THE SDSS – pioneer computer telescope overshadows hubble
By Bernie Lopez – eastwind
Recent  milestones in the study of the universe gives Man new mind-boggling wisdom that makes us reflect on, not only where we are, but who and what we are.
What holds the trillions of stars in a galaxy together is a super-blackhole at the center with massive gravitational pull. Galaxies in turn are grouped into ‘clusters’ based on proximity to each other. Our Milky Way is in a cluster of about 30 galaxies together with our nearest neighbor, Andromeda. Andromeda is the largest in the cluster, and Milky Way is the second largest. Since they dominate our cluster, there are gravitational forces attracting these two largest galaxies. In other words, Milky Way and Andromeda are on a massive collision course which will occur about 6 billion years from now. The sun is predicted to become a red giant at that same period. So we can go pfft due to which comes first.
A galactic collision normally takes millions of years. For example, the current collision of the Antenae galaxies will take about ten million years. It must be clarified that in a galactic collision, stars do not collide with each other. They are too far apart . Collision is therefore not of matter but of gravity and energy. The stars pull against each other and change existing orbits. They swirl against each other back and forth like to whirlpools fighting each other. In a collision, millions of new stars are born rather than die. Dusts and nebulas which are remnants of exploded stars, heat up, coalesce and form new stars.
Billions of galactic clusters form a super-cluster. And millions of super-clusters form what is termed a ‘filament’. A new computer called Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) is at the heart of all these studies. This super-computer telescope sits 9,200 feet above the sea in Sunspot, New Mexico taking thousands of photos continuously non-stop everyday of faraway galaxies, measuring distance, speed, characteristics, and size, and placing all these in a mega-data base. Its aperture never closes. The SDSS has taken the first ever photo of a filament with a length of about a billion light years, the largest known cosmic structure in the universe, by simply integrating millions of mosaic photos.
Dark matter binds galaxies and clusters together. They are the ‘glue’ that keeps the universe intact. Dark energy is a different matter. It has the opposite effect of dispersing galaxies and clusters. Very little is known about this dark energy, except that it has a disruptive effect that makes galaxies fly away from each other.
Perhaps the best way to understand this is to compare dark matter and dark energy to centripetal and centrifugal force. As the earth orbits the sun, the centripetal force of the earth attracts it to the sun, and centrifugal force makes it move away from the sun. If you have a ball tied to a string which you spin, the string is the centripetal force. If you cut the string, the ball flies away, which is the centrifugal force. The perfect balance between this gravitation centripetal and centrifugal forces keeps the orbit of the earth around the sun in a perfect elliptical equilibrium, neither seeking nor flying away from the sun.
You can perhaps think of the essence of the universe as based on two basic principles – balance or harmony, and imbalance or disruptiveness. This can also be viewed as matter and anti-matter, light and darkness, or yin and yang. One way of trying to understand this is to look at ‘balance’ as a ‘force’ that keeps planets revolving around the sun, keeps stars revolving around the super-blackhole at the center of the galaxy, keeps things together. Imbalance is also a ‘force’ that triggers novas and supernovas, galactic collisions and other types of cosmic storms. But these are just terms or ways of seeing things. Imbalance in truth is a type of balance, disharmony a type of harmony.
All these new ways of looking at the universe is brought about by the power of Man to ‘see’ through the SDSS telescope, which complements  the Hubble space telescope. Whereas the Hubble looks into sharp details of galaxies, stars, nebulas with a macro lens, SSDS looks at the vastness with a super-wide angle lens.
all this milestone wisdom we have acquired
are nothing but a faint shade
of the reality of the universe
we have so much more to learn
we are just beginning to see
the grandeur of what the Creator
has given us as our limitless backyard
and when we gaze at the stars in awe
it is a form of adoration and prayer
to the One who created them all
for a deeper understanding of the universe
is a deeper understanding of its Creator
our ever expanding wisdom as star gazers
brings us closer to Him
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