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No. 5: November 1978

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Nine-tenths of the universe is unseen

In a rather lengthy article on the disturbing discoveries of modern astronomy, Ivan King is quoted as follows:

"The most serious problem in extragalactic astronomy today is the notorious 'missing mass.' There are rich clusters of galaxies where it is quite clear that the total gravitating mass is about ten times what we can account for in the conventional masses of the individual galaxies...

"The other missing mass problem shows up in the outer parts of spiral galaxies, where the rotational curves have clearly never heard of Kepler... The rotation curves say there is a large amount of mass out there, [but] it emits no light by which we can study its nature.

"The missing mass problem is extremely disquieting...We are talking about 90 percent of the mass of the universe, present but not speaking. Can we really claim to know anything about the nature of the universe if we don't know the properties, or even the nature, of 90 percent of its material?"

(Anonymous; "The Extragalactic Ferment," Mosaic, 9:18, May/June 1978.)

From Science Frontiers #5, November 1978. 1978-2000 William R. Corliss