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No. 47: Sep-Oct 1986

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Lumps, clumps, and jumps

"Astronomers have already discovered lumps, motion and structure never suspected in a universe once considered smooth and expanding uniformly in all directions. Two researchers now say the universe is even lumpier, has faster relative motion and shows larger structures than previously believed."

N. Bahcall and R. Soneira have been studying the structures and motions of superclusters of galaxies. Each supercluster consists of clusters of clusters of galaxies and contains upwards of hundreds of billions of stars. (Obvious-ly, these are not inconsequential entities!) By analyzing the redshifts of galaxies, Bahcall and Soneira have found that the universe is much more dynamic and inhomogeneous than expected.

(1) The clusters of galaxies are larger and more extensive. Superclusters can be 500 million light years across -- about 1% of the known universe

(2) Relative motions within the clusters are as high as 2,000 kilometers per second more than one can account for using gravitational attraction alone.

(Kleist; T.; "Lumps, Clumps and Jumps in the Universe," Science News, 130:7, 1986.)

Comment. Before swallowing whole such grand sketches of the cosmos, one should always examine the assumptions. Here, redshifts are assumed to be measures of velocity, which if an expanding universe is assumed, can be converted into distances.

Local Group of galaxies Local Group of galaxies, including the Milky Way. and nearby superclusters are all moving in the same direction at about the same speeds. (Adapted from Sky and Telepscope, 72:28, 1986)

From Science Frontiers #47, SEP-OCT 1986. 1986-2000 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