Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The author does not allow comments to this entry
People will believe whatever they were indoctrinated to believe - in defiance of credible evidence to the contrary; and in the absence of any reliable evidence to support it.
One of the perks of being on the committee of my local astronomical society is getting to go to dinner with top professional astronomers, prior to them addressing the Society's monthly meetings. It is a priceless opportunity to discuss cutting edge astronomy and elicit authoritative answers to questions about the Universe that have been niggling me for a while. Recently we entertained Professor Bryan Gaensler from Sydney University, who is surely the leading high level astronomer here in Australia. As a public science educator there is no better. On top of all that, he has sold the multi-billion SKA to the top levels of successive Liberal and Labor Governments (no mean feat) and he is a key player in the quest for a clearer understanding of the Universe and will be over the next few decades.
One of the comments Professor Gaensler made caught my attention, regarding the parallax method of determining the distance of stars. This is very elementary trigonometry calculation involving a right angle triangle and measuring the angle of apparent movement of a 'close' star against the backround of more remote stars over six months. Knowing the three angles of the triangle and knowing the length of one side (the Earth-Sun distance) it is a doddle to calculate the distance of the star. No super-computers needed, just a simple calculator. The only limiting factor is the very minute angle involved, which is measured not in degrees, not in arc-minutes, not in arc-seconds but in tenths of arc-seconds. That is a very, very tiny angle but there is simply no debate about the accuracy of this calculation method. It is foolproof. If you can measure the angle of parallax, you can know the distance to the star.
Up until twenty years ago, only stars less than about 150 light years had their distance measured by this very accurate method. What I did not realise was that satellite technology increased the limiting distance tenfold and until recently we were able to accurately measure the exact distance of stars up to 1600 light years.
However, Professor Gaensler alerted us to the fact that one of his colleagues had recently calculated the precise distance to stars that were more than 6,000 light years away, using the elementary but uncontrovertible parallax method. It did not take long to understand the implications of this statement. The so-called creationism 'theory' states that the Universe was created about 6,000 years ago. This is blown out of the water now that we have absolute proof that objects exist more than 6,000 light years away, hence must be more than 6,000 years old.
Of course, astronomers already knew that objects exist in the Universe that are further away than 6,000 light years.
We know the distance to the centre of the Milky Way is 26,400 light years, ±1,600 light years.
We know the distance to the Andromeda galaxy is 2.54 million light years ± 0.06 million light years.
We know the distance to the big bang is 13.75 billion light years ± 0.11 billion light years.
All of these distances are known with sufficient degree of accuracy to know that that the light reaching us from all three originated well over 6,000 years ago. However, truth-denying Young Earth Creationists have never accepted this and still stick to their crazy belief that the Universe was created about 6,000 years ago. It is now possible to prove by the use of the most elementary 'high school' triangulation method (that even crazy, science denying christians ought to be able to understand) that they are completely and totally wrong. They choose to discard the accurate measurements of highly educated modern scientists using sophisticated measuring instruments - preferring instead to believe the scribbled legends of anonymous, primitive, middle-eastern desert-dwellers from the bronze age.
By the way, after the launch of the ESA Gaia mission in 2012, we will be measuring parallax angles as small as micro-arc-seconds, giving us the accurate distances of individual stars tens of thousands of light years away.
(Diagram and distance stats courtesy Wikepedia).
See my astronomy images on my website: http://home.exetel.com.au/greybeard/Index.htm