Opinion: Light years vs. miles

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Here’s another reason why NASA should dump its shuttle program now: Real space news gets obscured whenever one of them is running circles around the Earth for a few days.

Example: NASA announced Monday that its Spitzer Space Telescope captured images of the first stars in the universe. The numbers by themselves are staggering: The light captured by Spitzer comes from objects about 13 billion light years away, or about 74,204,208,000,000,000,000,000 miles away from the Earth. Some more:

A little math therefore shows that these newfound objects are indeed the infants of the universe. But what are they? If they are stars, they are about 10 times more massive than theories suggest the first stars would have been. The mysterious objects are in clusters. If they are each stars, then the clusters might be the first mini-galaxies. And if so, each apparently has a mass that’s less than a million suns. Our Milky Way, by contrast, holds the mass of about 100 billion suns and is thought to have been built up by mergers of smaller galaxies -- perhaps like those the astronomers now think they might be seeing.

Meanwhile, 200 miles above earth, the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery made news today by managing to fold a space station solar panel on its fourth attempt.


Four tries?

*Photo credits
Top: NASA/JPL - Cal Tech/GSFC
Bottom: AFP/Getty Images