Dr. Einar C. Erickson
Ancient Document Mormon Scholar
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'Nobody is above Him, because nobody reigns over Him; He is not in want for nothing was before Him.' This is talking about Father, 'He does not lack life; He is eternal He lacks nothing because He is completely perfect. He has no lack so He has to be perfected in it, but all times He is absolutely perfect. In perfection He is unlimited because there was nobody before Him that can set the bounds for Him. He cannot be judged for there is nobody.'


In PART 10 we had summarized years of work by John Kovac and  his team using their telescopes in the Antarctic, capturing strong evidence for a long held theory about the universe's birth.  Some more recent information can be added to what was discussed there. No telescope, no matter how powerful,  can  see anything older than the oldest and first light, which comes from 380,000  years after the BB, and sometime after inflation and the initial expansion had ended. But the BICEP2 Kovac team discovered that this light, called the COSMIC MICROWAVE BCKGROUND (CMB) has features, a scar or scars, from the universe's violent expansion.  These features, that some are calling 'little pin wheels,' come in the form of polarization, or a specific orientation of the CMB's light waves.  Astronomers predicted that inflation created gravitational waves that warped the space-time through which the CMB photons traveled.  If these wobbles exist, the CMB should have a characteristic swirling polarization known as "B-mode."  BICEP2 saw this B-mode  polarization, or pine wheel features, suggesting that both primordial gravitational waves and inflation are real.  Other astronomical teams now need to replicate the results from BICEP2 to confirm the story it tells of the young universe is accurate. (Scales p. 12)  One of the instruments that will help do that is ALMA.  This Chilean based observatory has been mentioned in previous PARTS of this series.


On his bookshelf, John Kovac keeps a picture of Andrew Lange, the late Caltech astrophysicist, who in 2010 lost his battle with depression and committed suicide. Lange was Kovac's mentor in developing the BICEP programs,   helping to organize them and guide their operation.  After the memorial service,  Kovac had meetings with the other key researchers on the BICEP2 Project, Clement Prye, Jamie Bock, and Chao Lin Kuo, who had equal share in running the team's South Pole program, which has now upgraded BICEP2 into a five times more sensitive detector known as the KECK ARRAY, and which will next year add an equally sensitive telescope called BICEP3 that will measure the CMB polarization at a different wavelength. such shared leadership is unique among   projects.  At the 17 March, 2014,  press briefing, all four scientists took turns presenting the BICEP2 findings. Afterwards,   Allen Guth, who had come up with the Theory of Inflation in 1980,  reminded the audience that just the theory of inflation rests on the shoulders of others such a Newton and Einstein, the experimental techniques used by the BICEP2 team members depend on great developments in technology made by those who came before them/   We all work on the shoulders of giants. But they are being challenged on all sides, they hope that the combined results of observations with the  BICEP3, the KECK ARRAY,  the PLANCK teams full-sky of CMB polarization and its dust map to be released in October, ALMA and other instruments will confirm the finding. (Ron Cowen, Nature, Vol. 510, June 2014, p. 20)


Nearly 30 years ago, the world's top radio telescope engineers and radio astronomers brain stormed the requirements for an array of antennas and detectors,  and a place to put them, that could investigate the deepest, darkest, and coldest places in the universe better than any other telescope every made. What they put together was a wish-list for more than 60 antennas and detectors able to survive blizzards and 100 mph winds yet able to move as fast as missile trackers without their surfaces deforming more than a third the thickness of a human hair.  Their electronics could not add noise to the instruments. Giant trucks must carry the antennas safely for miles across a high altitude desert without dropping power in the cryogenic receivers and nothing would work without a supercomputer that could perform 17 quadrillion operations every second.  It went beyond discussion, it became a project, and it was realized this past year. (Burchell p. 28)

The EVENT HORIZON TELESCOPE is a GLOBAL NETWORK OF RADIO OBSERVATORIES,  together they create an instrument so powerful it will be able to resolve the central black holes in the Milky Way and in M87, study the dynamics of accretion disks, and put relativity to the test.  Currently eight observatories are part of the network.  The new ALMA FACILITY in Chile has now operationally joined the effort.


ALMA, the (ATACAMA LARGE MILLIMETER/SUBMILLIMETER ARRAY)  revealed the true shape of the coldest known object in the universe, the BOOMERANG NEBULA.  This preplanetary nebula, which represents the stage before the remnant star produces enough ultraviolet radiation to produce a planetary nebula's characteristic glow, got its name because it looks like a double lobe with a narrow waist in visible light.  However, ALMA discovered that the Boomerang's cold molecular gas actually creates a more elongated shape, in an image released in October 2013, the nebula is colder than the faint afterglow of the Big Bang, the natural background temperature of space.  It is -458o  Fahrenheit or -272o   Celsius. (Astronomy February 214 p. 19)

ALMA was officially inaugurated March 13, 2013 and has been discussed in previous PARTS of this series.  After the president of Chile signaled that the array would begin its operations phase with only 55 antenna completed, scientists from around the world were vying for the first to use ALMA, requesting nine times more hours that ALMA could actually offer. There were those who knew that ALMA was built to make and break science. Theories in place were fragile and whatever was going to be found would eliminate or solidify them.  It would take time to assemble the data under the onslaught of contradictory information available until,  reproducible data, such as ALMA would provide,  would help astronomy make giant leaps in finding out what has happened and is happening in the universe and discover things beyond present imagination.


The  astronomical observatories in Chile are making a huge contribution to understanding the universe.  ALMA is located in the Chajnantor Science Reserve southeast of Calama, Chile, just inside the border with Bolivia. There are two centers along the coast south of Antofagasta, Chile at CERRO AMAZONES and PARANAL. PARANAL is home to the 2.6 meter  VLT SURVEY TELESCOPE on Cerro Paranal in northern Chile. (Astronomy May 2014,p. 10) South of PARANAL, and just north of  Serena on the coast is CTIO OBSERVATORY and a short distance south of CITO is LA SILLA OBSERVATORY.  Inland and a short distance south of La Serena is CERRO PACHAN and nearby is the large facilities of LAS CAMPANAS (GMT). The southern location and high altitude desert makes these area attractive to astronomers.  These Chilean observatories peer at objects billions of light years away in wavelengths from radio to ultraviolet.  (Astronomy June 2014, p. 31)  From time to time we will be featuring discoveries coming from these important centers.  

ALMA is alive and lives on the Chainantor Plain at the observatory's site in Chile's Atacama Desert, a landscape that looks like Mars.  It is 16,500 feet above sea level.  The Plain is another worldly landscape with a ring of extinct volcanoes that poured out the ancient lava beds that loom over it today. The largest of the volcanoes is Licancabur, a perfect cone that wears a white mantle in winter, in superb contrast to the pink and browns of the undulating acidic lava flows  forming the plain.  The Plain is too high for trees, and only a few intrepid plants flower in crevices where some morning dew is available.  In the Plain's center is the white armored antennas that make up ALMA.  They are eerily quiet as they tilt and spin in unison under the   Atacama's indigo skies.  The astronomers,  can, for different purposes,  configure the array, by  lifting each antenna onto a 28 wheeled U-shaped transporter and gently haul them to another designated site among the  192 antenna control pads which are linked by a 20 mile-wide Nazca-like spider road system carved into the Plain. The final total 66 antenna working together will gather as much light as a single telescope with a 60,800 square foot surface. The antenna transmit their data to the Correlater, which then conveys the data to the Operation Support Facility at the observatory's high-altitude village in the Atacama Desert. The 66 antenna, each 100 tons,  have passed their engineering exams, workers have hauled them 27 miles to the specific sites more than 6,000 feet higher into the Andes.  The technical building, which features a mirrored glass front, and where air locks separate a bus sized, blinking supercomputer from the  half-pressure landscape, through the antenna accesses the fartherest reaches of the Universe.  A Star Trek  episode would be right at home here. More than 100 projects were awarded observing time during the initial research cycle. The results from the first historic observations are tearing out the pages of astronomy and chemistry text books and replacing them with theory shattering new science. (Burchell pp. 30-31)  Happy days are here again!

Today, the vision has been realized, the ATACAMA LARGE MILLIMETER/ SUBMILLIMETER ARRAY (ALMA) and the instruments are complete and operational and now changing the skyscape. Some compare the leap forward that it is creating to the imaging and astonishing new knowledge akin to Galileo's first observations with his new telescope 400 years ago.  The arrival at this junction in astronomy required the largest ground based telescope partnership so far assembled, an international collaboration between North America, Europe, East Asia and Chile all contributing to the l.3 billion design and construction cost of the most complex astronomical complex ever built so far. (Birchell pp. 28-29)


Among the many objectives that will be assigned to ALMA will be identification of the formation of the first stars, and the subsequent formation of the first galaxies to appear after the BB.  In February 2014 astronomers announced they had discovered and confirmed one of the most distant galaxies yet. It was rapidly forming stars when the universe was just 700 million years old.  Steven Finkelstein of the University of Texas at Austin and his colleagues reported this discovery in October 2013.   In the search they looked for a specific wavelength of energy that corresponds  to hydrogen. The universe's expansion stretches this ultraviolet light,  called 'Lyman alpha'  (Lyalpha),  emission to infrared. They looked for this wavelength in 43 candidate galaxies and found it in just one:  28_ GND_5269  [a queer way to designate galaxies, but there are so many that it gets complicated].  The numbers would permit a knowing astronomer to easily get to that point in the universe to make his own observations;  if he had the right instruments.  They also measured the rate of star formation; the galaxy is converting about 330 times the Sun's mass of gas into stars every year.  The team had expected to observe Lyalpha light from six of the 43, at least.  So they suspect that some process is making this light in the early universe difficult to detect. Telescopes that can study longer wavelengths in more detail, such as ALMA, and the future  JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE,(JWST)  and  CCAT projects can do that.  These should help in the search for details. Their instruments will be able to study the gas within distant galaxies.  The galaxy they did observe appears in images and color as a small drop of fresh blood. (Astronomy February 2014, p. 21)


GALAXY GO-108036  is the brightest Galaxy so far found so far away. A team, led by Masami Ouchi at the University of Tokyo in Japan, found the galaxy in a sky survey performed by the SUBARU TELESCOPE on top of MAUNA KEA in Hawaii. The GALAXY was churning out stars 30 times faster than the Milky Way.  Using the Hubble Telescope they imaged the irregular shaped galaxy, which like others at the distance of 12.9 billion light years shows up like a small drop of fresh blood.  The intense brightness in the intrinsic ultraviolet indicates that it contains many young massive stars.  It has a diameter of about 5,000 light years, compared to the Milky Way which is over 100,000  thousand light years across it is less than 5 % as large as the Milky Way.  A tiny thing. While galaxies forming in small sizes in the early stages of formation 750 million years after the BB, it is assumed they merged rapidly to form larger galaxies.


A team led by Jose Munoz of the University of Valencia in Spain, taking advantage of an effect known as gravitational lensing studied  a quasar, HE 1104.  It is a bright disk of matter called an 'accretion disk'-surrounding and slowly falling into a supermassive  black hole. Typically, quasars lie incredibly far away, making it hard to observe them. Because a massive object's gravity distorts the space-time around it, any beam of light traveling near the object also experience warping.  When the configuration is right, this distortion can act like a lens to focus the light and make the more distant object appear clearer.  Munoz's team exploited gravitational lensing so effectively, it could directly observe the accretion disk's size and measure the varying temperature across its surface. The team determined that the disk is between 4 and 11 light- days across, or about 64 billion to 180 billion miles across.  If a black hole is lurking there it will be smaller than the disk.  Quasar's physical properties are not yet well understood, this new ability to obtain observational measurements is therefore opening a new window to help understand the nature of these very distant objects. (Astronomy April 2012 , p. 17) 


The next step is tracking back to when clusters of Galaxies began to form. Data from the HERSCHEL  and PLANCK telescopes revealed four distant galaxy clusters, including one that existed when the cosmos was only 2.9 billion years old. (Astronomy June 2014 p. 13) Now the instruments can get the detail of what happened  in the interval  from 700 million years after the BB to 2.9 Billion years after, a time duration of 2.2 billion years when a lot happened.  You can plot these dates on the CHART in PART 10.   

The EUROPEAN HERSCHEL TELESCOPE, caught two large galaxies merging into a giant elliptical just 3 billion years after the Big Bang.  The system is producing 3,000 stars a  year.  So about 3 billion years after the BB galaxies of all types had formed and giant clusters of galaxies and irregular groupings of galaxies were in progress.  Large galaxies were getting larger and mergers of galaxies were creating the giant ellipticals.  (Astronomy September 2013, p. 13)

The HUBBLE TELESCOPE has also caught galaxies merging. Galaxies 2MASX J05210036-2521450  (yes, that is the designation for a galaxy, the numbers and letters convey a lot of data to  one in the know) This galaxy is an ultra-luminous infrared galaxy undergoing rapid star formation. Two smaller galaxies merged their gas and dust colliding and collapsing into new suns, causing the structure to glow most bright in wavelengths of light longer than visible light. (see the TELESCOPE CHART ) The collision also produced a strange shape to the galaxy, a very bright center; intersecting, asymmetrical arms; and a 'tidal tail'  of material gravitationally torn from the original two galaxies. (Astronomy September 2013, p. 13)


A CHART showing most of the telescopes mentioned in this web site entry, and others that are operational as of June 2014, will provide some visualization of their position in space and on land and the wavelengths of light they are each detecting.  Earth's atmosphere blocks most of the electromagnetic spectrum from reaching our planet's surface.  The chart shows the ALTITUDE in which the atmosphere absorbs half of the radiation at each wavelength, which determines the  place in space they have to be positioned in, in addition to where various telescopes detect or  observe that light.


The first stars in the universe formed from primordial hydrogen, helium, and a smattering of lithium.  These elements were created in the cosmos' first few minutes, whereas the stars formed hundreds of millions of years later. They estimate those early stars were likely 100 to 200 solar masses, which fused heavier elements, called metals, in their cores. After a few million years, they died in fantastic explosions that converted their cores to black neutron stars or black holes and ejected the rest of their material into the cosmos to create new stars. That gas included heavy elements created as the explosions' energies heated the stars outer material.  So far, astronomers have found a handful of these second generation suns, but a recent new study describes the newest find the purest star ever seen. This star SMSS JO31300.36-670829.3  (or SM313 for short) has some 12 million times less iron than our Sun. Stefan Keller of Mount Stromio Observatory in Australia and his team, could place only an upper limit on the iron abundance in the star, and that value is still 30 times less than the previous most iron -poor sun. The team determined abundances of just a few elements in this star: calcium, magnesium, carbon, lithium, and hydrogen.  They then computationally modeled the life cycles (and deaths) of stars of different masses to determine what elements they spewed during their deaths. Keller's team compared the theoretical compositions to that of SMO313 to figure out what size first -generation star would have produced the newly observed sun: a 60 solar  mass star died in a low-energy supernova, leaving behind a black hole and the lighter elements observed in SMO313. The astronomers suggest that the universes' first stars weren't only behemoths hundreds of times the mass of our sun, which exploded as extremely energetic supernovae, low-energy supernovae  (and their lower-mass progenitor stars)  they seeded the cosmos too.  (Astronomy June 2014 p. 16)


Radio telescopes gathers and evaluate light with wavelengths from fractions of a millimeter to hundreds of meters.  Visible light are only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and are only hundreds of manometers long. Compare them and it is like comparing finger painting to high tech photography.  In order to gather and focus radio waves sufficient to achieve higher resolution than the optical instruments, the radio telescope must be huge. Earth's gravity limits the immensity of a single telescope.  The design had to counter the limitations on size that gravity imposes. The world's most versatile radio telescopes are built in such a manner as to be able to reconfigured arrays of antennas which afford the maximum power and flexibility. Special purpose supercomputers pair the data from each antenna with that from every other antenna across the array and can link up with antenna thousands of miles away, thus providing vast binocular images of the sky from many different perspectives. the farther apart two antenna are, the greater the resolution of their binocular vision, this groundbreaking technique is known as "aperture synthesis" resulting in unequalled detail that precisely reveal the spectra (emission of different wavelengths  of light), shapes, positions, and distances of objects in space, and won the Nobel Prize for its pioneer, Sir Martin Ryle. (Burchell p. 29) Now we will be on the watch for greater details of observations and discoveries.


Those who were asking for time to use ALMA requested nine times as many hours as Alma could actually offer. ALMA's leap in telescope technology makes it the fastest, most detailed eye on the sky, the secret happenings of the universe, and that means it will discover things beyond the imagination.  (Burchell p. 31)

"Unlike the shorter wavelength collectors like the Hubble, that collects light as energy packets that hit detectors and form pixels in an image, Alma must process the light it collects as waves. Each ALMA antenna surface has been painstakingly hand tuned to accurately reflect light waves as tiny  as 400 micrometers long, about the length a human hair grows in a day.   If the dishes have bumps any larger than one third the diameter of a human hair then the cosmic waves are scattered away. ..submillimeter light waves crash into ALMA's receivers at frequencies as high as the terahertz range--l trillion per second---and no computer, (yet),  can handle a data stream like that...all signals exiting ALMA 's receivers have to be mixed with a longer carrier wave.  A Metronome like device (called a local oscillator) sends this "beat" to each antenna. To insure these electronics do not introduce any signals of their own during the mix...engineers designed innovative, near-microscopic mix that can be kept cryogenically cold.  To reduce other noise, all eight receives inside an ALMA antenna chill together in a giant thermos that contains 4 kelvin    (-452 Fahrenheit)  liquid helium, which is bolted behind the dish. This....has increased receiver sensitivity...fourfold.  The antenna themselves are high-tech...Engineers from nearly every time zone on Earth came up with three different but equally elegant solutions to the ultimate 12 meter antenna wish list...the array is an international family of these triples...ALMA's antenna all share the record breaking capabilities that astronomers dreamed of 30 years ago." (Burchell p. 30)


ALMA was built to look at cold stuff, including molecules and particles that are barely moving and have just enough energy to emit detectable photons with energies just below those of infrared light--the millimeter and sub-millimeter waves, and do not generate enough heat for the  telescopes that detect heat emissions. The universe keeps a lot of its best kept secrets on ice. The average cosmic gathering of gas and dust known as molecular clouds, registers at around 12-20 Kelvin, which is very cold(-442o F to -442 F).  These dispersed clouds of gas huddle together forming molecules that shiver at the wavelengths that ALMA detects. Sometimes these clumping molecules  crowd gravitationally into denser clumps. Trillion mile wide masses compress further to form stars and planets.  This activity is hidden to optical telescopes. These early stages of star formation are hidden behind the curtains of dense clouds.  Until a star is actually born in such a nursery, infrared telescopes cannot even detect what's going on in there. Radio telescopes, however, see through the dust blankets that shroud the young star systems into the masses whirling within. ALMA and other millimeter/submillimeter telescopes map and clock the particles that flow onto and grow the infant stars and planets, essentially surveying the construction sites and following their progress of creating future world and star systems.   

A FAILED STAR: WISE JO85510.83-971442.5

There are so many objects out there that giving them names is nearly impossible, and even giving them numbers, though the number system can itself become quite complex, seems ridiculous, but  the number system is more computer compatible.  It can contain a lot more information than a name can.  Using the SPITZER SPACE TELESCOPE and the WIDE-FIELD INFRARED SURVEY EXPLORER, together have spotted the coldest brown dwarf  yet,  NASA announced April 25, 2014.  It is just 7.2 light-years away. It is very lonely out there.  It is a failed star.  It is too small for fusion and too big to be a planet,  the highest temperature is just 8o Fahrenheit (-13o Celsius) . (Sara Scales, Astronomy August 2014 p. 14)  It doesn't have much of a future, like so much out there, it is just debris in space from things left over in the expansion of the BB Bubble.    


ALMA searches for and finds young solar systems.  Astronomers have been trying to fill in the story of how nascent stars stop growing after planets begin to gather and hoard material from the debris disks of gas and dust.  In the young star system now known as  HD 142527 they caught a touching snapshot of a single parent family pulling together. Two planets orbit the star inside its rich disk of material. ALMA saw rivers of gas and dust flowing in a surprising direction--from the baby planets toward their young parent sun or star,  so it grew also. ALMA detected diffuse gas and dense gas, and dust with different velocities.  The massive planets' greediness was yanking on gas and dust in the disk, hurling it toward the planets, but some of it was going so fast it overshot the planets and falls into the growing central sun.  Clearly, in some systems, planet formation may actually help star formation as well.  (Burchell  pp. 31-31)


Identifying and finger printing molecules in space is one of the major goals for ALMA, and it has benchmarked many of the requirements for the telescope's high resolution and sensitivity. Radio telescopes have led this field of astrogeochemistry for decades, with the giant Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia topping the list of astromolecule sniffers.  ALMA recently found the signal of a simple sugar called glycolaldehyde in the young star system IRAS 16629-422.  Glycolaldehyde is a building block of RNA, a cousin of DNA, and a major mover of genetic information inside (and in the case of viruses, into)  a cell. The GBT previously detected these critical prebiotic molecules in a molecular cloud, but ALMA now has found them falling into the future planet- making zone around the young Sun- like star. As radio telescopes continue to discover life-buildingmolecules in space, the line between astrochemistry and astrobiology will continue to blur. (Burchell p. 32)

How do astronomers or chemists know what spectral lines belong to which compounds and elements? Each atom and molecule has its own light fingerprint that like ones' own, is unique.  But unlike our own , this fingerprint is made of light.  Elements and compounds emit identifying sets of "colors" of wavelengths, of light.  Light is not always visible, it extends to infrared and radio bands on one side and  ultraviolet and gamma rays on the other.  No two color combinations are the same, allowing astronomers too  identify specific chemicals  being present in the stars, gas clouds, or planetary atmospheres, or debris from immense explosions.  To get these independent 'chemical-prints' the chemists put the atoms and molecules through all kinds of trials, where they vary the temperature, collect the light that results, and precisely determine the different wavelengths that make that light. (See TELESCOPE CHART) Once the fingerprint or 'chemical-print' is in the 'system' or archive, astronomers can go look for matching sets of 'colors' or 'light-lines' in space.  Few things in the universe are made of one pure substance, so astrochemists, have to separate the signature of hydrogen from the signature of helium from the signature of ethlmethylamine, which is like trying to determine what a persons's fingerprint looks like when 10 others are on top of it. (Sarah Scales Astronomy July 2014, p. 45)

ALMA will also be used  to investigate the ingredients that mix together to form stars and planets. Observing the disk orbiting the young star TW HYDRAE, a red dwarf star, ALMA showed planetary geologists a critical scene in planet building, the location of the snow line. Astronomers are getting very good at identifying molecules and elements in the disks, dust and gas around planets and stars. Around TW Hydrae  they detected carbon monoxide (CO) and diazenylium (N2H+), some of the lousiest neighbors in any cloud, because in a cloud of molecules, CO destroys N2H+.  So when ALMA discovered a sudden abundance of N2H+ in the disk, a chilly 3 billion miles from the star, scientists realized that the CO must have frozen onto dust particles, leaving N2H+ safe from annihilation,  For planet hunters this is great news, because CO-ice-covered grains are sticky, and they fasten to each other like velcro to make larger objects, such as comets, asteroids, and even planets. ALMA marked the definitive distance around TW Hydrae where icy bodies could form, the snow line.  Although TW Hydrae is smaller than our  Sun, it is similar enough to make a great classroom for scientists studying the origin of our solar system, or any system like ours.  Places where there may be earths like ours and life like ours


ALMA turned its detectors and antenna to make some observations of  a brown dwarf  RHO OPHIUCHI 102 which is a room temperature object.  The dwarf is 60 times larger than Jupiter but not big enough to fuse hydrogen in its core.  Surprising signals of dusty grains peak up  through the noise.  Surrounding the brown dwarf is a cold, thin disk of particles that may be forming an Earth like planet, it will never be able to gather enough material to compress its core and shine like a star.


ALMA made observations of  R- SCULPTORIS, an aging star that once was like the Sun, now  its core struggles to fuse and push up against  the weight of its outer layers. As a result, it boils them off in periodic coughs of gas.  ALMA has also captured the trails of an unseen star stirring some warmth into those frozen exhalations as it orbits the dying companion.  ALMA will be registering many such situations and monitoring areas of the universe in the search for a planet and life like ours.  (Burchell p. 332)

The constellation SCULPTOR is host to an immense array of objects worthy of study.  It is host to the Cluster ABELL 2667, a huge cloud of galaxies, some 3.2 billion light years from Earth.  The cluster's huge mass, equivalent to at least 350 Milky Ways,  allows it to exert a powerful influence on the surroundings. It has disrupted the path of a passing spiral galaxy, and elsewhere produced the telltale streak of gravitation lensing, a topic for future discussion (Sparrow  p 283)                                       

The GALEX SPACE TELESCOPE of NASA,  was launched into space 690 kilometers above the earth in 2003.  It observed and recorded data in the ultraviolet spectrum for ten years, until 2013. Data from that observation activity is being released. NASA also launched the NUCLEAR SPECTROSCOPIC TELESCOPE ARRAY (NuSTAR)  in June 2012 with the specific goal of using its X-ray vision to better understand how massive stars explode. In February 2014 they published some results  by mapping radioactive material in a supernova remnant for the first time. They were able to peer into the inner workings of the dying star that produced Cassiopeia A.  The Cassiopeia A, the REMNANT,  was created when a star with more than eight times the Sun's mass reached the end of its life as a core-collapse supernova;  the leftover debris of the event is what is visible to astronomers 334 years later. NuSTAR has the ability to detect high-energy X-rays invisible to other telescopes.  They studied the remnant to record the locations of the radioactive isotopes Titanium-44, which was produced when the massive star's core collapsed.  What they found were concentrated clumps of titanium-44 instead of a uniform distribution, and three other non-radioactive  elements were detected and mapped by NASA'S  CHANDRA X-RAY OBSERVATORY, to make a composite picture of the debris of the collapse and the distribution of detectable radioactive elements and other elements created by the fusion power of the explosion and death of the original star.  The resulting image was like fireworks never seen before.  (Astronomy June 2014, p. 16) 

CASSIOPEIA A has remained an object of study. The astrochemists are always on the lookout for those elements that are required for life. Recently Phosphorus was detected in the young Supernova Remnant CASSIOPEIA A.  (Science, 13 December 2013, Vol. 342, p. 1346-1348)  Phosphorus   (P), which is essential for life, is thought to be synthesized in massive stars and dispersed into interstellar space when these stars explode as supernovae. They made a near-infrared spectroscopic observation which shows that the abundance ratio of phosphorus to the major nucleosynthetic product iron (56Fe)  in CASSIOPEIA A, is up to 100 times the average ratio of the Milky Way, confirming that phosphorus is produced in Supernovae. The chemical elements in the inner SN layers are completely mixed by hydrodynamic instabilities during the explosion. Phosphorus is an indispensable ingredient for life together  with carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. (Koo p. 1346) The observations were made with the   TRIPLESPEC SPECTROGRAPH.


The TRIPLESPEC SPECTROGRAPH mounted on the PALOMAR 5-M TELESCOPE will be hunting for the elements and molecules necessary for life.  It is expected that all of the elements necessary for life as we know it will be found somewhere. Most likely at least 5 billion civilizations were turned on in our galaxy during the last 5 billion years.  As time passes individual solar systems with life will become more isolated and dispersed by the expansion of the universe always in progress.  While it is possible some exotic life forms may be found, in general what is expected is the implications of  "We will create a world like those we have heretofore created, patterned after the old one where we used to live." But only temple going Mormons will realize the implications.

With the new equipment,  molecules in space are being identified in many observations.  So far, and counting, observers have discovered structures composed of up to 70 atoms. But the more complicated a compound is, the less of it exists in interstellar space. Scientists have found 39 different molecules made of two atoms--like carbon and  monoxide-in space, while they have only found three types of 11-atom compounds, such as cyanooctatetrayne.  There are nearly 10 molecules with 20 atoms, such as acetone. Those with 12 atoms, such as acetic acid, (vinegar) are fewer. There are 24 types of  5 atom molecules, such as formamide, and those with 4 atoms, such as formaldehyde have 25 types.  While the universe becomes more complicated, it also becomes more complete, providing all that is needed for MAN, the all important  reason for it all existing.

In March of this year a study described the abundances of elements in the atmospheres of 89 white dwarfs-the remnants of Sun-like stars.  The white dwarfs display heavier elements than expected the researchers suggest that the remnants accumulate material from rocky bodies, like terrestrial planets and asteroids that once orbited the stars. (Astronomy  July 2014 p. 17)            

Galaxy NGC 1097 has a very active black hole center.  Gas around the active supermassive black hole shows a stronger than expected hydrogen cyanide signal.  Sodium cyanide is what milling people recover their gold and silver with.  The observations were made by the NATIONAL ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY OF JAPAN. (Astronomy February 2014 p. 20)

After rechecking and analyzing observations spanning more than 60 years, astronomers conclude that the yellow hyper-giant star V766 Centauri is some 1,315 times wider than the Sun, making it the largest yellow star known.  The star also has a companion sun, which is so close to V766 that they are always touching, one or the other is going to swallow the other. (Astronomy July 2014 p. 17) 

At least 26 elements have been identified in the composition of the Sun.  It has a core where hydrogen is being fused into helium, but beyond that the Sun just doesn't have the energy to fuse the heavy elements.  The Sun's outer layers consist of more than 91 percent hydrogen and more than 8 percent helium, most of these two elements were made within the first few minutes after the BB.  All the rest of the element in the Sun only account for about 0.15 percent of the number of atoms in the Sun. One of the heavy elements it cannot create is iron.  This puts  a limitation on the theories of how the Solar System was created.  The Sun could not have created the earth because the earth is composed of most of the 92 naturally occurring elements, so theories have to extend to a time in the past when nearby Supernovas  were exploding and filling space with heavy elements that at some time could be organized into an earth.  There is only one iron atom for every 32,600 hydrogen atoms. The Sun isn't and can't get hot enough, even at its center, to make iron by the fusing of elements.  Exploding stars, supernovae, make all the iron and other heavy elements strewn in the universe. The earth has a solid core, some 750 miles across of iron-nickel.  Any theory of how the earth was formed needs to take that into consideration. 

These explosions fall into two categories.  In one, the core of a massive star suddenly collapses, while in the other, a Sun-like star's remnant core-a white dwarf- becomes overloaded beyond its carrying capacity after drawing mass from a companion or matter encountered in space.  The temperatures in the resulting explosions are so high that all elements heavier than hydrogen, including iron, gold, uranium etc., are created by  nuclear processes and then ejected into interstellar space.  Stars eight times as massive as the Sun create iron at their cores during their lives, that fused material collapses and evolves into a neutron star or black hole.

The Sun is at last 4.6 billion years old, (created on the third day in Mormon Chronology, from unorganized masses of heavy elements), but our galaxy is at least 8 billion years old. The interstellar clouds from which the Sun formed had plenty of time to incorporate the iron and other heavy elements from supernovae into the infant Sun and its planetary system.  The solar chemical composition, including its iron content, is vital information that is used to test theories of how stars and our galaxy evolved. (Kater p. 51)

 GALAXY-  NGC 1433                                                         

ALMA was also tuned in on GALAXY - NGC 1433. In visible light the galaxy seemed a blue spiral type.  Radio observations  changed the picture of the galaxy into a much larger and dense galaxy that could be depicted in red. Quiet and calm in the center was a black hole hiding behind  curtains of debris and dust that emitted no visible light. But ALMA'S sharp penetrating eye revealed that the black hole was getting some action. The  molecular gas around the galactic center has woven itself into a spiral of matter that feeds directly into the black hole, which then shoots jets of material outward, the screaming of matter going to its annihilation.  The puny jets are  just 150 light years long, but 1,000 thousand time smaller than those of active galaxies. (Astronomy February 2014 p. 15)  Why? They are working on it.   


ALMA is also making a significant contribution to the evaluations of planets other than our own that could be homes to life of some sort.

The conventional wisdom is that disks that form planets run out of dust and gas after 10 million years.  At which point the growing star and its gas giants have siphoned off and collected the dust and debris out of the system. Astronomers have discovered, however, that the system HD21997 , some 235 light years away, and just 36 million years old, has clung to its gas for longer than that.  Even more surprising, the observers saw this gas mingling with the pulverized rock that results when planetismals smash into each other.  The simultaneous presence of gas and dusty debris is a previously unobserved stage of solar-system formation and evolution.  ALMA  and the HERSCHEL SPACE OBSERVATORY,  which sees in infrared light, observed both the dust and gas.  The gas, which scientists did not expect, is some 30 to 60 times Earth's mass.  Scientists previously believed stars and giant planets collect all the gas before the system was filled with collision dust, but this hybrid disk shows that not to be the case.  (Astronomy February 2014 p. 15)  


 Astronomers are constantly monitoring the sky looking for objects that change in a short interval of time, like the sudden rapid brightening of a supernova.  Such explosions mark the death of stars, but learning the original suns characteristics is difficult.  Using the INTERMEDIATE PALOMAR TRANSIENTR FACTORY (iPTF) search, they identified the initial star of Supernova  iPTFI3bvn, which appeared in the nearby galaxy NGC 5806 in June 2013.  This  supernova was a rare type  1b, and the discovery marked the FIRST TIME astronomers confirmed the original star of this kind of stellar blast before it exploded. They compared archived  HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE images to those taken after the explosion had faded away. Jose Groh of the GENEVA OBSERVATORY and colleagues could confirm the star that exploded, it was a "Wolf-Rayet,"  type, which is a hot massive star that sheds its outer gaseous layer in a violent exploding stellar wind.  The star, says Groh's team,  had about 11 times the mass of our Sun right before it exploded. (Astronomy February  2014 p. 16)

A long time ago, a faraway star threw up its insides and ended its days in a colossal explosion. The light from this supernova reached earth about late spring  2013,  just a few hours later, quick-thinking  astronomers were able to point a telescope at the hole in the sky where the star had been. The resolution  images help to resolve key questions in stellar physics, some of which have to do with the end of the earth.  Supernovae are one of the most stunning events in the night sky; the explosions are so well known for their violence that the term has even entered common parlance. Yet supernovae are rare, and so, therefore, are direct observations of the circumstances immediately before and after their demise.  The emissions spectra shed new light on why some stars go bang with such force and identified the exploding star a Wolf-Rayet star. These are  massive bodies that shed their mass rapidly in strong stellar winds. While astronomers assumed that Wolf-Rayet stars would go supernova, there was no direct evidence that they did. Some theories held that they might end their lives not in a bang but with a whimper, in fact there is growing evidence that such stars were likely to have dim or unobservable deaths.

Wolf-Rayet stars are more than 20 times more massive than our Sun and are very breezy places: their fierce stellar winds can reach more than 1,000 kilometers per second.  They are also rare, so if the name rings a bell then it would be because you may have heard of a particular specimen: WR 104, a binary star (a two star system, they like company, about half the stars are binary systems) about 2,450 parsecs (8,000 light years) from Earth that shot to fame in 2008 when astronomers warned that we could be in the firing line if it exploded. If you are concerned, this explosion will do little to ease your anxiety.  However, a mere supernova would not threaten us at the distance  involved, but some very massive stars explode as two powerful beams of lethal radiation known as gamma ray bursts. Depending on which way  WR 104 is pointed one of those bursts could head our way.  Recent work indicates that all Wolf-Rayet stars will sooner or later go bang, WR 104 included.  But when?  Next week, or thousands of years hence, or it may already have happened and we will soon see a bright flash. (Nature Vol. 509, 22 May 2014 p. 400) 

Type la supernovae have nearly consistent peak brightness and similar fading profiles (called light curves) . So, when astronomers spied a stellar explosion August 31, 2010,  that looked like a type la supernova but with a signal that was much too bright, they were stumped. This object, PS1-10afx was thirty times brighter than it should have been. Detailed work found that a galaxy was directly in line with the supernovae.  Its mass acted as a gravitational  lens to brighten the light from PSI 10afx la. In September 2013 they studied the area where PSI had shone three years prior.  The astronomers saw oxygen, magnesium, and possibly iron, and calcium indicating there was a  foreground galaxy between the earth and the explosion. The supernovae light traveled for 9.3 billion years to get to Earth, and it ran into the galaxy one billion years after the explosion. (Astronomy August 2014 p. 17)  So it had accumulated its mass, run its life cycle and exploded more than 10.5 billion years ago.

SUPERNOVA/ACCELARATION PROBE (SNAP)  was a proposed NASA mission back in 2003, which would reveal distant supernovae, allowing astronomers to  piece together the expansion history of the universe.  Supernova  are of particular interest in unveiling the details of the expansion of the universe about 8 billion years ago. (Mercury September-October 2003 p. 40) 

Twelve million years ago, a star in the Cigar Galaxy (M82)  blew up.  The galaxy is imaged edge on, and the star must have been near the outside edge of the spirals of the galaxy. The light from that explosion reached the telescope at the UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON OBSERVATORY on January 21,  2014,  where students and staff were doing a workshop. They were the FIRST to discover this stellar death, the closest optical supernova in 20 years. Since that discovery Supernova (SN)2014 has been a favorite target for follow -ups, including the             NASA'S  SWIFT SATELLITE on January 24, 2014, the explosion of the star is seen just a little right of the middle of the galaxy. (Astronomy May 2014, p. 16)

                                                                                                                                                 Certain astronomers have as their objective, the mapping of the very large structures in the Universe, literally  mapping our universe.  Mapping along the southern sky they have detected a string of galaxies where they didn't expect them. These newly seen "tendrils" exist within enormous voids of presumed empty space. The GALAXYAND MASS ASSEMBLY SURVEYteam published their findings in May.  (Astronomy June 2014 p. 17)


For the purpose of cataloging the brightness, temperature, composition, position, and movement of stars in our GALAXY, the ultimate instrument is the EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY'S GAIA SPACECRAFT.   Its first assignment is to map l billion stars. The scientists will combine that data into the most accurate  3D map of our galaxy.  The preparatory calibrations and alignments are considerable. The picture or image of NGC 1818,  a neat small star cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud, now merging into our galaxy, represents the first in-focus test data.  It was released February 6, 2014.  The project will take eight years with the full 3D model becoming available, all going well, sometime in 2022.  (Sara  Scales, Astronomy June 2014 p. 20)  To make a comparison, if we place a tennis ball in a desert, to represent our entire galaxy, the Magellanic Clouds, there are two of them, would be 4.5 inches away.

But, let's put another tennis ball down and say it represents the Sun, our nearby star.  The next nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would then be 1,912 miles away.  We are really lonely, we are in empty space.  But a long time ago we were much closer together. Loneliness had come with time.

Lets us take the tennis ball again to represent our galaxy, the second largest galaxy in our local group, the ANDROMEDA GALAXY, would then be just 5.6 feet away.  And we are rolling towards each other,  ever so slowly, but in 2.5 billion years we will collide. Ouch!  But note,  stars compared to their diameter, are much farther apart then galaxies are.  That is why when galaxies merge it does not usually result in catastrophic stellar collisions.


The world's largest RADIO TELESCOPE, the SQUARE KILOMETER ARRAY (SKA), was originally scheduled to be completed in South Africa and Australia by mid-2020's.  Germany's research ministry announced June 5, that it is pulling out of the support for the instrument.  The decision takes effect 30 June 2015.  But the SKA will secure replacement funding for the project which is going ahead. 

The flying, (special airplane) or the STATOSPHERIC OBERVATORY,  (SOFIA) was given a new life by the US senate voting 87 million in the 2015 fiscal year for the flying observatory.  A modified Boeing 747 carries a 2.5 meter telescope. The funding rescues the telescope which was proposed to be cancelled.  It is a joint venture with the German Aerospace Center and became fully operational just this past February.  However, the House must agree on the budget.


On JUNE 19, 2014, workers set off a large blast to start the removal of the top of Cerro Amazones, a 3000-meter peak to prepare for construction of the world's largest telescope: the 30-METER  ERUOPEAN EXREMELY LARGE TELESCOPE.  An acronym has not been given yet. Construction of a road leading to the summit began in March; first light on the completed telescope is expected in 2024, a ten year project. (Any bets?)  Construction won't begin in earnest, however, until Brazil's National Congress ratifies an agreement to join the European Southern Observatory(ESO), which oversees the project.  In 2010, Brazil's science ministry signed the agreement- which would make Brazil ESO's first non-European member but it has languished ever since. Under the agreement, Brazil would contribute 270 million Euros over  the ten years to ES0's budget, or one quarter of the 1,085 Euros cost of the project, about $l.5 billion. (Science 27 June 2014, Vol. 444, p. 1433) 

COSMOS TRIVIA              

Following the Big Bang, the plasma was so hot and dense that the subatomic particles, such as quarks could not combine to form matter. The period lasted for nearly 350,000 years or more, a period that is also called the DARK AGES, when there was no light being generated,  but as differential cooling began to take place matter could form, beginning with hydrogen. The question then is,  what is the lowest number of hydrogen molecules per cubic centimeter needed to gravitationally collapse to form stars in molecular clouds?   The answer calculated and published in the periodical  Science April 11, 2014, and in Astronomy August  2014, p. 15, is 5,000.  Instruments and astronomers are trying to see if there is any remnant activity of this that might be observed in space.   Good  Luck!


BURCHELL, Tania,  The Newest Big Thing in Radio Astronomy, Astronomy, June,  2014

KALER, Jim, Where does the Iron in the Sun Come From? Astronomy,  May 2014         

KOO, Ron Chui, Young-Hyun Lee, Dae-Sik Moon, Sung Chui Yoon, John C. Raymond,Phosphorus in the Young Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A, Science, Vol. 342, 13 December 2013

SCALES, Sarah, Cosmic Inflation Happened, According to Bicept2 Results,  Astronomy, June 2014

SPARROW, Giles, Cosmos Close - Up, Firefly Books, Buffalo, N. Y., 2011

All research and opionions presented on this site are the sole responsibility of Dr. Einar C. Erickson, and should not be interpreted as official statements of the LDS doctrine, beliefs or practice.
To find out more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, please see their offical websites at LDS.org and Mormon.org