ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATIONS:
Addendum to "Big Bang as Ultimate Beginning"

Original posted '99 & '041 by Ken Wear
(To read footnote, click here.)

DISTANCES: Distance to nearby celestial objects is measured (by ground-based observatories or from orbital craft) by parallax, which uses that 16-light-minute base of Earth's orbit to focus on a more distant target star and measure the displacement of the nearer star in the field of view; trigonometry, with a pointing accuracy of small fractions of one second of arc, provides the basis for calculation. More than 100,000 distances have been thus measured from orbital craft. (Original 1/16/00, revised 7-2-04)

"Standard candles" has become a favored means to measure celestial distances but there are coming into use new concepts for its measurement. Red shift has become a primary means of estimating distances to more distant objects. There is no question of the validity of red shift in calculating relative velocities, but the correlation of red shift to distance may be suspect, and the correlation with distance is part of the argument for the Big Bang. I simply note these in passing to the comment below.

Since we now have the capability of measurement of distances beyond the limits of parallax using Earth's 16-light-minute base, estimates by red shift should be re-examined. I suggest measurements made from two spacecraft travelling in opposite directions, with their two telescopes measuring the angle to the same star, could achieve a trigonometric baseline measured in light years. Of course it requires extended life since two spacecraft journeying at a velocity 1/20 that of light -- admittedly impossible to achieve with existing technology -- would be a light year apart in a decade. As technology advances it may become possible to approach such velocities, but even at 22,000 mph -- well within today's capability -- (Earth's orbital speed projected onto the diameter of orbit is some 220,000 mi/hr.) two spacecraft traveling in opposite directions would separate by one orbital diameter each half decade. Two such crafts could greatly extend the number of known and unquestioned celestial distances, though it may not yet be sufficient to confirm the correlation between red shift and distance. Four launched at optimum angles would cover the entire sweep of existence.

SIZE & AGE: I have pondered the enormity of our physical universe as astronomers picture it. Our galaxy alone consists of more than 200 billion stars, likely many with planetary systems; the number of galaxies is presently estimated at some 2 billion, and many of those, because of the brilliance necessary to be detected at such vast distances, are likely clusters (or even super-clusters) of galaxies. It is entirely too much for a single Bang.

The enormity of the universe is so great that the idea of an adequate initiating density in a Big Bang is so utterly preposterous that we must seek further explanations. I even question if our own galaxy, as insignificant as it is in the vastness of the cosmos, is too much for a single Bang. Perhaps there have been many Bangs; and perhaps there are other mechanisms at play, even on a continuing basis, and some localized Bangs such as for instance within a single galaxy. I find it increasingly persuasive that the cosmos entire has resulted from a gradual splitting of the pre-existent nothingness over an infinite expanse of time, coupled from time to time with fiery events such as Local Bangs. The universe of astronomy may indeed include the results of multiple Bangs, and there are likely influences resulting from thoe other Bangs beyond the reach of our astronomy.

From the book Space Encyclopedia published by DK Publishing in 1999, a discussion of clusters of stars known as globular clusters on page 177 mentions two anomalies that question the validity of the Big Bang:
1) With the Hubble Space Telescope younger globular clusters have been observed where it is thought that galaxies are colliding with each other. In fact, some globular clusters in the Milky Way may have been brought to the Milky Way by smaller galaxies that collided with it in the past. True to the Big Bang all galaxies should be moving away from each other; in fact, all stars should be displaced farther from each other with time since it is postulated there was a common point of origin; hence, collision of galaxies is contrary to a single Bang.
2) Some globular clusters appear to be older than the universe itself. I am amused at the notion of stars or star systems that pre-date their origin.
??) Contrary to the Big Bang, the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies are approaching each other and it is thought that many galaxies were formed by the collisions of smaller galaxies. Perhaps in a few centuries we will know with a certainty the velocities of approach toward each other of various celestial objects.

SUB-NUCLEAR PARTICLES: Physicists at CERN (Europeís particle accelerator in Switzerland) have bombarded a metal barrier with lead atoms at velocities near that of light; they feel they have created quarks, the smallest constituent of matter, and the particles (gluons) that restrain the quarks inside the protons, neutrons and mesons. The RHIC accelerator at Brookhaven National Laboratory will begin this May or June colliding gold nuclei at energies ten times higher than CERNís capability. (Added note 6-24-04)

It is intriguing that the effort to explain astronomical observations relies on our understanding of the elementary particles making up the sub-nuclear particles protons, neutrons and electrons. That studies of the vastness hinge significantly on studies of things so small as to be well beyond our ability to observe and measure.

BLACK HOLES: Pursuing the idea presented in the foundation essay, that the particles making up our universe came into being as a result of eruptions of nothingness, there must be a countervailing process by which these partaicles and energies return to the nothingness from which they sprung. Black holes provide a means. There is nothing to suggest there is homogeniety in the recesses of a black hole. With sufficient proximity particles and energies may recombine, disappearing into the nothingness of their origin, but leaving yet an imbalance of particles and energies that may yet result in another explosion or Bang.

What is the geometric structure of a black hole? A cone? A tunnel? A random collection of local structures? Has it a mouth and bottom or only a core? In any case, as particles or structures approach they experience increasing gravitational attraction and are compressed into ever-increasing density until . . .

Black holes are detected by radiation from gases and objects in the process of capture. Emissions, since light is slowed by the influence of the intense gravity, should show red shift as the emitting gas or object approaches more closely to the black hole due to the decelerating effect of gravity on light. Should it be possible to spatially resolve the region surrounding the black hole, there should be a circular pattern of increasingly greater red shift with decreasing radius. Near the center emissions should be slowed into the radio spectrum, and finally at the center no emissions at all. So the black hole should display a geometric pattern of frequency shift in electromagnetic emission.

This may be the ultimate speculation, but there seems to be no clear idea what happens within a black hole. It seems a bit ridiculous to say that the density in the depths of the hole is infinite, but that seems to be the consequence of unlimited contraction of matter. I have read speculations that exceed the intricacies of science fiction, including the suggestion that the bottom of the black hole may be the entry to an alternate universe -- or in view of the fact that there are many black holes so far detected, many universes. Let me add this speculation: Within the black hole matter simply returns to the nothingness from which it sprung, that in the extreme compaction of matter many primordial particles come into contact with their counterparts and mutually annihilate each other; density may be extreme but it is not infinite.

The postulated existence of a number of black holes within the Milky Way, not just at its core but in outlying regions, causes me to question much of what I read about their enormity and influence.

PRECISION: I am completing a series of 60 video lectures published by The Teaching Company presenting a survey of astronomy. It has been fascinating but I have been handicapped in grasping the niceties of current observations by lack of knowledge of accuracy and precision of equipments. I must marvel at the degree of precision required to detect red shift at the relative velocities of binary stars (as one recedes or advances relative to the other), or the displacement of a star due to a massive unseen object orbiting it, or resolution of the halo surrounding a suspected black hole to determine shifts in color as the center is approached.

Black holes, pulsars, neutron stars, dark mass, dark energy: my, what an array of things we have to explore, and we haven't even learned how to observe most of our galaxy because of the dust clouds that obscure much of it. And as yet we can only speculate on the geometrical configuration of the Milky Way. Speculation is of course rampant in the quest to assert positive identifications of the various phenomena and to present plausible measurements.

Pointing accuracy of the 200" telescope at Palomar is reportedly 0.25 arcsec while Hubble reportedly is capable of 0.1 arcsec resolution. (Resolving a dime -- 11/16" diameter -- at 400 miles, or one part in nearly 36 million)

ELECTROSTATIC FORCE: Perhaps, in the debate over deceleration or acceleration of expansion of the universe, we should consider electrostatic imbalances as producing part of the effect. Suppose the gravitational effect of all stars within, say, 100 light years of our Sun were determined. Is it possible to measure with sufficient accuracy the velocities of the Sun with respect to nearby stars as a means of verifying electrostatic balance? I would much prefer an explanation such as electrostatic imbalance over postulating "dark energy" analogous to "dark matter." (Of course dark matter is there because not all celestial bodies are visible to us with our various detection tools. But "dark energy"? It is of course possible there are kinds of energy that we have not yet detected.)


FOOTNOTE: Review of a series of lectures on modern astronomy is the occasion for a revision of this addendum. Several earlier comments are being consolidated to present a more cohesive picture.

I am by nature skeptical, and some recognitions come slowly. I have not seen displayed with convincing clarity the continuity of electricity and magnetism from direct current through gamma rays. However, I have recently become persuaded of the continuity of parts of the electromagnetic spectrum as simply different frequencies of the same phenomenon. Excluding direct current (unidirectional flow of electrons) and alternating current (synchronous pulsation of electrons first in one direction and then the other), we have:
a. Broadcast frequencies from ELF to AM to FM where, once flow is established, collapse of the electric field generates a magnetic field and collapse of the magnetic field generates an electric field
b. Microwave, where propagation is similar to FM
c. Infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and
d. X-rays and gamma rays.
Different portions of this spectrum have their own peculiar means of generation and detection, and analyses must of necessity hinge on the form and accuracy of observations.

Laboratory: It will be many generations before we can hope to visit any stars; observations must of necessity be limited to emanations that reach us. Earth's atmosphere has certain windows through which various frequencies may transit; wavelengths shorter than near ultraviolet are absorbed and do not reach the ground; several ranges of infrared do transit but others are absorbed, and some ranges transit dust; microwaves are very directional but do transit the atmosphere and dust while longer wavelengths bend. Earth's atmosphere is turbulent, and transmitted light becomes distorted, but craft above the atmosphere are immune to this distortion and give much clearer pictures; a recent development in ground-based telescopes adjusts the telescope's mirror in real time to offset much of this distortion although some distortion remains.

Detection: The human eye varies somewhat from person to person in its color response, but in general we all see the short (red) of the longer wavelengths that are infrared to the long (violet) of the shorter wavelengths that are ultraviolet; if you detect anything at all beyond these extremes it appears black. Photographic emulsions have the advantage that they accumulate their response to incident energy; they differ in their color responses; for the general public much research has been expended to duplicate the response of the eye, but some emulsions are sensitive to the infrared and some well beyond the violet although their presentation to the eye may be black or a color characteristic of the emulsion. CCDs (charge-coupled detectors) extend sensitivities well beyond the limitations of the eye and allow accumulation of energy, whereas the eye perceives only on a real time basis; resolution based on CCDs is likely similar to that of digital cameras. Many color pictures have been published of the ranges beyond the human eye's ability to perceive; the colors are computer-generated to make them visible to us.

In Spectral analyses different frequencies of incident energy are dispersed through different angles to produce a spectrum of the incident energy. Various frequency ranges, such as visible light or far infrared, require different techniques to accomplish the dispersion. We are familiar with the rainbow in the sky (spectral separation by raindrops) and with dispersion of visible colors by a prism or grating; but each method of dispersion has frequency limits so other methods must be used. For instance, microwaves require resonant cavities or circuits. X-rays and gamma rays are very penetrating and thus not so readily dispersed into a spectrum.

The visible range of colors was first used in spectroscopy, although it may be extended into the infrared and ultraviolet. In the laboratory each chemical element, when excited, emits colors in wavelengths and intensities that are characteristic of that element. Breaking starlight into its constituent colors therefore allows matching patterns of colors and intensities, and the resultant identification of the chemical elements participating in generation of the light; thus chemical composition of the star can be determined. Emphasis seems to be on the lighter elements hydrogen and helium (which are by far the most plentiful), then oxygen, carbon and nitrogen, so the spectral identifications can be done with a selected set of colors; such a short cut is especially valuable when working with red-shifted starlight.

With the spectrum from a star matched to its elements, the red shift is determined by simple subtraction of a selected wavelength of the star's spectrum from the wavelength of the corresponding line produced in the laboratory. And the Doppler effect is taken as the cause of red shift. (Doppler effect: A spectral line is made up of individual wavelets of a specific frequency; as emitting and receiving stations separate there is a stretching out of the time interval between arrival of wavelets, which produces the appearance of a lower frequency -- much like the sound of a siren changing as the ambulance passes us.)

Geometry: An essential part of an expanding assortment of galaxies is spreading apart at greater distances from the initial center. From nothing more than the distribution of celestial objects from the point of the Big Bang, it should be possible to trace backward in time and space to locate the point of origin. (DK's Space Encyclopedia mentions 13 billion years since the Big Bang based on this idea, though an origin is not suggested.) (Someone has commented that from each star it appears that it is the center of the universe. So long as no edge is found, it would appear we -- or a star 10 billion light years away -- may be at the center.) The notion of 'inflation' has been offered to yield initial velocities greatly exceeding the speed of light so the edge will forever be beyond detection. Moreover, it has been postulated a repulsive force, contrary to gravity, operates between galaxies. But inflation requires that space itself is expanding so that the speed of light can be regarded as constant; but inflation from what -- a singularity? Paradox: a singularity in what -- space? The notion that the Big Bang initiated space as well as time requires a statement about what preceded it.

Continuing: There must be a distribution of velocities from the origin, else there would be a enormous spherical empty volume at the origin; lacking that, celestial objects near the origin were imparted negligible initial velocity. Red shift yields the velocity of recession from Earth but offers no suggestion of direction of motion. Since galaxies move radially outward from their origin in all directions, there must be components of galactic velocity perpendicular to a line connecting that star's apparent position to us. But, since red shift yields only velocity of recession radially from us, there is nowhere a suggestion of origin.

Our spherical coordinate system based on Earth (or our Sun), our ecliptic plane and its vernal equinox offers a starting point for a plot of celestial objects. Perhaps more fitting on a universal scale would be the plane of the Milky Way, its center, and a line from our Sun to that center. Unquestionably it is a platform moving through space and all measurements are relative to that moving platform. Perhaps over the centuries we can accumulate enough positional data on a selection of celestial objects to determine their motions relative to us and perhaps even other components of velocity. Hopefully the astronomical community can readily (or has already) establish a limited set of objects to be followed more closely for this purpose. Granting the possibility of local Bangs, it should be possible over time and with enough observations to suggest a catalog of objects produced by each Bang.

I have appreciated the Deep Field photograph from Hubble and can't help wondering if the view would be similar in all six directions from the origin of rectangular coordinate axes. I.e., what would it tell us about our position in the universe? (Apparently the view has been recorded in two essentially opposite directions and the photographs look similar in both directions. The suggestion is that Deep Field photographs would show similar kinds of objects, densities, distances and other properties in all directions.)

Mathematically, integration of emitted light versus empty space in a deep field photograph has led to the concept that, in the limit of infinite distance, the field of view would be filled in solid. That has made possible a number of interpretations that I feel are questionable. With a fixed size of photographic plate and increased magnification, a smaller solid angle is subtended in the photograph. But, no matter what magnification has been used, one aspect of the photograph is always the same: the field of view is over 90% black (empty). My suspicion is that the equation being integrated is overly simplified and, no matter how small the angle subtended, the view will always be mostly black; infinity cannot produce a solidly filled in field. So examination of some paradoxes are tainted by the difference between the mathematical concept of infinity and the reality of the enormity of space.

Astronomers and physicists alike are searching for some means of tying mathematical manipulations to observation, and whole arrays of suggestions have been made, many of them beyond the reach of what appears reasonable speculation.


Editorial comment added 1-02-06:
I awoke this morning thinking what a colossal denial of science resides in published notions of the Big Bang and "inflation." All of this from nothing in a flicker of a hydrogen electron's orbit? From nothing almost instantaneously!! Scientists are trained, in designing their experiments, to go from well-known starting conditions and add defined conditions to produce a measurable result; that is the essence of the scientific method. But the Big Bang (and the artifice called inflation) . . . no starting conditions and no energy source . . . preposterous beyond the capacity of words to convey.

Alternately, an unstable nothingness postulates that nothing is actually something but in equal and offsetting quantities, adding to zero. It might be taken as equally preposterous. I have no information on those experiments in vacuum chambers that produced virtual particles and energies with predictably measurable results, and I do not anticipate a literature search. My scientific career was dedicated to research on the vacuum environment and I recognize the difficulty of evacuating any chamber to the degree that it is actually empty of all gaseous molecules. It may be possible to evacuate a chamber, using molten lead as pump fluid -- and my research suggests such a possibility -- to 10-20 torr or better, but that leaves molecules aplenty though not enough that they will experience each other. But at least there have been experiments reported in an archives journal suggesting the possibility of an unstable nothingness. I would hope that in time a chamber with an unobstructed interior of 200 feet or more diameter will be constructed to allow pursuit of the instability of emptiness.

So an unstable nothingness produces virtual and real energies and particles, and it has been doing so for an infinitely long past. Why is it that the universe is not filled solid by now since an infinite time certainly allows enough solid particles to result in filling the entirety of available space? Evidently it is a self-limiting process in that, with increasing density, there are increasing interactions back to nothingness, the process has an inherent exponential decay and thus a limit -- which likely has not yet been reached.

Despite the obvious variations in density (physical bodies in highly rarefied intervening space) in our solar system and in our galaxy, mathematics tells us that, extending to a large enough universe, the universe is homogeneous. (I know homogeneity stretches the imagination, but infinity has peculiar properties and mathematics extends its limits to infinity.) Actually, despite inflation, a single Big Bang could not produce a truly infinite universe, but that is nit picking; what we have seen, without an apparent edge, allows extension to near-infinity.

Ignoring the notion of homogeneity, since the real universe we have observed has tremendous local variations in density, the supposedly measured acceleration of expansion could well be the influence of aggregations of bodies to produce gravitational attractions in directions and to a degree that we don't presently recognize. My intuitive reaction is that it will take centuries of observation to measure masses and plot directions and velocities of celestial objects in spherical coordinates with enough care to distinguish influences of local variations in gravity throughout the universe. If all that we see resulted from a single Bang, it will become possible to project backward to an origin; if there were in fact multiple Bangs then various origins may become recognizable.

Thus ends the speculations that were running through my mind this morning. My waking moments have not added enough to warrant presentation. Except this: I suggested earlier that the interior of a black hole may return matter to the nothingness from which all matter sprung; that would complete the cycle from nothing back to nothing.


I invite further information and discussions (on an undergraduate or lesser level) of celestial phenomena. For an e-mail form, click here.


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1-23-08 It occurs to me there is a potential conflict in suggestions about formation of galaxies and the "dark energy" that is postulated to be causing separation of celestial bodies. Evidently gravity pulled gases together to form solid bodies; repulsion somehow seems a contrary notion. 9-15-09 Of course, products of other Bangs in the vastness of space, well beyond our ability to observe, could present the possibility that gravitational attraction is responsible for observations of the increased speed of separation of celestial bodies.

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