Beliefnet
This image comes from the Chandra Observatory, which sees the universe in the X-ray spectrum and is expected to rival the Hubble Space Telescope in its output of striking discoveries in deep space. Here, in the constellation Mensa, is an object designated PKS0637-72, a quasar or "quasi stellar object" that shines with the power of 10 trillion stars like our sun. Quasars are believed to have been common in the early universe--this image is from six billion years in the past. (It's impossible to know whether the quasar pictured still exists.)
The notion that the universe is fated to end as a mush devoid of energy has been seized on by modernist writers as proof that everything is meaningless. But quasars suggest there are energy sources that current science can barely guess at.

No one knows what process could cause a single point in space to shine with the luminescence of 10 trillion suns. When astronomers first detected quasars, they assumed something had to be wrong with their instruments. Unlike the extremely powerful but brief gamma-ray explosions that astronomers sometimes detect, quasars are long-lived objects, shining for eons. Guesses about the source of their power include interactions between cosmic clouds and "supermassive" black holes, or some kind of remnant of the original process of the Big Bang. The guesses are very vague: somehow the supermassive black hole would be channeling energy from another dimension or universe, for example.

The existence of quasars is an important indication that there are fundamental physics aspects of the universe about which little is understood. Under the "second law of thermodynamics," standard textbook science says that the cosmos at its creation contained all the energy that would ever be available, and everything since has been gradual running down toward a "heat death" that will someday leave the universe lifeless. (This is often called the theory of "entropy.") The notion that the universe itself is fated to end as a mush devoid of energy has been seized on by modernist writers such as Thomas Pynchon as proof that everything is meaningless. But objects such as quasars suggest there are energy sources that current science can barely guess at; the universe may be more resilient than it appears.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus