Astronomy Ideas on Borrowed Time?

Image (Credit): The position of our Sun as it orbits the Milky Way’s center. (Stefan Payne-Wardenaar)

A recent Big Think story, “5 Consensus Ideas in Astronomy That Might Soon be Overturned,” comes as a good time as we reach further into space and back into time using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and contemplate other telescopes that should come online shortly.

The story highlights these five ideas:

  • Dark energy is a cosmological constant;
  • Stars predate black holes;
  • Jovian planets protect terrestrial ones;
  • Most of the galaxy is uninhabitable; and
  • Globular clusters are planet-free.

For instance, regarding the uninhabitable areas of the galaxy, the Big Think story states:

Among its many discoveries, the ESA’s Gaia mission has found that the Milky Way galaxy not only has a warp to its galactic disk, but that the warp in the disk precesses and wobbles, completing a full rotation for roughly every three revolutions of the Sun [shown in yellow above] around the galactic center. Most astronomers assume that regions with too many stellar cataclysms in them, like the centers of galaxies, may be completely uninhabitable. But this picture is far from certain.

It is worth reading through the list and keeping these ideas in mind, and then following the JWST stories as they unfold. I bet you will be able to make a much longer list as old consensus ideas come apart and new ideas quickly follow.