Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Penn State -- Twin Star Explosions Fascinate Astronomers

Penn State -- Twin Star Explosions Fascinate Astronomers:
"21 November 2006—Scientists using NASA's Swift satellite stumbled upon a rare sight: two supernovas side by side in one galaxy. Large galaxies typically play host to three supernovas per century. Galaxy NGC 1316 has had two supernovas in less than five months, and a total of four supernova in 26 years, as far back as the records go. This makes NGC 1316 one of the most prodigious known producer of supernovas. ..."

This is pretty impressive, especially when you consider the scale that must be involved here. According to Wikipedia, NGC 1316 is about 100 million light years from Earth. According to HubbleSite, NGC 1316 is 60,000 light years wide. By comparison, our own galaxy, the Milky Way is estimated to be about 100,000 light years in diameter, but its diameter includes the arms that spiral out from a central disc that is much smaller and more compact.

In this image, the large bright blob at the center is the galactic core, and the bright object on the left is a star that is considerably closer than the galaxy itself. The two supernovae are circled, and the one on the right was first noted on June 19, 2006. The one on the left was first seen on November 5, 2006. They would have gone supernova 100,000,000 years ago -- about the middle of the Cretaceous period.

I can't back this up with facts and figures, but for a long time it has seemed to me that the scientific discipline in which the highest percentage of committed Christians are found is the field of astrophysics. Could it be the sheer awesomeness of what is to be seen here?

The very idea of seeing things that happened so long ago is mind-boggling. Not that many years ago Comet Hale-Bopp passed close to Earth and provided a spectacular view. It's period is approximately 4300 years, placing its last perihelion around 2300 B.C. Who saw it then? What did they think about it?

Ps 8:3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
Ps 8:4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

-- Psalm 8:3-4, NIV

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