“C-God” 13.8 Billion Years Old

Yes, it has been confirmed:  13.8 billion years old.

That is the age of our entire known Cosmos (C) or Universe from the very first millisecond it exploded into existence until today. Or for the hard-line Faithers out there, “Yahweh” or “God” or “Allah” or whatever your personal supreme being is named, it is without question 13.8 billion years old.

There have been several techniques to calculate and estimate the age of the Universe. Over the last century four methods of approximation have been used:

  1. The Hubble Constant
  2. Decay of radioactive elements/objects – can also be applied to gases, but with less accuracy
  3. Age of White Dwarf stars, locating the faintest/oldest
  4. Age of ancient star clusters/globulars

Fortunately, and for all prosperity and posterity, science has a fifth and final method ending any debate about the Universe’s age. It is remarkably accurate to within less than 1-percent.

Incorporating method #4 above with the compiled data of NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) launched in 2001, and the European Space Agency’s Planck-satellite launched in 2009, we can determine exactly how long our known, visible Cosmos has been around. Watch NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) two-minute video here explaining in layman terms just how this measuring and time-dating works.

NGC 3603 star-cluster

NGC 3603, an open star cluster and starburst region in the Carina spiral arm of the Milky Way around 20,000 light-years away from the Solar System

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

If those four common measurements are not enough to convince you or other doubters, then perhaps Cosmologist and graduate of Yale and Rutgers Universities in Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, and Astrophysics, Dr. Neelima Sehgal, currently Associate Professor in Physics & Astronomy at Stony Brook University, NY, can assist your unlearned hesitation. From Stony Brook University’s research journal:

The Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) team in Chile confirmed previous measurements of ancient light-clusters extracted from the Planck satellite data.

[…]

Neelima Sehgal - ACT

Dr. Neelima Sehgal, ACT and Stony Brook University

Obtaining the best image of the infant universe, explains Professor Sehgal, helps scientists better understand the origins of the universe, how we got to where we are on Earth, the galaxies, where we are going, how the universe may end, and when that ending may occur.

[…]

The new ACT estimate on the age of the universe matches the one provided by the standard model of the universe and measurements of the same light made by the Planck satellite. This adds a fresh twist to an ongoing debate in the astrophysics community, says Simone Aiola, first author of one of the new papers on the findings posted to arXiv.org.

“Now we’ve come up with an answer where Planck and ACT agree,” says Aiola, a researcher at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics in New York City. “It speaks to the fact that these difficult measurements are reliable.”

Eternal is Not So Eternal

Oddly enough, it seems now there is actually a beginning and an end to eternal. The Greek words and concept the Alpha and Omega (Rev 21:6; 22:13) are in purely astrophysical terms seemingly truer than ever. Maybe. So it follows then that there is no such thing as forever, timeless, or Eternal. From the above five methods of dating the age of the Cosmos, we now have other fascinating inferences and deductions by astrophysicists, cosmologists, astronomers, and advanced mathematicians about the end or death of our Universe or Creator-God. There are three or four probabilities.

The Big Freeze
This is the death of all differences in heat, or thermodynamics. As the Universe/Cosmos continues expanding at an increasing rate, eventually all forms of energy (heat) will dissipate over time until everything—all celestial bodies, i.e. stars/suns, galaxies, planets, etc.—are just a fraction above absolute zero degrees. The universe will be so spread out over millions, billions, then trillions of light-years, and continuing, that it will become deader and emptier with every millenia.

The Big Crunch
If there is enough or too much stuff in the Universe, i.e. celestial bodies with mass, the expansion of the Cosmos will slow then stop. More stuff means more gravity. The more mass all the bodies gain means more stronger gravity, which means everything gets pulled back in, contracting inward until the Universe becomes so compact, so dense with mass that an astounding inferno occurs, the Big Crunch.

The Big Change
If our Universe is expanding and its expansion is accelerating as most scientists today agree, then matter and energy as we normally understand them could not allow the Universe to continue behaving in this basic manner. In 1998 teams of astrophysicists examining Type 1A supernovae for the Hubble Constant discovered that expansion wasn’t slowing down, but actually accelerating.

Even more bizarre was the expansion had been decelerating, as once thought, until 7-8 billion years after the Big Bang. At that point, for reasons yet to be learned, a puzzling “anti-gravity force” began to dominate, taking over the gravity-induced contracting placed on expansion and then reversed the slowdown and began accelerating. This was dubbed Dark Energy. This energy pulls everything in the Universe apart,  and turns it upside down. The basic building blocks of fundamental particles like electrons and Quarks could be entirely different, radically overhauling our rules of chemistry and maybe impeding the formation of atoms and molecules. It would be quite an inhospitable Big Change. If that were to happen, then plants, animals, humans, even planet and stars would be destroyed. Dark Energy currently makes up about 68% of all energy in the Universe and that percentage is growing each day.

Accelerating Universe - Big Change & Rip

Different possible fates of the Universe, with our actual, accelerating fate shown at the far right. After enough time goes by, the acceleration will leave every bound galactic or supergalactic structure completely isolated in the Universe, as all the other structures accelerate irrevocably away. (NASA & ESA)

The Big Rip
The Big Rip is a more remote, unlikely ending, but nonetheless cannot yet be ruled out. Dark Energy could be more destructive, more powerful than scientists know right now. Here’s the very weird part.

While the Cosmos is expanding, Dark Energy’s (DE) density remains fixed. What this also means is that with increasing volume, more DE pops into existence over time in order to maintain the constant density. What’s even more extraordinarily freaky is that if the density of DE increases as the Universe keeps expanding, then what would happen if DE enlarges faster than the Universe is expanding? In other words, DE’s speed of growth surpasses the speed of light! 😲 This theoretical model is called phantom dark energy and its mechanism is called the Big Rip. Fortunately for our super distant descendants, if this rip were to happen, it would be a horrifically instant death occurring so fast our brains could not process anything that was happening. Woosh! Gone.

And So the Purpose of Consciousness and Life

Everything we mortal humans eventually learn is that all things in life have a beginning, a middle, and an end. All experience, all evidence we have and understand of life indicates a start and a finish. Nothing, not even an original cause or imagined “Creator” is timeless or eternal. It too was born 13.8 billion years ago. He/She/It is growing obese, quicker than before, and will die a final death. Not only is the word eternal fictitious and conceived from ancient, mortal Earthlings’ crude ineptitude passed on transgenerationally, but it is also fruitless, unrewarding for the present. Therefore, I think James Oppenheim had much to say about our life, existence, and the human condition: The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.

There are countless forces that we know dictate our individual lives, significant portions of our lives at the start, most of all with our biological parents. Theirs was also significantly dictated by their biological parents or guardians, and family members. No one has any control whatsoever about who and what their ancestors would be. Earth too is fated to follow external forces. She is just one planet of nine gravitational bodies within our one tiny solar system among billions and trillions of galaxies with millions of other star systems. Our Sun and Jupiter are heavy, major influencers upon Earth’s condition! At the risk of sounding silly and stating the obvious, no one, let alone the entire human species, has the ability (yet?) to make our Sun or Jupiter do anything we wish. And as we’ve now learned from interdisciplinary science, particularly cosmology and astrophysics, the clock is ticking. There will indeed be a final, universal end that not even our man-made God(s) can escape. Is that the Coup d’état of ultimate nihilism? Or is it, as I believe, the epitome of liberation and empowerment, here and now? A tranquility from accepting our place and definitive demise of us, of all things then, now, and that will ever be?

I exist as I am, that is enough. If no other in the world be aware I sit content. And if each and all be aware I sit content. One world is aware, and by the far the largest to me, and that is myself. And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years, I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness, I can wait. Walt Whitman

————

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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After Dark – Part 2

For astronomers, cosmologists, astrophysicists, or the amateur stargazer, the years 2013, 2014, and 2015 are three of the more active years for Earth’s heavens, the Moon, and our solar system!  In Part One I covered some stargazing basics, how the night sky is arranged in our two hemispheres and some short history behind the naming of two constellations Orion and Virgo.  In this second part let’s explain why these next three years are so extraordinary.

The Celestial Shows Are Here!

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Ringmaster opens, “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, turn your eyes to the heavens!  The most extraordinarily rare spectacular-spectacular is happening for the next three years!

2013

Earlier this year between March and April the comet Pan-STARRS was visible with a good pair of binoculars or amateur telescope.  However, in an area of medium-to-heavy light-pollution Pan-STARRS would have been hard to locate.  May 24th through 30th you would have watched Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter dance around each other in the west-northwest twilight sky shortly after sunset.  Every evening they were changing positions noticeably with Venus and Jupiter separated by about 1-degree on May 28th and Venus outshining Jupiter by six times.

On June 23rd at 6:00 a.m. CDT, the moon was as close to Earth as it will ever be in 2013 and at 6:32 a.m. it was brightest and fullest, known affectionately as a Super Moon.  Larger than normal ranges in ocean tides occurred for several days.  In 2014 it will arrive even closer than this year.

August 12th will be the annual Perseid Meteor Shower.  At a rate of up to 90-meteors-per-hour it is considered one of the best displays of meteors for a single observer.  Summer campers love the annual shower as it resembles a non-stop array of white bottle-rockets everywhere in the night sky.

Comet-ISON-peri-in-westMid-November through December is perhaps the biggest event in astronomy for 2013.  The Comet ISON will travel less than 750,000 miles above our sun’s surface, making it a very bright “sungrazer” on Nov. 28th, Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.  ISON could very well be easily visible in broad daylight at its closest point to the sun.  Then ISON will travel toward Earth getting as close as 40-million miles in December.  Because the comet will be ideally placed in the morning and evening sky from the Northern Hemisphere, it will most likely be one of the most watched and photographed comets of all time.

The entire month of December will be a stargazer’s extravaganza!  Venus will put on the most brilliant “evening star” show of 2013 and 2014 combined; evening or morning…doesn’t matter.  She fills the southwestern sky for 3 hours of bravos after sundown in early December, and 1.5 hours after sundown by New Year’s Eve.  And if that were not enough, a crescent moon will pass above and to the right of the goddess Dec. 5th and on the 6th she will give her grand finale!  She will not be as spectacular again until 2021.

On December 13th and 14th a most entertaining show will take place:  the Geminid Meteor Shower.  Most astronomers and meteorists give it top accolades as it surpasses even the brilliance and reliability of August’s Perseid annual showers.  Our near full moon will dilute most of the smaller fainter meteors, however, right after the moon sets (4:30 a.m. EDT), it will leave the sky completely dark for an hour or so, and that is your chance to witness as much as 2 meteor sightings per minute, or 120 per hour!  Indeed, the night sky will look like an American 4th of July fireworks show!

2014

March 27th Perihelion – Comet Holmes.  After almost two days in Oct. 2007, the Holmes comet became a half-million times brighter on its way to becoming the largest object in our solar system.  Yes, larger than our Sun.  Comet Holmes will be one of the more spectacular comets at its perihelion in 2014.

Path of Comet 209P/LINEAR

Path of Comet 209P/LINEAR

March 29th Perihelion – Comet Faye.  Discovered in 1844 by a French astronomer it is a periodic comet but will be minor in comparison to the year’s other comets.

May 6th Perihelion – Comet 209P/LINEAR.  If astronomers are correct, Earth will pass through the tail of 209P/Linear on its way back out from the Sun between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. GMT on May 24th, resulting in a meteor storm of 100-400 meteors per hour.  Canada and the U.S. will have the best viewing.  This date is a must on your calendar!

August 10thSuper Moon.  “According to NASA, a full moon at perigee is up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than one at its farthest point, or apogee.  The full Moon, occurring less than one hour away from perigee, is a near-perfect coincidence that happens only every 18 years or so.” [Wikipedia]

Possible view of Comet C/2013-A1 from NASA Mars rover

Possible view of Comet C/2013-A1 from NASA Mars rover

August 12th – 14th will be the annual return of the Perseids Meteor Shower and its 60-meteors per hour at its peak on the 13th and 14th.  Some of the early and late meteors arrive from July 23rd through Aug. 22nd.  It radiant point, or source spot, will be in the Perseus constellation in the northeast sky after midnight.

October 19th – 25th is shaping up to be the biggest event of 2014:  Comet C/2013-A1, aka Siding Spring.  Astronomers currently calculate a 1 and 8,000 chance that C/2013-A1 will hit the surface of Mars on Oct. 19th.  The comet will pass, following its normal path, about 73,000 miles from the surface of Mars.  As the date nears and further observations are made, scientists will refine the orbit predictions.  Nevertheless, preparations are already being made to develop high-tech observations both around Mars as it approaches the planet, and on Earth as it approaches the Sun.  Mars vs. C/2013-A1 comet.

December 13th – 14th and the annual Geminids Meteor Shower won’t be as spectacular as 2013, but it will produce about 60 multicolored meteors per hour at the peak on the 13th and 14th.  The radiant point or source spot will be in the Gemini constellation in the eastern sky after midnight.

Rosetta European spacecraft.  In January 2014 Rosetta will awake from hibernation to fire-up its engines and get within 3,000 km of comet CG as it starts its return orbit back to our Sun.  In 2010 Rosetta flew within 3,000 km of asteroid Lutetia closely examining its surface and makeup.  Since then Rosetta has been cruising through the deepest parts of our solar system – a billion kilometers from the Sun – where that distance generates such little solar power she had to go into hibernation until comet CG approached.  In January 2014 after Rosetta nears CG, it will literally harpoon it so it can place the robot Philae on its surface.  As comet CG returns to our solar system to head towards our Sun, Philae will send scientific data back to Earth.

2015

January 30th Perihelion – Comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke.  The Pons-Winnecke comet is a Near Earth Comet (NEC) and will pass Earth’s surface only about 3.5 million miles away, or about fifteen times the distance to the Moon.  It probably won’t be visible by the naked eye, but a good pair of binoculars will assist in seeing this faint comet that comes around every 6.36 years.

February Dawn spacecraft.  NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is the first of its kind to use the highly efficient ion propulsion engine.  Ion thrust engines must be in an environment devoid of any other ionized particles – deep space is the perfect example of such an ideal environment for this engine system.  During February Dawn will rendezvous with one of two large asteroids (Vesta in 2012 and Ceres) classified as dwarf planets in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  Dawn will spend several months examining Ceres and its surface sending back to Earth the first close-up images of a dwarf planet in our Solar System.

February 22ndThe Union of Venus and Mars.  Conjunctions of planets are rare events and occur only when the very long large planets and their orbits seem to join or cross.  Like lovers, Venus and Mars will be within a half degree of each other in the western sky just after sunset.

March 2nd Perihelion – Comet d’Arrest.  Discovered in 1851, the d’Arrest comet has an orbital period of 6.54 years around the Sun so it is a frequent visitor.  Like Pons-Winnecke it too will be very faint to the naked eye.

July 14thNew Horizons spacecraft.  Launched in January 2006, NASA’s spacecraft New Horizons arrives at the dwarf planet Pluto and its moons after a nine and a half-year journey.  It will capture the first close-up images of the planet and moons then continue out to the Kuiper-belt for images of icy objects at the outer edge of our Solar System.

August 12th – 14th is again the annual Perseids Meteor Shower.  See 2014 information above.

2015 conjunction will look like this May 2013 conjunction!

2015 conjunction will look like this May 2013 conjunction!

October 28thPlanetary Ménage à Trois.  A conjunction of three planets is very rare event and will be quite the spectacle in the early morning eastern sky before sunrise.  Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will be in a tight 1-degree triangle of consummation!

November 17th – 18th is the return of the Leonids Meteor Shower with an average of 40 meteors per hour at its peak.  During its 33-year cyclic peak hundreds of meteors are produced per hour.  This last occurred in 2001.  Some of its early arriving then late arriving meteors can be seen between Nov. 13th and 20th.  The radiant point can be found in the constellation Leo after midnight.

December 13th – 14th is again the annual Geminids Meteor Shower.  See 2014 information above.

(paragraph separation)

“Perchance to Dream”

It will be a 1-in-a-million lifetime jaw-dropping event to see.  Well, actually in less than 1-million years.  Yes, sadly we won’t be around to witness it, but the Betelgeuse Supernova will be brighter, much brighter than our own full Moon!  It will be easily visible in daytime for several months so don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the second coming with another Star of Bethlehem, but instead the wonder of the cosmos with the Star of Betelgeuse!

The star is well-known among avid stargazers because it is the second brightest star in the Orion constellation and because of its size, color, and placement.  It is the red supergiant star in Orion’s “right shoulder” and ranks as the eighth brightest star in our entire night sky.  For some perspective, Betelgeuse is so huge that if it were our own Sun, its outer edges would touch Jupiter!  It is approximately 640 light years away from our Sun.  If it were to explode at night in our lifetime, it might look something like this…

Cosmologists and astronomers predict it will go super-nova in 1-million years or less because it is a “runaway star”.  In other words, due to its super size and mass, it will burn-up, collapse on itself, and create such an explosion that from even 640 light years away, it will be well beyond the brightest super-nova EVER recorded in Earth’s history!  If you can imagine any major global event throughout all of history, Betelgeuse will dwarf that.  For those several months, Earth’s night sky will seem like endless twilight until sunrise!  Wouldn’t that be the most remarkable thing in life to witness?

* * * * * * * * * *

In the final part of this three-part series, I will explain how simple tools and methods can map the night sky, locate major seasonal celestial highlights and their historical backgrounds, and explain why and how humanity will gaze the heavens just as the ancients did without any man-made light-pollution.  If you have enjoyed this part, please let me know by commenting, and check-in every so often for Part 3.

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