As the Universe Undergoes Significant Changes, New Astronomical Discoveries Emerge
With the help of high-resolution telescopes, astronomers have recently discovered many astonishing and important astronomical phenomena.
Recently, English and Australian astronomers have independently discovered new evidence that the universe is accelerating its expansion. Presently, scientists think that our universe originated from a great explosion about 15 billion years ago. Since then, stars and galaxies have been continuously expanding outward (Figure 1). According to the present theories, the gravitation holding them together should slow down this rate of expansion. However, in 1998, the discoveries of two groups of scientists shocked the world. Based on the brightness of supernovae (stars of great mass that are exploding) in some remote galaxies, they concluded that the rate of the universe’s expansion is accelerating. It had long been accepted by the scientific community that the universe’s expansion was slowing.
A research team of 27 astronomers led by Professor George Efstathiou of Cambridge University performed an analysis of the photographic images of 250,000 galaxies in a gigantic universal space. These photo images were taken by the Anglo-Australian Telescope, located on Siding Spring Mountain, New South Wales, Australia. By comparing the current microwave background radiation of the present universe with that of the universe when it was 300 thousand years old, the Anglo-Australian team found that the composition of the universe is based on simple geometric principles. Their results have shown that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, which is consistent with the findings of the previous supernova team. It is generally considered that the acceleration in expansion is a sign of an impending explosion. Scientists think that there is certain kind of force in the universe, which is pulling stars and galaxies apart. They do not know what kind of force it is. However, they can derive mathematical formulae to describe this phenomenon.
Professor Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University and Professor Neil Turok of Cambridge University have recently proposed a model showing the repetition of explosions and reconstructions of the universe. According to their theory, the universe has neither beginning nor end. Instead, it follows a constant cyclic process of birth to death. The BBC has reported that the cosmologists who have put forward this theory stated that the universe must be this way to explain why the stars and galaxies are becoming increasingly further apart. The universe is full of mysteries, such as black holes, quark stars and particles that constantly come into existence and then go back into nothingness. Steinhardt believes that this formula predicts that the universe has no beginning and no end. The universe will experience consecutive explosions that will go on forever. He said, “The explosion our picture has proposed is actually not the beginning of time, but just the newest one in a series of explosions. During these circulations, the universe has undergone calefaction, expansion, cooling down, stagnancy and void, and then once again expands.” According to this theory, the universe will continue to expand and then experience another explosion in a certain corner of the universe, and everything will be renewed from this new beginning. They have pointed out that today’s universe was born from the dust of the last universe.
Recently, the Hubble Telescope sent photographic images to the U.S. Space Center that greatly shocked astronomers. These pictures have shown the collision and reconstruction of galaxies and the birth of new stars. Figure 2 is the newly pictured Cone Nebula, which was published by U.S. Space Navigation Bureau on April 30, 2002. Scientists believe this gas column will gestate new stars (AFP). Two galaxies in collision may be seen in another picture, which is called the “Tadpole” by scientists (Figure 3). Another picture shows the scene of a collision between two spiral galaxies, which scientists refer to as “The Mice” (Figure 4). Scientists think that the Milky Way may collide with a neighboring galaxy. The colliding galaxies would then form an oval-shaped galaxy.
In addition, according to NASA on April 22, NASA’s Chandra X ray Observation Station has provided a picture of a head-on collision and aggregation of the Arp220 galaxy 10 million years ago. The data observed has shown that the violent collision has generated a great number of stars (Figure 5). Other pictures have also shown huge changes, including the formation of galaxies and new stars (Figure 6).
Based on the new astronomical findings, it can be concluded that the universe is presently facing a critical moment of accelerated expansion, explosion, reconstruction and formation of new stars. The tremendous changes observed in the universe are astonishing. According to an ancient theory, humans are an integral part of nature, and changes in human society correspond to changes in celestial phenomena. When these tremendous changes are reflected on our earth, they are probably foretelling that humans are also facing a significant transformation in this current period.
1. The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 330, No. 2, 21 February
2. The 2dF (2-degree field) Galaxy Redshift Survey (2dFGRS). More information about the 2dFGRS is available at http://www.mso.anu.edu.au/2dFGRS
3. Space Telescope Science Institute Press Release 2002, http://sites.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pr/2002/11/pr-photos.html
4. NASA news release April 22, 2002, http://www1.msfc.nasa.gov/NEWSROOM/news/releases/2002/02-094.html