Un­rav­el­ing the mys­ter­ies of the uni­verse - once piece at a time

The Covington News - - Classifieds -

As­tronomers have dis­cov­ered an un­ex­pected mo­tion in dis­tant galaxy clus­ters that sug­gest a grav­i­ta­tional at­trac­tion of mat­ter that lies be­yond the ob­serv­able uni­verse.

So is it pos­si­ble that the uni­verse is larger than we once thought, or is there some­thing else go­ing on?

In the 1960s, as­tronomers thought that they had iden­ti­fied all the var­i­ous types of ob­jects in the uni­verse and now they only needed to con­cen­trate on de­ter­min­ing ac­cu­rate dis­tances. Then they dis­cov­ered the mys- teri­ous quasars that turned out to be ac­tive black holes in the early uni­verse. The quasars are bil­lions of light years away. A light year is the dis­tance that light can travel in a year, about 6 tril­lion miles.

Re­mem­ber when you look out into space, you are looking back into time. Even the light from the sun takes about 8 min­utes to reach us. So we see the quasars as they looked bil­lions of years ago.

In re­cent times more puz­zles have sur­faced; as­tronomers have dis­cov­ered the pres­ence of dark mat­ter and dark en­ergy. Dark mat­ter will prob­a­bly be small stars that are too small and dim to be seen, plan­ets the size of Jupiter too small to be seen over great dis­tances, neu­tri­nos or ex­otic par­ti­cles yet to be dis­cov­ered.

This brings us to the Large Hadron Col­lider, which is the world’s largest and high­est en­ergy par­ti­cle ac­cel­er­a­tor. This project has been con­structed by over one 100 coun­tries and many uni­ver­si­ties are in­volved. The ac­cel­er­a­tor is a track 70 miles in di­am­e­ter lo­cated on the bor­der be­tween France and Switzer­land. Here sci­en­tists will send par­ti­cles in op­po­site di­rec­tions and have them col­lide, pro­duc­ing con­di­tions sim­i­lar to early con­di­tions in the uni­verse, on a small scale. Dur­ing the col­li­sion, sci­en­tists hope to see new par­ti­cles form­ing, hope­fully par­ti­cles that were present dur­ing the cre­ation. From this ex­per­i­ment, who knows what the dis­cov­er­ies will lead us to in fu­ture years; maybe trans­port­ing may be­come pos­si­ble.

We will prob­a­bly get some an­swers to some of our ques­tions, but I’m sure more ques­tions will arise. I don’t know whether we will some­day solve all the pieces of the puz­zle or wait for the day that the Cre­ator re­veals it to us. This will be the great­est lec­ture ever de­liv­ered - “ How I did it, by God.”

Jupiter is still with us, a bright ob­ject in the south­west­ern sky, and Venus is the bright ob­ject lo­cated low in the west­ern sky right af­ter sun set, and it will rise a lit­tle higher in the sky each day. Oct. 7, Jupiter will be near the moon.

Un­til next time, clear and dark skies.

Jim Hon­ey­cutt is an in­struc­tor of as­tron­omy at Ox­ford Col­lege of Emory Uni­ver­sity.

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