The WMAP estimate of the age of the Universe, 13.77 ± 0.06 Gyr (billion years), is challenged once again by two recent publications. The study of a nearby star shows that it is older than the Universe. The other study finds that starburst galaxies already existed one billion years after the Big Bang. These new results add weight to the arguments that the Universe is much older than claimed by some cosmologists.
The first study reports new measurements made on a star called HD 140283. This “Methuselah” star, located only 190 light-years away from us, is estimated to be 14.4 ± 0.8 Gyr-old. The improvement in the estimate of its age results from a more accurately known distance to the star obtained from parallax measurements using the Hubble Space Telescope. The more accurate determination allows a better measurement of its absolute luminosity. Using the luminosity, the known composition of the star from spectroscopic data and temperature measurements, models of stellar formation allow a reevaluation of its age.
This result is important because the estimated age of this star, which has been a problem for decades, is now almost compatible with the age of the universe. In 2000, the estimated age of HD 140283 was 16 Gyr! In the last decade, star evolution theories have been revised to be consistent with the 13.8 Gyr limit.
But no matter how much anti-wrinkle cream astronomers and stellar physicists have put on this star, it still looks too old. An age of 14.4 ± 0.8 Gyr gives it an 89% chance that it is older than the Universe. Although one measurement does not have statistical significance, there have been many studies on globular clusters containing hundreds of thousand of stars. Age estimates of globular clusters range from 11 Gyr to the very problematic 18 Gyr.
The second study, published in Nature on March 13th, shows starburst galaxies as early as 1Gyr after the Big Bang. These new results come from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a group of radio telescope which has the sensitivity and resolution to detect extremely faint objects at large distances. By using detection at long wavelengths, ALMA has the advantage of looking at radiation which is not absorbed by the intergalactic medium as easily as visible light.One galaxy was found to have a redshift z=5.698, which means we see it as it was 1.02 Gyr after the Big Bang (using the cosmological constants H_0=72km/s/Mpc, Omega_M=0.27, Omega_Lambda=0.73). The study also takes advantage of foreground galaxies to magnify the images of the distant galaxies.
Starburst galaxies are very active and produce stars at a very rapid rate. Large quantities of gas and dust are required to feed these monsters and it is expected that a long time must have elapsed after the Big Bang to accumulate all this material. The paper reports galaxies with star-formation rates in excess of 500 solar masses per year. Says the leader of the study J.D. Vieira: “We were very surprised to find galaxies like this so early in the history of the universe.“ Such a surprise only points out the weaknesses of the standard cosmological model and the underestimated age of the Universe.
These are only two of the most recently reported cosmological surprises. One will recall the grand-design spiral galaxy which already existed 3 billion years after the Big Bang and the metal-rich galaxies seen only 1.8 Gyr after Big Bang.
How many more “surprises” will it take before cosmologists start having serious doubts about Big Bang? It is becoming clear that the interpretation of the redshift as the expansion of the Universe and the CMBR seen as a relic of the Big Bang are failing models.
Cosmologists argue that all alternate cosmologies to the standard cosmology have been rejected, but this is no longer the case. Based on new theories of radiation cooling developed in the last two decades, a spectral redshift can be explained as a quantum effect on gases and electrons. The CMBR results from the thermodynamic equilibrium of radiation with the intergalactic medium. When radiation passes through warmer galaxy clusters, it acquires some energy which results in a ‘blue-shift’ of the spectrum. This is thought to result from the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect, but the quantum description of the ponderomotive force on electrons also reproduces the observed spectra.
“ALMA is so sensitive, it is going to change our view of the universe in many different ways…” says Vieira. This certainly is an understatement as cosmology is about to see the demise of a theory which is on its last legs!
 H.E. Bond et al., “HD 140283: A Star in the Solar Neighborhood that Formed Shortly After the Big Bang,” The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 765:L12, 2013 March 1 [http://iopscience.iop.org/2041-8205/765/1/L12]
 J.D. Vieira et al., “Dusty starburst galaxies in the early Universe as revealed by gravitational lensing“, Nature 12001, online 2013 Mar. 13 [http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12001]
 NASA, “Hubble finds birth certificate of oldest known star” [http://phys.org/news/2013-03-hubble-birth-certificate-oldest-star.html]
 M. Wall, “Strange ‘Methuselah’ Star Looks Older Than the Universe” [http://www.livescience.com/27757-oldest-known-star-universe.html]
 NASA, “WMAP – Age of the Universe” [http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/uni_age.html]
 M. Woo, “Bursts of Star Formation in the Early Universe” [http://www.caltech.edu/content/bursts-star-formation-early-universe]
 P. West, “NSF-funded Telescopes in Antarctica and Chile Discover Bursts of Star Formation in the Early Universe” [http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=40326]
 E.L. Wright, “A Cosmology Calculator for the World Wide Web,” PAPS 118, p. 1711. The web calculator is at [http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/CosmoCalc.html]
 L. Marmet, “Oldest Spiral galaxy BX442 supports Hubble’s belief: Redshift does not mean expansion” [http://cosmologyscience.com/cosblog/spiral-galaxy-bx442-supports-hubbles-belief-redshift-does-not-mean-expansion/]
 L. Marmet, “Observation of two early yet mature galaxies: Rare objects or is Big Bang model inaccurate?” [http://cosmologyscience.com/cosblog/observation-of-two-early-mature-galaxies-rare-objects-or-is-big-bang-model-inaccurate/]
 Cohen-Tannoudji, C. et al., “Atom-Photon Interactions: Basic Processes and applications,” Wiley-Interscience, 1992.
 L. Marmet, “Optical Forces as a Redshift Mechanism: the Spectral Transfer Redshift,” CCC-2 proceedings, Vol. 413, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, p.268, 2009.
 A good, although a bit dated, technical review of the SZ effect can be found at http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/9808050.
SPT – South Pole Telescope (Survey)