There seems to have been an accounting error involving the number of stars in the sky.
Previously, Science Men had figured there were about 100 sextillion stars in the universe. But this month a piece in Nature contends that this number is off by a factor of three: there are actually 300 sextillion stars up there in the great wide open.
According to the AP, this new estimate is exuding a “stink.”
The study ques-tions a key assumption that astronomers often use: that most galaxies have the same properties as our Milky Way. And that’s creating a bit of a stink among astronomers who want a more orderly cosmos.
It’s one of two studies being published online Wednesday in the journal Nature that focus on red dwarf stars, the most common stars in the universe. The study that offers the new estimate on stars is led by a Yale University astronomer. He calculates that there are far more red dwarfs than previously thought, and that inflates the total star count.
As is often the case, the Mistake was Made because of the sorta charming, but pretty exasperating, penchant of human beings for presuming that everything everywhere is Just Like Them.
Guess what: it’s not.
When scientists had estimated previously how many stars there were in the universe, they assumed that all galaxies had the same ratio of dwarf stars as in our galaxy, which is spiral-shaped. Much of our understanding of the universe is based on observations inside our Milky Way and then extrapolated to other galaxies.
Using the Keck telescope in Hawaii, van Dokkum and a colleague gazed into eight other distant, but elliptical, galaxies and looked at their hard-to-differentiate light signatures. The scientists calculated that elliptical galaxies have more of those dwarf stars. A lot more.
“We’re seeing 10 or 20 times more stars than we expected,” van Dokkum said. By his calculations, that triples the number of estimated stars from 100 sextillion to 300 sextillion.
Science Men who want Normal are not at all happy with the van Dokkum discovery.
For the past month, astronomers have been buzzing about van Dokkum’s findings, and many aren’t too happy about it, said astronomer Richard Ellis of the California Institute of Technology.
Van Dokkum’s paper challenges the assumption of “a more orderly universe” and gives credence to “the idea that the universe is more complicated than we think,” Ellis said. “It’s a little alarmist.”
Stuff more complicated than previously thought? Imagine my surprise.
Dudes, we already know it’s a butterfly world, when the soft flap of a tiny wing can contribute to a hurricane thousands of miles away. I’d wager that out there are a few more surprises waiting for you, other than that your estimate of the stars in the sky was off by some 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 lightbringers.
The tripling of the number of stars in the sky also means that the estimate of the number of planets out there must naturally rise, too.
Previously it was assumed there were millions of billions of planets in the universe; now, I suppose, we should figure on billions of billions. And as Science Men are discovering that water is pretty much ubiquitous among the orbs of our solar system, using the if-it’s-there-it-must-be-like-here principle, this means there are billions of billions of places out there that may host Life As We Know It.
Then again, right here on terra Science Men recently unearthed in California’s Mono Lake a “new” form of life that is not at all like Life As We Know It, because it gets off on arsenic. But it’s life nonetheless.
Life doesn’t have to like stuff just because you and I do. In the same AP piece that describes the new star-sextillions, there is a blood-curdling description of what is portrayed as a Horror World, festering out there some 42 light years from home.
The planet lives up to the word alien.
The paper reports that this giant planet’s atmosphere is either dense with sizzling water vapor like a souped-up steam bath, or it’s full of hazy, choking hydrogen and helium clouds with a slightly blue tint . . . .
And while this planet is nowhere near livable—it’s about 440 degrees—characterizing its atmosphere is a big step toward understanding potentially habitable planets outside our solar system, said study chief author Jacob Bean at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
“You wouldn’t want to be there. It would be unpleasant,” said study co-author Eliza Kempton of the University of California Santa Clara.
I take comfort in the thought of so much life in so many elsewheres. Because this means odds are there are worlds where no one has ever heard of such things as radio ads, gangrene, or Sarah Palin.
Of course, as I observed during the Christmas season last year, every new world also requires a visit from Jesus Christ, there required to go through it all, in some world-appropriate form, all over again.
So. “[M]ore [planets] than stars in our galaxy” . . . and presumably some form of life on every one. This, again, brings new meaning to the phrase “Jesus wept.” For if Jesus’ father made this world, he surely made all those other worlds, too. And as nothing in the Big Guy’s makeup or history indicates that he would have done a better job of it anywhere else, this means Jesus will be needed to clean up the mess on every one of those worlds—worlds without end, amen. Truly: his is a job that will never, ever end.
Next time you’re having a bad day, think about that one: eternally recurring crucifixion.
“We’re supposed to believe that Christ has gone on to reign in glory,” Lucas said.
“No,” said Herzog. “Jesus Christ suffers from now until the end. On the cross. He goes on suffering. Until the death of the last human being.”
Here, there, everywhere. Hell of a task.