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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

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