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No. 10: Spring 1980

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Double hubble: age in trouble

A key concept in modern astronomy -- the distance scale -- has been challenged by a new measurement technique. In recent years, the so-called Hubble Constant has been used to determine the distances of the farthest observable galaxies and, by assuming that they are near the periphery of the expanding universe, obtaining the age of the cosmos by dividing distance by the speed of light. Until this current challenge, the age of the universe was generally taken as about 20 billion years.

The "old" Hubble Constant, however, was determined from the measurements of the distances to rather close galaxies and then assuming that the Constant thus derived held for the entire universe. The new yardstick reaches farther out into space. It is based upon the observation that the broadening of galaxy's 21-centimeter radio emission depends upon its rate of rotation, plus the belief that the rate of rotation is proportional to its brightness! This "new" Hubble Constant is 95 kilometers/second/ megaparsec, which translates into an age of only 10 billion years for the universe. Both the 10-billion-year and 20billion-year camps claim strong supporting evidence for themselves and also point to serious difficulties in the opposing method. The stage is thus set for a delightful controversy.

(Hartline, Beverly Karplus; "Double Hubble: Age in Trouble," Science, 207: 167, 1979.)

From Science Frontiers #10, Spring 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987