Science in Christian Perspective
H. Harold Hartzler, Ph.D.
(This is the second article for this column written by Owen Gingerich, graduate student in Astronomy at Harvard University. I am very happy to present this article to the readers of the Journal.-H. H. H.)Owen Gingerich
A catch phrase, "continuous creation", has made its debut into astronomical circles within the past few years. At the same time, it has acquired two entirely different meanings, but both of which are among the most fascinating developments in current astronomy.
In its first sense, continuous creation refers to the active formation of stars from the gas and dust already, present in our galaxy. What evidence can support this view?
Astronomers have long been bothered by the extreme luminosities of such stars as P Cygni and 30 Doradus. These stars are burning up their masses at such an extremely rapid rate that they could hardly have existed the several billion years that astronomers now give as the age of the universe. As a further hint, a few years ago Bok pointed out a number of "globules" -small, very dark patches found against the bright galactic nebulae-which may correspond in size to possible proto-stars in their early stages. Already von Weiszdcker and Kuiper had revived the old Kant-Laplace hypothesis of formation of the solar system from a condensing gas, so the evidence began to fit together.
The research which really tipped the scales, however,
was done by the Dutch astronomer Blauuw, who has
examined several "0 associations". These associations,
which were investigated first by the Russian astronomers, consist of a group of very hot stars of spectral
type "0"; frequently they are associated with obscuring nebulosity. Blauuw realized that these associations
are in a state of increasing dissolution, and that by
calculating the motions of the stars backwards in time,
he could find an approximate meeting place or region,
the probable birthplace of the stars. Working with
the Zeta Persei group, he found an age of 1.3 million
years from the velocity of expansion, which is astronomically very short. Furthermore, these stars were
of the extremely profligate variety which might be
expected to use up their energy in a relatively short
Most astronomers now accept this type of continuous creation as a working hypothesis, for these and reasons. The second form of "continuous creation belongs to the highly speculative realm of cosmology and its mere mention can produce a controversial argument between astronomers.
The cosmological continuous creation is gene associated with the names of four English astronomers, Bondi, Hoyle, Gold and Lyttleton. Technically stated, it arises from a steady-state kinematical relativity. These workers take a Platonic approach, seeking establish broad general principles of the universe, which our present physical laws may be mere first approximations.
In general, an important criterion for a cosmological system is that the three space dimensions present an unchanging aspect on a large scale; in other words in the large the universe should be homogeneous. These cosmologists feel that the universe should present unchanging aspect in time, the f ourth dimension. well. Then, as Bondi states, "Since the universe (on thermodynamic grounds) be expanding, new matter must be continually created in order to keep density constant. As ageing nebulae drift apart, due the general motion of expansion, new nebulae formed in the intergalactic spaces by condensation newly created matter." Hence they postulate the con tinual creation of hydrogen, ex nihilo. This, of course opposes the law of conservation of mass-energy.
Once the hydrogen is created, further physical I must take over to form the higher elements. could, perhaps, be done by "cooking" the hydro during the explosion of a supernova. It is interesting to note that the only other current explanation for t abundances of the elements is given by Gamow, wh postulates that they are created out of primordal matter "ylem", in the first half hour of creation several billion years ago. In Bondi's cosmology, of course, the universe had no beginning.
Observational data may eventually cast serious doubt on this steady-state cosmology. As is commonly known the distant galaxies show a Doppler reddening from the expansion of the universe; in addition, a residua reddening is found, called the Stebbins-Whitford effect. This reddening, which has been observed only for elliptical galaxies, increases with the distance of the galaxy. Since these galaxies are millions of light years away, we see them as they appeared millions of years ago, at earlier times in their existence.
If, as many astronomers believe, the reddening is an age effect, then the younger galaxies would appear redder. Thus if the Stebbins-Whitford reddening is generally present, then it would confirm that these distant galaxies (seen in the light which had started out in earlier times) are consistently younger. This would vitiate the steady-state cosmology, which predicts that both young and old galaxies should be intermixed.
1. Bondi, Cosmology, Cambridge University Press, 1952
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