Chapter 39: Galaxies

imagesIn the beginning, they tell us, was The Singularity. And The Singularity contained so much energy that it had to explode. And it did. And it spewed forth its energy that eventually coalesced to form photons, and then electrons and positrons, who began annihilating each other at an alarming rate and turning back into energy until the positrons, with the help of the neutrinos and the color charge, finally retreated into protons, where they were safe and could keep the insidious electrons at bay. This explosion of The Singularity was so powerful that the speed of its shock wave exceeded the speed of light in the earliest moments of the universe formation, which although it was an illegal act, allowed the subsequent energy, and eventually matter, to be distributed in the relatively uniform density that we see today.

For some reason, although the amount of energy contained in The Singularity was great enough to account for the entire mass of the observable universe and all of its planets, stars, radiation as well as the ubiquitous, unseen, unproven, mathematically necessary and imaginary Dark Matter and Dark Energy within a single point (how big?), somehow this density did not reach the concentration required to cause it to go into a total and fatal collapse into a universe sized gravitational black hole from which nothing could ever escape. Maybe it was just too hot for some reason. God probably left the thermostat set up too high.

And after a certain amount of time (roughly one half of a billion years or so) these protons and electrons formed into neutrons, hydrogen, and a tiny little bit of helium and by gravitational attraction (and gravitational attraction alone!) began to coalesce to form the stars, galaxies and inter-galactic structures that we see spread before us today.

This is somewhat interpretive version of the current story for how the universe was created and we call it the Big Bang theory (What and understatement! Super-colossal Bang would be better. How about Ultra-mega-monstrous Bang?) and most scientists believe with all of their hearts that the important aspects of this story are true. At least it beats the creation stories that are in the ancient texts, like the Bible.

Although this story does leave something to be desired, it’s not a bad one, and it does explain a lot about the way we see things now. And we have created numerical models based on the facts that we think we know that show that this model is true and correct and predicts how everything must have been back to the time of about 10-24 of a second after the Bang. Wow. Talk about predictive theories! And accuracy.

But in a more serious vein, we live in a very exciting time for astronomy. New space-based and high tech Earth based telescopes are coming on line with regularity, providing ever more deep and detailed views of the universe around us. And it is truly just incredible.

As a case in point, take a look at the Deep Space Survey that was done a few years ago. The team of astronomers managed to get the permission to look at a certain portion of the sky, no bigger than a fly’s head at a distance of 8 feet from a person, for 400 Hubble Telescope orbits, for a total of 800 images. This is an incredible percentage of telescope time considering the fact that the telescope must be aimed precisely at the spot for every orbit, to create the cumulative view that was acquired and represented a total observational time of about 264 hours over a period of more than 3 1/2 months.

And what did they see? Thousands and thousands of galaxies, in that flyspeck of space. And since they were so faint, and therefore far away, we can assume that they were young with respect to the overall age of the universe, and therefore not fully mature. This survey increased the estimated number of galaxies in the universe by almost a factor of 10, to one hundred billion. Let’s let that sink in. One. Hundred. BILLION galaxies. Each containing hundreds of billions of stars.

Flyspeck indeed.

And although there is a surprising variation (at least to us) in the types and colors of the galaxies that were seen, one fact permeates the findings. Matter, given time, self organizes into clumps. At the lower celestial level, these clumps are in the form of spheres, that is, stars. At a higher level, these stars clump to form galaxies. And, as it turns out, galaxies clump together, too, to form galaxy clusters that can contain tens of millions of them.

But there is another characteristic that is evident as well, that would seem to fly in the face of the theory of entropy, and that is; given even more time, these clumps tend to form into vortexes, which is an even more highly organized form.

Because, what is a spiral galaxy if not a vortex? Does it not have a flat, relatively planar ‘surface’ whose particles travel a spiral path toward the center? Does it not bulge at the core? And, even if assuming that the rotating field that surrounds it is, by comparison, planar, is it not a volumetric phenomenon?

And can’t you say the same things about a solar system? Take the one we inhabit for example. In it, you have a set of planets, orbiting in a slow motion spiral toward the center. They are arranged (with the exception of the outliers) in a tight planar manner, all inhabiting a narrowly defined, circular region of space.

And what of the planets themselves? Saturn provides the most obvious example. Saturn’s rings are less than one kilometer thick, and viewed edge on, almost completely disappear, and only contain the cumulative mass of a very small moon.

And we have discovered in recent years that stars, in general, are very likely to have an associated planetary system. Actually, it seems very likely that every star has a predilection to form a planetary system, but observing them, since the planets do not give off any light of their own, is an extremely difficult task, and therefore, only a few hundred extra solar planets have been identified thus far. This list, however, grows daily, and if the trend is any indication of the actual physical structure, we will find this to be true.  And to varying degrees, all solar systems are all examples of spiral motion.

As the previous pictures have shown, this is especially evident at the galactic level.  It is true that not all galaxies evolve into the classic spiral whirl, but the fact that most do would seem to be another BIG CLUE as to the forces and forms that shape the universe that surrounds us. And the spiral shape is a dominant form.

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One thought on “Chapter 39: Galaxies

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