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No. 94: Jul-Aug 1994

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First you don't see it; then you don't don't see it

Astronomers are always claiming that they have observational proof that other stars have planets circling them and that black holes truly exist. These claims always fade away or are refuted. Recently, the papers were full of still another claim that a black hole had been found. This time there was no doubt; this was it; a bona fide, undeniable black hole. The search was finally over! Later, though, this claim was muted to: "the best evidence yet for a black hole." [Remember that no light escapes a black hole; you cannot see it directly. It is detected only through its effects on nearby observable matter.]

Despite what the theorists fervently believe, black holes may not be lurking out there in space, unseen, but still able to gobble up matter and unwary alien spacecraft. For example, consider the following iconoclastic tidbit:

"A gigantic, exceptionally bright star that scientists thought could become a black hole is actually shedding mass at such an astonishing rate that it eventually will disappear, a discovery that casts doubt on theories of stellar evolution, a researcher reports.

"'If such massive stars are losing mass at such a prodigious rate, they will not form black holes but will peel off to virtually nothing,' Sally Heap, a NASA astronomer, said yesterday at a national meeting of the American Astronomical Society."

In other words, the accepted means of black hole production -- and, therefore, black holes themselves -- still seem to be in observational limbo.

(Anonymous; "Discovery Questions 'Black Hole' Theory," Baltimore Sun, May 31, 1994.)

From Science Frontiers #94, JUL-AUG 1994. 1994-2000 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