Mystery galaxy could unravel Big Bang theory of creation
Called 'theory' for a reason.
Astronomers are being reminded today why they call their best explanations "theories" as opposed to facts. A recent find from the Hubble Space Telescope backed with observations from the Keck Observatory in Hawai'i show a spiral galaxy as it looked some 10 billion years ago. The catch? It isn't supposed to exist.
An artist's rendering of BX442.
Researchers were imaging some 300 galaxies and all the others in the lot were irregularly shaped, consistent with the Big Bang model. However, BX442's shape is spiral, much like our own galaxy, the Milky Way, which is thought to be a "barred spiral" galaxy.
BX442 is approximately 10 billion light years from Earth, which means it took that long for its light to reach observers here. Therefore, researchers studying the image of BX442 are seeing the galaxy as it actually was 10 billion years ago.
As for the Big Bang, scientists aren't ready to rewrite the books yet, but they have some explaining to do.
Scientists must always allow for the possibility, no matter how remote, that new evidence could change what they think to be true. Therefore, in humble deference to that idea, they never refer to their conclusions as facts, but rather as theories. Nonetheless, a theory is often (quite rightly) equated with fact in lay scientific circles. For example, scientists consider gravity, which we all take for fact, as a theory.
So, does the existence of BX442 represent new evidence that could unravel the Big Bang theory?
The Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe was first proposed by Georges Lemaitre, a Catholic priest and astrophysicist at the Catholic University of Louvain. Since his proposal in 1927, the theory has been repeatedly tested and developed. Those tests have suggested that the theory is accurate.
However, BX442 suggests that either the galaxy is an observational anomaly, something researchers believe they have already ruled out, or that there is some component of the theory that needs adjusting. But most likely, the researchers in charge of the study speculate the galaxy may have its premature spiral shape because of a nearby companion galaxy that could be shaping it into a spiral pattern long before it would naturally develop.
Indeed, this is the most likely explanation. Gravity travels in waves throughout the universe and the spiral arms of galaxies are actually visible evidence of those waves. However, BX442 will need more study to verify that gravity, and not something else, is the culprit.
And of course, scientists will need to look for other exceptions to the rule. If an inexplicable and significant number of premature spirals are found, then the Big Bang theory will need to be rewritten, or disposed of altogether, no matter how beloved it is today. After all, it is just a theory.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: BX442, galaxy, Big Bang theory, universe
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