Astronomy Picture of the Day
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2018 May 14
Explanation: What lies at the bottom of Hyperion‘s strange craters? To help find out, the robot Cassini spacecraft that once orbited Saturn swooped past the sponge-textured moon in 2005 and 2010 and took images of unprecedented detail. A six-image mosaic from the 2005 pass, featured here in natural color, shows a remarkable world strewn with strange craters and an odd sponge-like surface. At the bottom of most craters lies some type of unknown dark reddish material. This material appears similar to that covering part of another of Saturn’s moons, Iapetus, and might sink into the ice moon as it better absorbs warming sunlight. Hyperion is about 250 kilometers across, rotates chaotically, and has a density so low that it likely houses a vast system of caverns inside.
Is there life in the multiverse?
The word universe used to imply all that exists, but no longer. Today’s cosmologists – scientists who study the biggest of all possible big pictures – now consider the idea that our known universe might be just one of many unknown (and unknowable?) universes. They call this plethora of possible universes the multiverse. Now scientists in the U.K. and Australia have taken an interesting step toward probing the multiverse. Their work, which is based on computer simulations, suggests that life could potentially be common throughout the multiverse, if a multiverse exists. The findings are published May 14, 2018, in two related papers in the peer-reviewed journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
This research, and in fact the idea of a multiverse, stems from astrophysicists’ calculations regarding dark energy. That’s the mysterious force that appears to be accelerating the expansion of our universe.
In the 1980s, astronomers turned to multiverse theory to explain the “luckily small” amount of dark energy in our universe. According to cosmologist’s theories, this small amount of dark energy appeared to enable our universe to host life, while most universes in the multiverse couldn’t. In other words, current theories of the origin of the universe predict much more dark energy in our universe than is observed. But – according to most theories – larger amounts of dark energy would cause such a rapid expansion that it would dilute matter before any stars, planets or life could form.
How to explain this? The explanation could indeed be that, as Luke Barnes at Western Sydney University – lead author on one of the papers – explained in a statement, there could indeed be a multiverse in which life is extremely limited, and we in this universe might just happen to have:
… a lucky [lottery] ticket.
That is, we might just happen to live in a universe whose dark energy is small enough to enable the beautiful galaxies and stars we see to form, permitting life as we know it.
Or something else is happening. It’s the something else these researchers are exploring.
These researchers used computer simulations of the cosmos – produced under the EAGLE project – to learn that, in contrast to the results of earlier studies, adding dark energy to the universe – even up to a few hundred times the amount observed in our universe – would actually only have a modest impact upon star and planet formation. It would not, in other words, prevents stars and planets from forming.
If this is true, it opens up the possibility that life might be possible throughout a wider range of other universes (if they exist), the researchers said.
Jaime Salcido, a postgraduate student in Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology, is lead author on the other newly published papers. He said:
For many physicists, the unexplained but seemingly special amount of dark energy in our universe is a frustrating puzzle.
Our simulations show that even if there was much more dark energy or even very little in the universe then it would only have a minimal effect on star and planet formation, raising the prospect that life could exist throughout the multiverse.
As always, there are issues and problems with this theory, which you can read about here. In fact, at one point in their statement, these cosmologists mentioned the possibility that the only explanation for their work in its entirety might be “new laws of nature.” You don’t see scientists in their studies call for new laws of nature very often. In fact, I can’t remember the last they did that. But this work appears in the journal Nature, which is one of the most established journals; the work must have undergone rigorous peer review. It’ll be interesting to see if this study sparks other studies of a similar nature, leading to a similar conclusion.
By the way, one of the researchers here – Luke Barnes – is an excellent science explainer. In 2016, he wrote the script for the video below. While it doesn’t specifically mention the new research being discussed here, it does touch on the multiverse idea … and it’ll give you an idea of the sorts of things today’s astrophysicists and cosmologists think about.
Bottom line: New research shows that life might be common throughout the multiverse, if there is a multiverse.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.
The Wisdom of Buddha
The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.
New Born Baby Polar Bear
And we knew she wouldn’t go quietly, lol! She has got to go because of the heat and I don’t want to see any more blisters or that line growing. I will be using her account because when we post photos or images it eats up our storage. In Lady A’s account, it doesn’t and our storage is starting to run low.
Your Ancient Symbol Card for Today
Love indicates that love is either present in our life or a distinct possibility. Be open to all possibilities, remembering that true love is given freely, without condition, and does not have to be earned. This is the kind of love we want to welcome into our life and to give to others. Be open to new ideas, and beware of judging against someone in an unloving manner. When Love appears, return to the place where you can love yourself and then seek out the same love from others.
As a daily card, Love suggests that for those who are currently in a relationship the opportunity to deepen the bond is present. For those who are single, Love implies that the prospect for them to begin a romantic relationship is very strong at this time.
Your Crowley Thoth Tarot Card for Today
Art denotes balance and harmony. The forces behind Art are those that keep us from succumbing to temptation or over-indulgence; steer us away from developing unhealthy addictions or behaviors. The Art driven Spirit avoids extremes, spreads harmony and brings opposing sides together. They find a happy, healthy median between what they want and what they need. Art provides an environment in which most will thrive, and a haven where the injured may heal, reenergize. Through Art success and contentment are found by practicing self-restraint, and using balance to create your own “shelter from the storm.”
Your Weekly Influences for May 14th
The Page of Swords
Youth if not in age then in spirit. Adept at diplomacy.
With Scorpio come victory through a forceful inner drive. Scorpio also denotes a high level of sensuality
Earth reversed denotes a lack of positive connection with the life spirit–a lost soul. If you are not careful you may miss much of what life has to offer you.
Weekly Tarot Card for May 14-20
Page of Wands
This Page of Wands strides on stilts across the ice, willing to take whatever risks are necessary to explore new territory and experiences. The character is undaunted by obstacles, proceeding with a spirit of adventure and curiosity, comfortable with a certain amount of risk if it is in service of manifesting new ideas. This fits very naturally with last week’s Magician card energy for learning and growth, which is still coursing through us. Now that we have found the right tools to use, we only need to find paths to action. Inspiration can be wasted when it stays in the mind, leading us to the realm of fantasy rather than manifestation.
Exercise for this week: Balanced, bold action
Use your tools/strengths in the following realms, discovered in last week’s exercise with the Magician card, to actively and fearlessly move down the path toward completion. Start with your mental tool (Sword) and move your inspiration out into the other suits’ realms (spirit, emotions, physicality):
How will you use your Sword now?
How will you use your Wand now?
How will you use your Cup now?
How will you use your Pentacle now?