- In the picture above, something not seen in the inscribed
circle has astronomers excited. At an estimated 50 million light-years
from Earth, they found a large mass of hydrogen a hundred million times
the mass of the Sun-a galaxy of sorts, but containing no stars.
- Hydrogen gas releases radiation that can be detected
at radio wavelengths. Using radio telescopes in England and Puerto Rico,
a team of investigators detected the massive cloud in the Virgo Cluster.
They named it "VIRGOHI21."
- The challenge they faced began with the fact that the
cloud is rotating way too fast, in apparent defiance of gravity. Without
some other force acting on the cloud it should fly apart. The astronomers
assumed this force must be gravity. As reported in the BBC story on the
discovery, "there must be a stronger gravitational force acting than
can be accounted for using visible matter." But this is the same problem
posed by galaxies: they rotate too fast for gravity to hold them together.
Due to the similarities in rotational dynamics, the investigators of VIRGOHI21
concluded that the remote cloud is a starless "galaxy," held
together by the same invisible stuff that they now claim holds all galaxies
together -- "dark matter."
- To give their mathematical models of galaxies integrity,
astronomers envision a universe of invisible matter at least five times
as voluminous as visible matter. So they've applied the same theories to
the hydrogen cloud, except that the proportions of dark matter are much
larger. The theorists were not constrained by any consideration other than
the calculation of invisible "mass" using their gravitational
equations. In this case, however, adding just a little dark matter would
not suffice. According to Dr Robert Minchin, of Cardiff University: "From
its speed, we realised that VIRGOHI21 was a THOUSAND TIMES more massive
than could be accounted for by the observed hydrogen atoms alone."
- One might have thought the investigators would pause
in the face of such proportions. To get the results they were looking for,
they posited a thousand times more invisible matter than visible matter,
with the freedom to place the invisible stuff wherever it is needed for
their gravitational equations to work. Is such a leap of faith permissible?
The investigators' confidence was undimmed. As reported by Dr Jon Davies,
one of the Cardiff team members "The Universe has all sorts of secrets
still to reveal to us, but this shows that we are beginning to understand
how to look at it in the right way. It's a really exciting discovery."
- It sounds as if a leap of faith produced an "exciting"
scientific breakthrough. But this is the kind of "breakthrough"
that causes plasma cosmologists to wonder aloud about the state of science
today. They know all too well that it does not take "dark matter"
to produce the rapid rotation of a vast hydrogen cloud. Even the weakest
electric fields imaginable can routinely achieve such results over vast
distances. And since magnetic fields and filamentation -- the most direct
pointers to electric currents -- appear everywhere we look in space, the
experts on plasma and electricity are growing increasingly impatient with
a "science" unwilling to consider the obvious.
- Photo credit: BBC-