The Challenge With Obtaining Observations of Reality

How much confidence do we put into measuring reality? There is much more to it than just inventing better tools when it comes to collecting observational data of the universe. Recently, the Spitzer Space Telescope was able to capture something that has never been seen before, shrinking Cepheid variables.

What is the significance of this? Well, for cosmologists it’s very essential to establish reliable “standard candles” for studies of dark energy as well as to understand their role as the source of most of the iron in the universe.”


“Standard Candles” is like lighting up a stadium which reveals how big it is and how far apart the objects are inside of it, Cepheid variables or “standard candles” are used as a…“a tool for measuring the distances to farther and farther galaxies. The ladder’s first rung consists of pulsating stars called Cepheid variables, or Cepheids for short. Measurements of the distances to these stars from Earth are critical in making precise measurements of even more distant objects. Each rung on the ladder depends on the previous one, so without accurate Cepheid measurements, the whole cosmic distance ladder would come unhinged.”


Of course with this new discovery, the mistake should be corrected and accuracy should resume once again but isn’t this what they had claimed the last time?  This is not all in cosmology these days. Gravitational lenses have a distorting effect. Physorg describes it this way…

“Gravitational lensing occurs when light from a distant object is distorted by a massive object that is in the foreground. Astronomers have started to apply this concept in a new way to determine the number of very distant galaxies and to measure dark matter in the universe. Though recent progress has been made in extending the use of gravitational lensing, a letter published in Nature on Jan. 13 makes the case that the tool may be even more necessary than originally thought when looking at distant galaxies.”


Unable to be fixed is the Hubble Space telescope “because at Hubble’s resolution one literally can no longer see the forest for the trees at these extreme distances.” Looks like we will have to wait for the James Webb Space Telescope if that ever gets completed. Space.com reports a warning from these effects on observational data with a new study…

“Cosmic lenses created by the ultra-strong gravity of some objects in space may spoil upcoming estimates of the number of galaxies during the universe’s earliest days by as much as a factor of 10, a new study warns. The problem that researchers now face has to do with the way gravity warps space-time. The greater the mass of an object in space, the stronger its gravitational pull. This in turn can bend light around it, affecting the view by telescopes on Earth…the study found that astronomers failed to account for “magnification bias,” which can make a galaxy appear brighter than it is.”


One scientist says, “calibrate your telescope” and we are not talking about ordinary calibrations either but the only problem, what do you calibrate to? John Woodward, who is working on calibrating the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, isn’t so sure: “because this is one of the first-ever such calibrations of a telescope, it is unclear just how much effect the team’s work will have, and part of their future work will be determining how much they have reduced the uncertainties in Pan-STARRS’s performance.” In other words, it’s guesswork in progress.

So what have we learned? It’s quite a challenge to observe what’s out there in the universe especially from vast distances using such things as telescopes. Correcting it seems like a crapshoot which is not promising. Hopefully, there will be advancements made that are reliable! It’s so amazing to see what’s out there in this great universe which was designed by God!

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11 thoughts on “The Challenge With Obtaining Observations of Reality

  1. We’re wondering what is Michael’s point in this post? That cosmologists are sometimes in error? That an error in the distances of Cepheid variables somehow demonstrates that astronomers have misestimated the age of the universe by a factor of 2,000,000?

    The only thing we know for sure is that Michael has not the slightest knowledge of astronomy or cosmology. He seems to think that Cepheid variables are the one and only “standard candle” for measuring the size of the universe, and that an error in the size of the universe necessarily implies an error in the age of the universe.

    First, Michael uses an incorrect analogy: ““Standard Candles” is like lighting up a stadium which reveals how big it is and how far apart the objects are inside of it,….” Michael, please inform us specifically how turning on the lights in a stadium—or a room, or a car—allows us to measure its size. No. In the case of optical sources, we need two numbers: the brightness of the light as measured on Earth, and its intrinsic brightness at the source itself. Local brightness is easy. Source brightness is calculated from the observed atomic processes that produce the light—to the extent that we know what those processes are. (That’s why not every light source is a standard candle.)

    Second, “standard candle” is not a single thing, but an entire family of phenomena that overlap, one providing verification for the others within their common ranges. And they are not all optical. In approximate order of increasing distance, standard candles include stellar parallax, Cepheid variables, planetary nebulae, the Tally-Fisher relation, VLBI radio-jet proper motion, Type Ia supernovas, the Sunaev-Zel’dovich relation, and gravitational lensing of quasars. There is an interval in which Cepheid variables do not overlap any other yardstick in the series. Thus one section of the yardstick has changed, which affects the total length of the yardstick as well. But not by very much, because only a portion has changed—Cepheids measure the distance of objects from the Hyades star cluster to the Magellanic Clouds. Other candles measure from a million light-years on out to billions of light-years. Gravitational lensing overlaps several other standard candles way out in the boondocks of the universe.

    The age of the universe is determined by a number of different methods. Cosmic microwave background rdiation (CMBR) provides one estimate. Extrapolation of the observed Hubble constant (expansion rate) provides another. Overall atomic composition yields another. The composition of globular clusters gives yet another estimate.

    Once again,. Michael: What is your point here?

  2. Michael, my first post, as ‘eelco2’, has not been posted, or removed.

    I was asking what the point of this post was … like Olorin and Krissmith777.

  3. What is the point of Michael’s post.

    Here’s another alternative. Michael intends to impart a sense of the glory of God in constituting the cosmos over extended eons of patient persistence.

    YES — Kris

    NO — Eelco

    NEITHER — Michael

  4. I don’t know why it has just occured to me, but I now have the strong feeling that if Michael were a “YouTube” Creationist, he would have been a really strong nominee to receive Potholer54’s golden crocoduck award.

  5. @Eelco,

    It’s a prize handed out on Youtube once a year to a certain lucky creationist for making the silliest claims possible.

    This video explains is the start of the award:

  6. @krissmith777:

    Thanks ! Sometimes humour is the only way to go … when addressing creationism.

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