An (in)famous astronomer has died

29 06 2010

I have no idea how I missed this. English-born astrophysicist Geoffrey Burbidge died earlier this year, on January 26 at the age of 84. He was instrumental in helping to develop the now commonly-accepted theory that all elements heavier than hydrogen, including those in planets and organisms come from ancient stars.

He gained a bit of notoriety and controversy for advocating the alternative cosmological model known as the Quasi-Steady State (QSS). In a steady-state universe, matter is being created, along with space, as the universe expands. QSS is an addition to the steady-state theory that states that miniature Big Bangs, called “minibangs,” are going off constantly, even after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago that sparked the creation of our universe. Because these theories directly contradict established observations and these discrepancies have not been properly addressed by QSS or SS proponents, they have yet to gain any real traction in the astronomy community.

In his later years, he gained even further notoriety for proposing that extremely red-shifted quasars were not distant, but were, in fact much closer. Due to the expansion of space, objects appear to accelerate from one another faster at greater distances. Burbidge proposed that these extremely red-shifted objects were really nearby galaxies moving away from us at the relativistic speeds and not moving at those speeds because of the expansion of space.

He came to fame in astronomy by contributing to a 1957 paper that explained how any element can be synthesized from hydrogen within the cores of stars. If a star is sufficiently massive to nova or shed its outer atmosphere, it will then spread these heavier elements throughout its galaxy. This is the commonly-accepted scientific theory to explain how heavier elements came into existence and were distributed throughout the universe.

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