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  • Large Binocular Telescope Open for Business

    Arizona Telescope Sees Deep into the Cosmos

    by Ted Robbins

    All Things Considered, March 17, 2008 · The best pair of eyes on Earth are now wide open. The Large Binocular Telescope sits in a 17-story building atop an Arizona mountain.

    LBT, as it's known for short, can probe deeper into the cosmos than any other instrument. The 580-ton telescope is twice as big as the next-largest telescope on Earth, and it has 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. The LBT cannot see farther than Hubble, but the images it sends back are much sharper and of a much wider field than the space telescope.

    In the control room, Richard Pogge, professor of astronomy at Ohio State University, types in coordinates for this night's viewing. He and a half-dozen others sit in a room filled with computer screens.

    There's a universe to look at, but time is limited, so scientists submit proposals for observation. One of the first for tonight: the Kuiper Belt, which lies on the edge of the solar system, about 2.7 billion miles from Earth.

    How small? Well, Pluto is roughly 1,200 miles wide. The LBT can see ice balls in the same region that are one or two miles wide. The cameras take an exposure – which lasts five minutes — and then the image is revealed on a computer screen. It looks like a field of stars. But take the same picture six nights in a row and — if you know what you're looking for — you can see the ice balls moving.

    And with the data this telescope gathers, Pogge says you can see a lot more, including how far are away an object is, what it is made of, what its mass is and how fast it's moving away from us.

    Answering Questions About the Universe

    Notre Dame professor Peter Garnevich helps focus the LBT on another object, which is no small task given the instrument's complexity. Garnevich is interested in a supernova that exploded a few nights earlier.

    "The star just happened to die and its jet was pointed at us and we can see it most of the way across the universe," says Garnevich.

    The screen shows a large mass with a plume coming from it. Garnevich wants to learn how energy from the dying star decays over time. By looking at objects like this — halfway across the universe and back in time — these astronomers hope the LBT will answer some fundamental questions.

    Pogge lists some of those questions: "Where do we come from, how did we get here, where are we going? Astronomy's one of the few ways we can answer that."

    Over the next few years, many more devices will be added to the LBT to enhance its capabilities. That should be enough to keep astronomers happy at night for decades.
    Moon

  • #2
    Be passionate about what you believe in, or why bother.

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    • #3
      Cool!!!
      Official Lounge Sponsor of:
      Brett Hull & St. Patricks Day

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      • #4
        Can we schedule all the creationists a visit to that place?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by hansolo View Post
          Can we schedule all the creationists a visit to that place?
          As a creationist am I supposed to renounce the posibility of a God because I can see a star with my naked eye?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by corey-south-city View Post
            As a creationist am I supposed to renounce the posibility of a God because I can see a star with my naked eye?
            The existence or non-existence of God cannot be rationally debated - an assertion of existence is non-falsifiable. I don't think the actual creation of the universe by a deity can be argued with - there's no way to determine any evidence on the matter one way or another. However, I think by "creationists", what Han means (and he can correct me if I'm wrong) is those who believe that the universe is less than 10,000 years old; if you understand basic mathematics, a telescope can demonstrate the parallax effect, which proves that the stars are very, very far away. If you buy into the idea of c, the speed of light in vacuum, you understand that looking at a galaxy (like Andromeda) that's two million light years away means that the universe is at least two million years old. With this telescope, if you look at a quasar ten billion light years away, well, you can draw your own conclusions.

            The 10,000-year-old universe has so much evidence to overcome that a reasonable person cannot come to the conclusion that it makes sense. That's what this telescope can help show; though really, any telescope mounted with sufficient rigidity as to be able to measure tiny differences in parallax will do the job just as well.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Airshark View Post
              The existence or non-existence of God cannot be rationally debated - an assertion of existence is non-falsifiable. I don't think the actual creation of the universe by a deity can be argued with - there's no way to determine any evidence on the matter one way or another. However, I think by "creationists", what Han means (and he can correct me if I'm wrong) is those who believe that the universe is less than 10,000 years old; if you understand basic mathematics, a telescope can demonstrate the parallax effect, which proves that the stars are very, very far away. If you buy into the idea of c, the speed of light in vacuum, you understand that looking at a galaxy (like Andromeda) that's two million light years away means that the universe is at least two million years old. With this telescope, if you look at a quasar ten billion light years away, well, you can draw your own conclusions.

              The 10,000-year-old universe has so much evidence to overcome that a reasonable person cannot come to the conclusion that it makes sense. That's what this telescope can help show; though really, any telescope mounted with sufficient rigidity as to be able to measure tiny differences in parallax will do the job just as well.
              pretty much what i said - the unabridged version

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              • #8
                At the risk of starting a holy war or debate on the issue, I agree with what your saying in theory. But the 10,000 year old universe is based upon scripture and what was believed to be at that time as state-of-the-art knowledge of how the universe works. You are now using what is currently considered state-of-the art knowledge to disprove it's existance. Who's to say that someday we as a society learn something that questions the known speed of light?

                I do however agree with your principle that it can not be either proven or disproven.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by corey-south-city View Post
                  At the risk of starting a holy war or debate on the issue, I agree with what your saying in theory. But the 10,000 year old universe is based upon scripture and what was believed to be at that time as state-of-the-art knowledge of how the universe works. You are now using what is currently considered state-of-the art knowledge to disprove it's existance. Who's to say that someday we as a society learn something that questions the known speed of light?

                  I do however agree with your principle that it can not be either proven or disproven.
                  I don't have a problem with people back in early BC writing down that the earth is "10,000" years old etc.

                  I have a problem with people TODAY maintaining it is such as and that we should ignore science and all that it has to offer and focus on scriptures to explain things in schools.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by corey-south-city View Post
                    At the risk of starting a holy war or debate on the issue, I agree with what your saying in theory. But the 10,000 year old universe is based upon scripture and what was believed to be at that time as state-of-the-art knowledge of how the universe works. You are now using what is currently considered state-of-the art knowledge to disprove it's existance. Who's to say that someday we as a society learn something that questions the known speed of light?

                    I do however agree with your principle that it can not be either proven or disproven.
                    Dude. Please don't start a discussion about the speed of light with Shark. Please.

                    Moon

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                    • #11
                      That is awesome. It's a shame we spent so much money on the ISS and manned space flight instead of on things like this. Imagine it's power if it was in orbit.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by corey-south-city View Post
                        At the risk of starting a holy war or debate on the issue, I agree with what your saying in theory. But the 10,000 year old universe is based upon scripture and what was believed to be at that time as state-of-the-art knowledge of how the universe works. You are now using what is currently considered state-of-the art knowledge to disprove it's existance. Who's to say that someday we as a society learn something that questions the known speed of light?

                        I do however agree with your principle that it can not be either proven or disproven.
                        As Moon is suggesting, I don't think it's necessary to argue the speed of light, which is why I made it a premise in my post. However, it takes an extreme amount of mental gymnastics to come up with the idea that whatever the actual speed of light is, that every single piece of repeatable testing we can do is wrong when the result is that it's finite. Very fast, but finite. Future "state-of-the-art" analysis may move the actual number by a few MPH, or maybe even provide some twisty variable equation to describe minor variations in its speed, but you have to throw away basically everything we've learned about physics in the last hundred years to get six orders of magnitude of error (10,000 years vs 10,000,000,000). IOW, choose scripture over not only science, but the whole idea of repeatable experimentation. You're as likely to be able to argue that the fundamentals of geometry are wrong.

                        Is it impossible to believe that God created the universe, but did it by a much more lengthy and complex process than is to be literally believed in the Bible?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Airshark View Post
                          As Moon is suggesting, I don't think it's necessary to argue the speed of light, which is why I made it a premise in my post. However, it takes an extreme amount of mental gymnastics to come up with the idea that whatever the actual speed of light is, that every single piece of repeatable testing we can do is wrong when the result is that it's finite. Very fast, but finite. Future "state-of-the-art" analysis may move the actual number by a few MPH, or maybe even provide some twisty variable equation to describe minor variations in its speed, but you have to throw away basically everything we've learned about physics in the last hundred years to get six orders of magnitude of error (10,000 years vs 10,000,000,000). IOW, choose scripture over not only science, but the whole idea of repeatable experimentation. You're as likely to be able to argue that the fundamentals of geometry are wrong.

                          Is it impossible to believe that God created the universe, but did it by a much more lengthy and complex process than is to be literally believed in the Bible?
                          No, I agree with you that it is possible that there is a god and that he created the universe to "obey" certain laws of physics that we now have figured out to be true.

                          I'm merely pointing out that refusing to believe that the laws of physics as we know them are either incorrect or possibly flawed in some way, seems just as closed minded as some of the creationist viewpoints dont you think?
                          corey-south-city
                          Senior Member
                          Last edited by corey-south-city; 03-18-2008, 08:02 AM. Reason: incorrect grammar

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by corey-south-city View Post
                            No, I agree with you that it is possible that there is a god and that he created the universe to "obey" certain laws of physics that we now have figured out to be true.

                            I'm merely pointing out that refusing to believe that the laws of physics as we know them are either incorrect or possibly flawed in some way, seems just as closed minded as some of the creationist viewpoints dont you think?
                            Not really. This is a common argument here on the Lounge, but a seriously flawed one. Reason - we have the evidence of countless repeated experiments for believing the physical laws we do. The creationist viewpoints you're discussing have no evidence at all. "Open-minded" is not the same thing as "willing to believe without evidence", and it's not nearly the same as "willing to ignore experimental data that says the opposite." If the measured speed of light were off by six orders of magnitude, or if the whole concept of "the speed of light" were meaningless (which is what would be required for the 10,000-year-universe to be correct), then a lot of stuff we know to work wouldn't, such as basically all of electronics and optics.

                            When your theory is so profoundly expressed that you can use it to make predictions of physical behavior accurate to within a thousandth of a percent, it's not "close-minded" to reject a directly contrary hypothesis, especially one with no experimental support. Consider that a laser rangefinder works by timing the round-trip of a coded light signal to and from a target; if that time estimate was off by six orders of magnitude, would the device still work? Or if the speed of light wasn't even measurable this way, how come we can predict the behavior of the device? Does it work by magic?

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                            • #15
                              At one point in time, the earth was considered to be flat and there was at the time considerable and significant proof to substantiate that claim. We have since learned otherwise.

                              I'm just saying at some point we as a society will learn infinitely more about our physical universe than what is currently known. At that time, the laws of physics as we know them may be tweaked or gotten rid of altogether.

                              To say that its not possible would mean that we could not continue to make significant strides in the scientific community.

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