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No. 97: Jan-Feb 1995

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How can some stars be older than the universe itself?

The answer is, of course, if the astronomers' clocks keep bad time. On one hand, stellar age theory assures us that stars in the globular clusters that pervade the universe were born about 15 billion years ago. On the other hand, new measurements of the distance to the Virgo cluster of galaxies are equally adamant that these objects are much closer than thought -- so close that, assuming the standard Big Bang model and the resultant expanding universe, the age of the universe may be as small as 8 billion years! In other words, the universe is younger than some of the stars in it; an obvious and painful dilemma for astronomy.

How will this conflict between the two dominant astronomical paradigms play out? Many are betting that the Big Bang theory will require a major over-haul. Or more, as suggested in the next item.

(Jacoby, George H.; "The Universe in Crisis," Nature, 371:741, 1994. Travis, John; "Hubble War Moves to High Ground," Science, 266:539, 1994.)

Comment. A clever resolution of the above age problem would be for the ancient globular cluster stars to be left-overs or interlopers from an older universe. The globular clusters are anomalous in several other ways. See: Stars, Galaxies, Cosmos. Ordering information here.

From Science Frontiers #97, JAN-FEB 1995. 1995-2000 William R. Corliss