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Space NASA Science

Pillars of Creation Destroyed 364

anthemaniac writes with news about the Pillars of Creation, an iconic structure in the Eagle Nebula some 7,000 light-years distant. The Hubble Space Telescope's image of this structure is one of the most widely recognized astronomy images ever captured. Now a new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope suggests that the pillars probably toppled 6,000 years ago. From the article: "Astronomers think [a] supernova's shock wave knocked the pillars down about 6,000 years ago. But because light from that region of the sky takes 7,000 years to reach us, the majestic pillars will appear intact to observers on Earth for another 1,000 years or so.'"
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Pillars of Creation Destroyed

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  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:17PM (#17533740) Journal
    Really, when will people learn not to use the past tense for events outside of our past light cone!
    The pillars have already been destroyed by the shockwave
    The guy's modeled the pillars and claims that they were destroyed 6000 years ago, 7000 light years away. But if this is the case, then their destruction is outside of our past light cone. So someone else here and now, moving past as at high velocity, using English in the same way, could claim that this event is actually in their future. It doesn't mean that they could visit the destruction because they're outside of any possible future lightcone of any observer starting from here now. Events outside of our light cones are neither past nor future, and you certainly can't go bandying around the word 'already' when you talk about them.
  • Makes Me Curious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moore.dustin ( 942289 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:18PM (#17533760) Homepage
    What else are we looking at and taking images of that is actually nothing like it is in real time. This also boggles my mind with the fact that much of what we see of our universe is actually just nothing like it currently is since the light takes soooo long to get to us. Perhaps I am wrong with that assumption... maybe somebody knows better than I and can clue me in :)
  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:27PM (#17533856)
    No, already is perfectly correct. It has happened. If you were to instantaneously move to the pillars of creation, they would not be there. So the only correct tense is past.
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:36PM (#17533924) Journal
    What else are we looking at and taking images of that is actually nothing like it is in real time.
    Uh, how about, everything ? Absolutely, positively, everything?

    Even on Planet Earth light speed delays can be noticible (it is the bulk of a ping time that goes any significant distance, a highly impressive achievement), but once you leave Earth, everything has a significant light speed delay. The moon is just over a light-second away and the sun roughly eight and a half light minutes. (The exact distance varies over the course of the year.)
  • by the phantom ( 107624 ) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:06PM (#17534184) Homepage
    Less than 1% of every US tax dollar goes to space. Do you really think that, if that money were not going to space, it would go to the programs that you want it to go to? Do you not think that the exploration of our universe is a noble cause, worthy of public funding? Even if for no other reason than no other oranization has the money or motivation to fund that kind of exploration? It seems a rather trivial cost to me...
  • by redcane ( 604255 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:35PM (#17534402)
    The value is in knowing. The more we know about the universe, the more we can make use of it. Especially when it comes to the point that we *need* to get off this rock. At that point all the AIDS vaccines, wells and roads all over the world become worth squat. Of course I don't think it will happen in our lifetime, and you can certainly debate if it will happen. But I'm sure that more primitive societys saw mucking around with plant extracts as pointless when it was more useful to gather food for the tribe. Of course some of those plant extracts are now medicines.
  • by dolphino ( 166844 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:38PM (#17534428)
    This is the strangest post i have seen yet - is it a troll? Anyhoo.

    The very paper you refer clearly states that time not a constant. This is why his ideas were so interesting... it opened the door to 'instantaneous' as quite an ordinary thing. It's quite short and easy to understand (the second time you read it).

    The above poster is also correct in the frame of quantum mechanics: in the quantum world, the ONLY constant is the observer. His entire post was prologued with 'Happening in a time span lower than the response rate of the observer.'

    I would recommend imagining the people you encounter as much smarter than you may think. It may be a blow to your ego for a while, but you will find a massive source of information and ideas.

    Nobody knows much physics, btw. You would be lying if you claimed to know much beyond newtonian physics.

  • by mollymoo ( 202721 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:39PM (#17534436) Journal
    I'm sure you'll agree that pure physics research has produced led to some pretty useful stuff - electromagnetism and quantum mechanics are behind most of the cool toys geeks love. Just as quantum mecahnics wasn't initially developed with the aim of producing transistors, current theories being developed and tested have no specific technological aim in mind. But it's a certainty that with greater understanding of our universe will come a greater ability to manipulate it. Every advance in physics has brought with it technological advances and I fully expect any future advances will bring further technological advances. Certainly some scientists and engineers need to be working on clean renewable energy tech (and they are), but some need to be working on the tools that those scientists and engineers use - physical theories, mathematical techniques; astronomy is part of that making the science that makes the technology possible.
  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:42PM (#17534462) Homepage Journal
    I wish there were a "well duh" mod. :)
  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:47PM (#17534500) Homepage
    Basic research often has no short term value that we can see. A hundred years ago a couple of guys tried to measure our speed through the "ether". They found that there was no ether. This lead to the idea that light must travel at the same speed no matter what reference frame you're in. This (and a few other things) lead to the ideas of quantum physics. This ultimately lead to several inventions already with many more on the way.

    But a hundred years ago, did anyone see the point in measuring our speed through the ether (which pretty much everyone accepted had to exist)? What would be the point? Just a waste of money.

    Astronomical measurements are used to test basic theories of physics. The basic theories of physics are then used to create new and wonderful things. These things save lives and make us more comfortable. Just because we don't know what we'll end up using the information for doesn't mean we should stop searching for it.

  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:58PM (#17534596)
    Yes, atheism is a religion in exactly the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby.
  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nuzak ( 959558 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:10AM (#17534684) Journal
    > It has a set of unproveable presuppositions that its followers take by faith

    Name exactly ONE article of faith of atheism. Or is not believing that there is an invisible rhinoceros in my living room an "article of faith"?

  • by SimHacker ( 180785 ) * on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:34AM (#17534882) Homepage Journal

    Physics and Astronomy help us understand the true nature of God (and she's not a vindicitive gay hating abortion clinic bombing fat old white bearded man, FYI). So why not spend at least as much money on Physics and Astronomy to understand the universe, instead of giving money to preachers, who just lie to you, then spend it on crystal meth, blow jobs from gay hustlers, political favors, molesting little kids, and paying off lawsuits for molesting little kids.


  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DeadChobi ( 740395 ) <> on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:35AM (#17534892)
    HEY! We Pastafarians resent your comment that FSM is not a real religion. Just where in your book does it exactly dictate what God looks like? Perhaps he's just a big lovely ball of noodles, meat, and sauce in the sky. From my point of view it certainly looks like we were created in His image, with noodlyness abound. Our blood flows red as the Sauce, as well. Not only that, clearly He thinks more of us that he should stock our Heaven with beer volcanoes and strippers as far as the eye can see. Does your God do that?
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:36AM (#17534910) Journal
    How about [random physics word]?

    You can't send any information "along" a quantum entanglement. How do you propose to send a timing signal along a channel that can carry no information? How do you propose to define "instantaneous" when you can't even provide a timing signal that matches your definition?
  • Babylon 5 cause... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aapold ( 753705 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:43AM (#17534954) Homepage Journal
    They were obviously destroyed during the Shadow War, as documented [] on Babylon 5 episode Into the Fire []...
  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UncleFluffy ( 164860 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:46AM (#17534978)

    Name exactly ONE article of faith of atheism. Or is not believing that there is an invisible rhinoceros in my living room an "article of faith"?

    Well, strictly speaking, everything after "Cogito, ergo sum" is an article of faith (c.f. "Brain in a Vat"). There actually is a neon green rhinoceros in your living room, it's just that you are hallucinating that it isn't there.

  • by mstrcat ( 517519 ) * on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @01:31AM (#17535302)
    All of the comments about time travel, light cones, ect are a complete and utter waste of time. While the article doesn't do a very good job of explaining it, the light from the proposed super nova that will cause changes in the Pillars of Creation has already reached us. What hasn't reached us yet is the light from the changed Pillars of Creation. This difference is due to two factors, one small and one huge. The small one is that fact that the star that went nova is closer to us than the Pillars are. The largest factor is the difference in the progagation of the light from the super nova and that of the wave that will physically re-arrange the Pillars. A simple model is the light and sound from an explosion. You'll see the light flash before you hear the bang.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @01:58AM (#17535478)
    Why is this modded up?

    Its electric universe BS. On the level of cold fusion and UFO conspiracy nuts.
  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tancred ( 3904 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @02:03AM (#17535510)
    Nice one.

    In the interest of finding common ground, I like to point out to my Christian friends that of all the thousands of gods out there, we only disagree about the existence of one of them!
  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ComaVN ( 325750 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @03:01AM (#17535870)
    I know a lot of atheists that disagree on point 2, and some that disagree on 1 and/or 3

    Perhaps one website by one organization does not represent all, or even a significant number of, atheists?
  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cro Magnon ( 467622 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @10:42AM (#17539092) Homepage Journal
    Actually, I don't see much difference between radical atheists and radical Christians.

    Christian: "If you don't believe in God, you're going to Hell"
    Atheist: "If you do believe in God, you're doomed to ignorance"

    They both preach to anyone who will listen, and a great many who won't. They both have total faith in their position and will never change their minds.
  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Grr ( 15821 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @11:48AM (#17540128)
    Well they would be evil/mad/stupid if they started wars over stamps, based their morality on philately or voted on whoever claimed to have the biggest stamp collection.
  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DahGhostfacedFiddlah ( 470393 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @01:55PM (#17542610)
    Just speaking for myself, I'm not about to let tell me what I believe. Specifically #3 seems like an article of faith that just doesn't belong there. As for the other two, the phrase "natural phenomena" and even "matter" are ambiguous at this stage of our scientific advancement. I suppose I believe 1 and 2, but their meanings are so broad as to include the traditional definition of God (a "natural phenomenon" made of "matter" in another dimension, whose thoughts are a property of that "matter"), so they're pretty much meaningless.

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur