldviews, the HBB is a particularly bad cosmology, in that every time it is confronted with a deal breaker, it gets a new hair transplant to cover the bald spot. In this is is utterly unlike particle physics, which has a few assumptions and truckloads of results. And apparently you don’t seem to understand that a redshift is not just “light shifting to the red end of the spectrum.” That’s false – there is much more to it. The accepted ways in which it shows up are kinematic (Hubble effect, explainable in other ways, e.g. conformal geometry), dynamics (Doppler effect) and gravitational (direct effect of spacetime curvature). A fourth way is entirely possible – essential unification of the long range forces, so that a gravitational field engenders electromagnetic effects directly, so not only does matter bend space, but also charge. This can lead to intrinsic redshift, in fact it must, otherwise the simple Maxwell-on-Einstein disunified picture is not disturbed.

    In all this one must have a direct measure of redshift independent of any model – it must show up as shifted spectral lines that are directly identified.

    @kuhnigget – I advise you, I am rather above your low level because I have been doing this a very long time – caution would be advised if you don’t want to look like a fool.

    -drl

  121. Oooo! A challenge? Kewl.

    What do I have to be cautious about?

    Here’s a question for you, Danny, and I ask it sincerely in that you may educate me: why exactly is cosmology any different from particle physics in terms of “decisive observations”? When’s the last time you “observed” an atom? Or an electron? Or a quark? How are the “observations” of physics (the Greatest of All Sciences™) any different than the observations upon which the study noted in this post is based?

    I am asking you seriously.

  122. Joseph G

    @DRL: You’re cautioning kuhnigget? In the comments section for a blog? That’s rich :D

    PS: Know how I can tell you’re full of it up to the eyeballs? Phil’s an actual scientist with over 2 decades of actual experience, and he isn’t one twentieth as overbearing as you are (actually, he isn’t overbearing or pompous in the least).
    But pardon my impudence, being ever so far below your high level.

    PS nah, kuhnigget, you aren’t snarky. This is how you snark.

  123. D R Lunsford

    Here, let’s allow Mike Disney, a better man than me (discoverer of the Crab pulsar, designer of the HST instrumentation) tell the facts – Google if you will, “Cosmology: Science or Folk-Tale?” which appeared some years ago in American Scientist. “Negative significance” is basically a death sentence for any constellation of physical ideas.

    Compare this to particle theory – wherein the assumptions are gauge invariance (conservation laws for quantum numbers), Lorentz invariance (compatible with relativity), and local interaction (Lagrangian formulation). The list of results for it is easy to find online, it’s called the “Particle Data Book”. Let’s not be too dramatic – compared to general relativity, which is a solid theory with even fewer assumptions, particle physics is a mess of phenomenology and calculational prescriptions plagued by theoretical show-stoppers. But compared to cosmology it is a triumphant example of the human mind struggling with nature on the deepest level. There IS no comparison.

    Now, you might say, all this cosmological speculation is harmless, it may be a game but it’s a fun game – but you must understand there are deep problems in actual astrophysics, meaning in the large the dynamics of galaxies, that have direct bearing on laboratory physics – but these problems go unstudied because the precious observatory time is overwhelmed by lame-ass searches for dark matter and dark energy, and other pointless diversions engendered by the HBB religion and its career-minded practitioners. A real physicist must get hopping mad at such an inversion of science in the name of careerism.

    -drl

  124. D R Lunsford

    @Joseph G, in the Internets world of anonymous comments and self-styled experts, nice apparently doesn’t work. Read the paper by Disney.

    -drl

  125. Joseph G

    @DRL: Doing so now.

  126. David

    This isn’t really news. Anyone choosing to enter cosmology can see that for themselves… and many students avoid the field for that reason.

    Nevertheless the scientific consensus is that dark energy is real because there is no better theory.

    You won’t get anywhere by saying the current theory sucks, because that’s not how science works. You need to have a better idea, which fits observations better. Be positive or be quiet.

    Of course the theory is incomplete. That’s why there are theorists working on it. That doesn’t make them idiots. If you have another idea how to broadly explain observations, then you are a theorist too! Any cosmologist will say that the field is in its infancy. Anyone who denies that cosmology can reach its goal doesn’t believe in science. Some scientists don’t believe in some scientific fields, and have trouble accepting that they are not a scientist at all in that field’s context.

    All that said, yeah, it’s annoying to see breathless announcements about a theory you don’t believe in. The scientific consensus can change, though, and the media and public will follow whatever direction it goes. So go to the source, don’t shoot the messenger.

    Please, provide a reference for this electromagnetic general relativity you mention. Black hole research (like Stephen Hawking), at least, certainly tries to link those equations and make falsifiable predictions.

  127. Okay, Danny, I’ve read Mr. Disney’s article, and while I think it does somewhat accurately describe weaknesses in the big bang theory, et al, I don’t see it presenting the sort of death blow you apparently want it to.

    Mr. Disney points out assumptions that current theories require, but he doesn’t give examples of contrary evidence to those theories. Unless I missed something? Could you please point such out?

    Also, could you please answer (for yourself…no quotes, please), my intitial question to you? How is this type of cosmological hypothesizing any different from that done by physicists?

    Again, seriously, I’d like to hear your answer to this.

  128. D R Lunsford

    @David – “You won’t get anywhere by saying the current theory sucks, because that’s not how science works. You need to have a better idea, which fits observations better. Be positive or be quiet”.

    I’ve seen this argument everywhere and it’s patently absurd. Nothing would ever have been accomplished had this credo been followed to the letter. When ridiculous assumptions start piling up, you are being told that your ideas are flawed and new ones are needed. You can’t have new ideas before acknowledging that the old ones are breaking down. And you certainly cannot have new ideas when you are utterly committed to a model that requires regular patching like an old tire, just so the consensus can be maintained. Kuhn spelled it out clearly with his idea of paradigm shifts. The situation today is far worse than it was when he was writing.

    We can take the example of relativity, where inconsistencies in the behavior of light according to the old, mechanical models led to a complete revolution of physical thought. Einstein would have never got past square one without the balls to say “enough is enough, I’m fixing this now”. Or of quantum mechanics, where the old Bohr-Sommerfeld “quantum theory” had utterly failed at even the next simplest problem beyond the hydrogen atom.

    You cannot make progress unless you are willing to abandon consensus and groupthink in favor of strict adherence to what is physically reasonable. Unfortunately the scientific community seems to have been stricken dumb by tidal waves of endless speculations, “mathematical science fiction” as some wag called it.

    -drl

  129. I’ve seen this argument everywhere and it’s patently absurd. Nothing would ever have been accomplished had this credo been followed to the letter.

    So, you’re saying no progress has been made in our understanding of the universe? That’s interesting.

  130. David

    @D R: Drumming up support for one theory does involve pointing out flaws in the others.

    Constructive criticism in general is always a good thing: presenting a flaw as a challenge.

    BUT. Of course you can have a theory before the old one is rejected. Having the balls and the wherewithal to do so is completely different from insulting an internet forum of science fans as “groupthinkers” though. Would you rather that common people such as myself didn’t bother to learn about any cosmological theories at all? As Disney says, cosmology is all but a basic human need. It’s Big Bang or the Bible.

    And the community hasn’t been stricken dumb. If that were the case, these observations wouldn’t even be getting made. Look at the timeline Disney shows: the number of new kinds of observations is persistently rising. I’ll say it again: many students of cosmology are unhappy with its fundamental state of affairs, and that is why they want to be cosmologists. Modern cosmology is about as new as computer science. The newness makes it exciting.

    On the other hand, most mere mortals are overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to reconcile, and many others are happy just to learn the consensus and don’t get around to true scientific thought. But that still doesn’t make them idiots, or mean that the scientific method itself has failed.

    Is there a theory you feel was short shrifted, or are you really just venting anger about the lack of more diverse theories?

  131. D R Lunsford

    @kuhnigget, you speak as someone who is interested in science but does not understand either its history or methods. You seem to have missed the essential point of Disney’s argument – when there are more assumptions – adjustable parameters – than significant observations, then you don’t have a theory, you have a creaking model that is failing on the most basic level. Every time some new information is forthcoming that does not fit the HBB paradigm, a new unphysical aspect is added to it to prop it up. That’s not how theorizing works. The process of physics is both analytic and synthetic – the synthetic part seeks to reconcile confusing data under a new paradigm, not to explain it away with more layers of assumptions whose only reason for existing is to preserve the status quo ante. We are very good at the analytic part, but the synthetic part has gone missing – most likely because the world of academe rewards the most aggressive and those who can “work the system” conventionally, not those who prefer long periods of quiet thought, which may or may not prove fruitful. Add to this the modern confusion of the methods of astronomy vs. physics, and we have a perfect medium to grow pseudoscience and triumphalism.

    Anyway I’m sure I’ve worn out my welcome here. I had to say something. I said my piece. Let’s move on.

    -drl

  132. @kuhnigget, you speak as someone who is interested in science but does not understand either its history or methods.

    And you speak as someone who cannot answer a direct question.

    You seem to have missed the essential point of Disney’s argument – when there are more assumptions – adjustable parameters – than significant observations, then you don’t have a theory, you have a creaking model that is failing on the most basic level.

    No, you have a theory that is trying to adapt to observed evidence. As David has asked you above, what theory – creaky or otherwise – does better? Can you answer that straightforward question?

    most likely because the world of academe rewards the most aggressive and those who can “work the system” conventionally, not those who prefer long periods of quiet thought, which may or may not prove fruitful.

    Ah. Long periods of quiet thought by real scientists, such as D R Lunsford, not those noisy ol’ astronomers.

    Quite apart from the delusions of grandeur, where is your evidence for this system-wide conspiracy? Other than the fact that your own ideas have apparently at some time been rejected by some institution or other? It seems to me quite the opposite of what you posit is true: the big universities and institutes thrive on controversy and discovery. Such brings attention, reporters, and…donors. Where is the motivation for stifling such? Again, Mr. Science, please present some evidence that supports your theory. Fair?

    Anyway I’m sure I’ve worn out my welcome here. I had to say something. I said my piece. Let’s move on.

    Thus proving once and for all that you are acting like a crank. Cranks blow in, declaring loudly that others are wrong and they are right, they blather on about how misunderstood and martyred they are, and then, when people start demanding they put up or shut up, they play the “I’m not welcome card” and vanish…only to reappear on some other blog, there to begin the cycle over.

    Or perhaps you will prove me wrong by…wait for it…answering the questions?

  133. Joseph G

    *opening a fresh bag of popcorn*
    Am I too late?

  134. CB

    Heh. See, told you he wasn’t a plasma cosmologist. They’d never say General Relativity is a great theory, because that’s a big part of what they’re trying replace with electricity.

    I just find it funny he’d say that, but then talk about dark matter as if it’s stupid to look for it. There are some observations of gravitational lensing that would be pretty hard to explain without dark matter, or tossing out GR. And the main dark matter candidates, with predicted properties very much like those dark matter would require, come from particle physics!

    Maybe that’s what he’s so upset about? Maybe he’s worried that the first supersymetric particle will be discovered by an observatory rather than a particle accelerator? IceCube vs LHC — it’s not a competition! Okay maybe it is, but it can be a friendly one!

  135. Joseph G

    CB: Hey, that makes sense, come to think of it. I can see how particle physicists might get miffed by astrophysicists horning in on their action.
    That writing by Disney seems to imply some kind of MOND to explain dark matter, which isn’t all that far from the mainstream, actually.

    One interesting book I came across not too long ago in a similar vein is Faster Than the Speed of Light, by Dr. João Magueijo. He proposes a time-variable speed of light to explain cosmic inflation and anisotropy. It’s a good example of the middle territory between “fringe idea” and “universally accepted theory.” The book goes into some of the politics and controversy involved with introducing unorthodox models (especially those that are difficult to test).

  136. @ CB:

    Being a cynic, I go for the more dramatic back story:

    DRL is a former post-doc or – shudder – lowly graduate student who enjoyed sitting around his room for “long periods of quiet thought.” Somebody finally figured out his game and gave him the boot, this despite protests he was one of the harbingers of the New Science™©®. Shunned by academe, he was forced to find gainful employment 0utside the bloodied walls of science…Blockbuster Video, let’s say, in any case somewhere where he had free internet access. So there he sits to this day, busily googling himself every now and then and lurking amongst the chat boards and blogs, waiting for the world’s scientists to recant their evil ways and come crawling to his side, where he’ll greet them with arms spread wide in benediction….

  137. D R Lunsford

    @Joseph G – “That writing by Disney seems to imply some kind of MOND to explain dark matter, which isn’t all that far from the mainstream, actually.”.

    Do you see how backward this comment is? Without the necessity of propping up the HBB, there is no need for dark matter. So there is no need for MOND.

    This is how assumptions and patches lead to confusion.

    To remind you: Dark matter is needed by the HBB to create the filamentary structures seen in the universe at large – to clump them together. That’s because there is no time for these things to form just by matter drifting together.

    Also: How did you conclude that Disney is talking about the need for any theory at all? One of the symptoms of dysfunction in science is the inability to sit tight.

    -drl

  138. CB

    @ Joseph G
    I didn’t get that from the Disney article; maybe I missed it? MOND has the same problem as GR or pretty much any sensical theory of gravity when it comes to dark matter, which is that the gravitational force vector is still going to be pointed at where the mass is, and not at some random location in “empty” space. Once extra-galactic dark matter was discovered, MOND wouldn’t work without dark matter either, which kinda defeated the whole purpose of it.

    I’m not sure when that article was written. It was published in late 2007, and that January a Hubble team had released their dark matter map based on gravitational lensing. Presumably the graph in the chart showing observations vs parameters was drawn up before then. Then again the Bullet Cluster observation from 2004 isn’t up there either. *shrug*

    BTW, don’t let DRL mislead you. Explaining formation of the large scale structures in the universe is just one of many things dark matter is “needed” to explain, and most of the modern observations do no go away or cease to require a DM explanation if you throw out the big bang theory. Maybe if you throw out GR too.

  139. D R Lunsford

    @Jospeh G – “Once extra-galactic dark matter was discovered, MOND wouldn’t work without dark matter either, which kinda defeated the whole purpose of it.”

    Do I really have to remind you that dark matter has not been discovered? It is a conjecture. It is not seen, it is not measured, it is not discovered.

    This is how speculation corrupts thought.

    -drl

  140. D R Lunsford

    And how did MOND get into this discussion? There is no need for MOND. GR works just fine (Cooperstock and Tieu) in sparse matter situations (galactic medium).

    -drl

  141. CB

    You replied to the wrong person, but regardless, I’m sorry for not wording my sentence in a way amenable to explaining it to someone not familiar with the observations. That did sound like circular reasoning, didn’t it? I of course meant extra-galactic gravitational lensing in the absence of any visible material despite entire galaxies nearby to light it up should it respond to EM stimulation, and a trajectory implying it had passed through an entire galaxy without being slowed by the gas present in the galaxy. No reasonable gravitational theories could explain this without resorting to a form of matter that is massive but does not interact electromagnetically.

    MOND got into this discussion as an alternative way of thinking about the dark matter mystery that was given a fair consideration, until subsequent observation made it not demonstrably false, but at least unable to achieve what it set out to achieve.

  142. Joseph G

    @DRL: I thought observation of relatively flat galactic rotation curves were the thing that first caused dark matter to be “created” (as opposed to filamentary structures)?
    To be fair, I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on this stuff, I’m more of a fan of the scientific method (and Dr. Plait) in general. So feel free to pick on someone who knows a bit more what he’s talking about, Kuhnigget, for example :)

    Regarding theories or absence thereof, my impression of Disney’s paper was that he was listing the pros and cons of the prevailing Big Bang cosmology and pointing out the bits that seem more convenient then self-evident.
    From what I’ve heard, a working MOND theory (emphasis on “working”) could explain a number of these issues without DM (including large scale galactic structures and inflationary redshift).
    You’re right, though, he didn’t explicitly call for any theory or even hypothesis in particular. Still, that’s the logical next step, is it not?

    For what it’s worth, my gut has always told me that “Dark Matter” feels a lot like a kludge, and a bit too esoteric to squeeze past Occam’s Razor. But my gut feeling and a buck will get you half a cup of coffee, so I defer to the experts on this one.

  143. D R Lunsford

    There is no evidence that GR does not work just fine in sparse matter situations. There is no need to invoke dark matter because GR failed. The only reason to invoke is because it can somehow clump together the filamentary structures seen in the universe, which otherwise could not form in the allotted time. The mechanism for this is non-existent, but one can dream. (Oddly, something like cosmic-scale Birkelund currents could explain such structures just fine, but let’s not go there.)

    Nothing can be determined from lensing about dark matter. You can assume a distribution of it exists and then see how it lenses, but you cannot infer that it is there from lensing. The only thing that will work is to find a blob of dark matter and – what – not get its spectrum? :)

    Furthermore – this is an example of pushing GR too far. Although it is fine in the solar system and seems to work fine for a galactic disk and is good when applied to pulsars, it is strictly speaking only tested in the vacuum, where its right-side “driving” part is missing. Also, there is no strict law of conservation of energy in GR, and so even questions about its radiation are open. One cannot invoke such arguments as lead to the neutrino when discussing it.

    A third problem is that the community made a complete hash out of applying GR to the galactic disk, and when they were shown how to do it right by Cooperstock, they ignored the advice – I have no confidence in their ability to handle a cluster of galaxies.

    -drl

  144. Joseph G

    @CB: I see…
    The MOND hypotheses I’ve heard of seemed to call for dark matter to an extent, but to a lesser extent, ie MACHOs, instead of the overwhelmingly pervasive DM presumed right now. Again, though, I don’t have a clue. I don’t keep up on this stuff the way I should.

  145. D R Lunsford

    @Joseph G – “I thought observation of relatively flat galactic rotation curves were the thing that first caused dark matter to be “created” (as opposed to filamentary structures)?”

    That is the party line. A paper some time ago showed why that argument is wrong, but no-one seemed interested (too many invested people I guess). Basically the non-linearity of GR means that you must consider the whole, and cannot just divide something up into pieces and add together the results. So you have to consider the matter distribution of the galactic disk as a whole and model it as such. The usual approximation scheme, which linearizes the equations, throws the curvature baby out with the bathwater. This is very similar to what happens to the equations that govern the flow of water when you throw out the non-linearity. The resulting fluid has about as much in common with water as it does with sand.

    The paper mentioned led to a book, “General Relativistic Dynamics” by Fred Cooperstock, if you are interested.

    -drl

  146. CB

    Yeah, that’s not what the observation was about at all. GR did not “fail” any more than it “failed” when we saw a distant start wobbling, and about the only reasonable way to explain it was by hypothesizing planets around it. GR predicted that there is a mass there, and the only way to explain its location and momentum was to hypothesize a type of matter that could pass through a galaxy largely undisturbed.

    This should not seem that odd to you, of course, since you are surely familiar with such types of matter. You don’t seem to be very familiar with the observations, though. Disney’s article is not the most up-to-date source for them!

    @ Joseph G
    That used to be the case, but there are observations that are really, really difficult to explain with any kind of Baryonic matter.

    @ DRL
    Wait… “oddly enough” Birkeland Currents? Yeah please tell me we aren’t going there.

  147. Joseph G

    @DRL: So if I understand right, you’re not proposing an alternative for galactic filamentary structure, just that DM has enough holes to not be a satisfactory answer. And that DM isn’t needed on smaller scales, due to errors in the modeling of complex systems (galaxies and clusters of galaxies) using GR?

    The bit about GR and conservation of energy (or potential lack thereof) are, er, right over my head :P

    @ All: Anyway, it’s been fun, but stuff’s going on – I’ll probably be back tonight.

  148. D R Lunsford

    @CB – “GR predicted that there is a mass there, and the only way to explain its location and momentum was to hypothesize a type of matter that could pass through a galaxy largely undisturbed.”

    I don’t know where you got this information but it is false. DM was invoked when the approximation model led to the wrong answer. Because the scheme was wrong, no conclusions are legitimately drawn.

    -drl

  149. D R Lunsford

    @Joseph G – “proposing..” No, I have no need to explain the filamentary structures because there are more urgent things that need attention. The question of intrinsic redshift must be settled. A theory of galactic evolution is required. GR must be used as intended, not as desired.

    -drl

  150. D R Lunsford

    @Joseph G – to have a conservation law of anything, you have to be able to reduce the effects of that thing throughout a given volume, into something equivalent calculated just from its effects on the surface of that volume. Another way to say it – for something to be conserved, the only way it should be able to exit or enter a volume is to go through the surface. There is no such law in general for GR – not even for some very simply configurations. Because there is no strict conservation of energy, there is no easy way to talk about gravitational radiation.

    This is an ancient problem, going back to the beginning of GR. Everything points to this as a flaw with the theory itself.

    -drl

  151. //Feeling left out, waiting for my lonely little questions to be answered. :(

  152. //Sighhhhhhhhhh…….. :(

  153. Bioth

    Let us not forget DM is also needed to explain the rotation anomaly in our galaxy. It is clear that the velocities in this case are NOT relativistic. Let me also point out that MOND has been proposed to solve this anomaly, but without doing so with serious credibility as MOND has been proven to be very unlikely in many recent studies.

  154. D R Lunsford

    Bioth, the velocities do not have to be relativistic. For example, Mercury is quite happy to respond to the curvature of spacetime from the Sun, be it ever so pokey in its course.

    As I said, when the galaxy is treated as a non-linear whole, GR works just fine and there is no need for DM. In the context of a galaxy’s rotation curve, DM amounts to an error from making the wrong approximation to the matter distribution. The equations are essentially non-linear, and you cannot linearize them without throwing away important phenomena, just as with Navier-Stokes.

    -drl

  155. //Twiddling thumbs…waiting…waiting….

    I guess there’s some Quiet Thinking going on. Shhh…do not disturb.

    Oh, and while waiting for those answers, I thought this was a rather interesting article:

    http (colon slash slash) scienceandreason (dot) blogspot (dot) com (slash) 2005 (slash) 10 (slash) revisiting-evidence-for-dark-matter (dot) html

    All part of that evil astronomical conspiracy, of course.

  156. Messier Tidy Upper

    @144. D R Lunsford :

    And how did MOND get into this discussion? There is no need for MOND. GR works just fine (Cooperstock and Tieu)

    Who are Cooperstock & Tieu?

    I can’t seem to find much clear info on who they are and what their theory was. Please, can you provide a little more information – say a brief paragraph or two summary on this & maybe a reference link or two – if you’re there still D R Lunsford?

    Or does someone else out there know & care to enlighten us?

  157. David

    @kuhnigget: If you’re discouraging anyone from trying to see if a simpler model can fit existing data, that’s completely anti-science. The goal is completely noble and D R is completely right that more effort should be spent on it.

    D R didn’t say that Cooperstock’s model was flawless. That position is untenable since Cooperstock continues to refine it, divide it into alternatives, and generally respond to criticism. (Hence, not a crackpot.) Maybe it won’t get anywhere. But it certainly won’t if nobody supports it. Strength in diversity, OK?

    And seriously, you’re sounding completely infantile. Take a second to read what you’ve been writing. It looks like evidence of a little too much “quiet thought.”

  158. David

    @Messier: Google turned up plenty for me. Some users of physicsforum.com were following developments: http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=203200 http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=103248 .

    In particular http://www.brynmawr.edu/physics/DJCross/docs/papers/cooperstock_review.pdf .

    Condensing the summary, C-T used a model with different coordinates and the right rotation rates popped out. Unfortunately they couldn’t get all their own equations to reconcile.

    I guess some claim that the error term separating the different equations amounts to dark matter? I don’t understand/didn’t read that deep.

  159. D R Lunsford

    @David – “Is there a theory you feel was short shrifted, or are you really just venting anger about the lack of more diverse theories?”

    I think the scorn heaped on Arp is both horribly uncivilized and a terrible injustice. Other than that, no – what I feel is that GR is not well understood by many who make a lot of noise about it – including some very big names (e.g. Wheeler) and that in fact that SR is often poorly understood. I think the “more relativicum” to make some Pig Latin has not been absorbed by most of the community all these 100 years later. There is too much emphasis on pathology. Most of the models created from this position of intellectual darkness are extremely naive and are certain to become historical footnotes, like Kaluza-Klein theory. However, these aggressive and loud researchers do not take “no” or “wrong” for an answer and merely become more entrenched. They hold power and they wield it to control telescope time, among other things. So there is a pathology than spans the entire ethos of the field of hard science, both physics and astronomy (less so in physics), from working conditions to internecine competition to basic lack of comprehension to self-interested stridency. Does that make me angry? You bet it does.

    -drl

  160. D R Lunsford

    @Messier, just Google them and the relevant issues will show up. A few years ago, they treated a galactic disk as a non-linear whole, as one should, under a more sophisticated and realistic weak-field approximation than is usually employed. Their work is entirely correct, but it engendered several rebuttals that were not only easily re-rebutted by C&T, but were in themselves extremely naive and hardly worthy of the respect C&T showed them. But the re-rebuttals were ignored and C&T’s work was swept under the rug and forgotten, although there is some hope it will re-emerge when smart students come across it.

    There is an enormous vested interest in DM – showing that it is an elementary blunder to invoke it does not win many friends in the pathological academic world.

    Note that C&T’s approach can also be applied to the anomalous radial velocity profiles in globular clusters. Why this work is not done, mystifies me. There is no way for the DM fiction to be invoked in that case.

    Cooperstock published a small book to formalize his approach, “General Relativistic Dynamics”. I recommend it.

    -drl

  161. Messier Tidy Upper

    Okay thanks. Trying Google sort of worked – better than my Wikipedia searching earlier did anyhow.

    So far I’ve found this :

    http://www.brynmawr.edu/physics/DJCross/docs/papers/cooperstock_review.pdf

    & this :

    http://scienceandreason.blogspot.com/2005/10/revisiting-evidence-for-dark-matter.html

    Plus this abstract of their paper :

    http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0507619

    Noting :

    F. I. Cooperstock, S. Tieu (Submitted on 26 Jul 2005)

    Abstract: A galaxy is modeled as a stationary axially symmetric pressure-free fluid in general relativity. For the weak gravitational fields under consideration, the field equations and the equations of motion ultimately lead to one linear and one nonlinear equation relating the angular velocity to the fluid density. It is shown that the rotation curves for the Milky Way, NGC 3031, NGC 3198 and NGC 7331 are consistent with the mass density distributions of the visible matter concentrated in flattened disks. Thus the need for a massive halo of exotic dark matter is removed. For these galaxies we determine the mass density for the luminous threshold as 10^{-21.75} kg.m$^{-3}.

    Which I’d like to get explained in simple English if possible please.

    In a nutshell – no doubt oversimplified & going from first glance, so please correct me if I’m wrong – Cooperstock & Tieu are saying they have done some equations and models which show no need for Dark Matter (or at least not in some specific galaxies) whilst the rest of the cosmologists and astronomers seem to think the observed evidence as well as other models and calculations indicates otherwise.

    Fair summary?

  162. Messier Tidy Upper

    A few more links that may hopefully be helpful / of interest here :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter

    for the wiki-basics &

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2008/08/28/galactic-collision-gives-researchers-a-glimpse-of-dark-matter/

    for more incl. links & also this one :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/04/21/dark-matter-detected/

    Which gives folks the Bad Astronomer’s perspective on Dark Matter as of 2008 April 21st.

  163. @ David:

    If you’re discouraging anyone from trying to see if a simpler model can fit existing data, that’s completely anti-science. The goal is completely noble and D R is completely right that more effort should be spent on it.

    I’m not discouraging anything. I’m encouraging someone who is making grandiose claims to back them up with evidence. Not getting much in return except grand pronouncements, am I?

    Maybe it won’t get anywhere. But it certainly won’t if nobody supports it. Strength in diversity, OK?

    A person who makes a claim is the one who has to support that claim with evidence. That is the way it works. Claiming everyone is agin’ ya because of a grand conspiracy is nutter talk.

    And seriously, you’re sounding completely infantile. Take a second to read what you’ve been writing. It looks like evidence of a little too much “quiet thought.”

    Nobody would ever accuse me of being “quiet,” and as for my style, it is what it is. But then I’m not the one coming here accusing the whole world of science of being involved in a conspiracy against me, am I?

    Once again, Lunsford, put up or shut up. I’ve repeatedly asked you simple questions to help me understand your position. You’ve repeatedly ignored them. I can only conclude, therefore, that you cannot answer them.

    @ MUT: follow the link in comment #159. The quiet thinker Mr. D R Lunsford’s heroes have been rebutted quite effectively. That their ideas have not been embraced by the evil astronomical community is not evidence of a conspiracy, just good scientists doing their jobs.

    I note that a quick search of the literature finds Cooperstock and Tieu offering counter arguments, but these, too, have not held up. Again, there is no conspiracy against them, it is just the nature of science to go where the evidence leads.

    Once again, Mr. Lunsford is free to find evidence in support of his theories. That he hasn’t probably suggests more about his own character and situation (I refer to my conclusion in #140) than anything regarding the profession beyond his own quiet little room.

    Really, people ought to get out more.

  164. D R Lunsford

    @MT “Cooperstock & Tieu are saying they have done some equations and models which show no need for Dark Matter (or at least not in some specific galaxies) whilst the rest of the cosmologists and astronomers seem to think the observed evidence as well as other models and calculations indicates otherwise. ”

    They don’t “have some equations”, the equations are those of GR. They have a model of the galactic disk that allows the weakest sort of non-linearity to enter. Then they just do GR and surprise, you get something more than Newton/Kepler. It amazes me that this is even controversial.

    Also – although there is a lot of good stuff on Wikipedia for math and science, there is enough really sketchy stuff that it’s not a trustworthy reference. I think for the most part the stuff written by Phil and other bloggers can be trusted to be up to date and accurate.

    -drl

    -drl

  165. D R Lunsford

    Well this has been fun. I hope they don’t find another one next week. Sorry to be such a pill sometimes.

    -drl

  166. What? You’re going away without answering my questions? Not very sporting.

  167. Sighhh….deserted again. And I so desperately wanted to bask in the wisdom of the annointed one. Perhaps he’ll return someday to answer my simple questions.

  168. Unless…oh my! How could I have been so blind! He’s…deliberately ignoring me! The fiend! He’s engaged in a conspiracy!

    All is clear at last.

  169. Joseph G

    Noooo! I have more popcorm!
    Sigh… maybe next time.

  170. DrB

    @33 & 94 – Yep, same here, except I get these updates in Gmail. It started happening a month or so ago; I’ve seen some similar tales online but no solution. It doesn’t happen in any other long emails just the BA ones. Not sure what’s changed.

    (apologies for going off topic but I think it’s safe to say this one has long since expired)

  171. (apologies for going off topic but I think it’s safe to say this one has long since expired)

    Not true! I’m still here, the equivalent of a gila monster, refusing to let go until you answer my simple questions.

    Unless, of course, you can’t.

  172. (Sorry, wasn’t clear…waiting for Mr. Lunsford to answer my questions. And I’m still waiting!)

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