No this is not one of those end of the world horror speculations, the good Mayan astronomers aside. I am writing about the increasing new revelations and discoveries that are bursting forth from our expanded and innovative new cosmological research.
The image on the left of Chandra's view of Cassiopea A, the youngest supernova in the Milky Way, is a current example of this combination revelation and discovery. It is a discovery because we have just observed it. It is a revelation because it has been here for a long time.
Another example is a combined cosmological and chemical analysis of what we could consider a stellar life cycle. This study is courtesy of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. To view an image presentation of this concept, you may click here. The illustration's depiction of the showering of probiotic material onto a planet enters the realm of astrobiology.
Additionally, the deep space probe that captured a gamma ray burst (actually more like an explosion) over 13 billion light years distance is an example of our increasing ability to witness (albeit belatedly) a major cosmological event that directly impacted the universe. Of course in the next decade the exo-planet discoveries by the Kepler probe as well as those from the Corot Space telescope are going to intensify our investigations into what critieria certify an Earth twin. These efforts will also include efforts to determine the extent the Earth-twin has the ability to support or is actually supporting life.
The above are just minimal examples of the immense cosmological research that is underway. You may click here to see a current listing of research projects at the Harvard center. It is expected to steadily increase as more discoveries occur.
So, why do I label this as shock and awe? For the general public these revelations can be both amazing and unsettling as we are forced to reconsider our perceptions about our home, Earth, and the universe in which we reside. For the scientific community, there is ongoing shock and awe as old theories get either revised or tossed aside and new discoveries introduce views of the universe that open entirely new concepts and theories. This latter cognitive evolution is, in my opinion, accompanied by frequent awe.
All of this is good and should be considered as part of humankind's intellectual evolution. This is an essential stimulus for our ongoing progress. In other words, we are not done yet!
My Celestia (c) 2009 Waddell Robey - All individual copyrights apply.