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|On p. 167 we are told "the vast Milky Way starry system represents
the central nucleus of Orvonton..." therefore, there must be some
of Orvonton which is not in the Milky Way. We are told that they include
in this reference "...globular clusters, star clouds, spiral and other
First, then, the authors of the Book mean "Milky Way" to refer to a visual phenomenon of light in the sky. This is the original meaning of the term "galaxy." In recent years, with the growing dominance of the theory of Hubble that the spiral nebulae are extragalactic bodies, astronomers have ceased to classify the "spiral nebulae" as part of the Milky Way, and assumed they are located far outside. (Of course, many are located in other parts of the sky)
In recent years, radio astronomy has been applied to mapping "our galaxy." This has been found to be a sort-of spiral nebula looking object, about 30,000 light years in radius, centered on an enormously brilliant radio source in the constellation Saggitarius. This description is generally consistent with the expected size and center of our Minor Sector, Ensa, on whose headquarters worlds are "the vast reserves of the physical controllers..." (p.325). On page 168 we are told "the rotational center of your minor sector is ...in...Saggitarius...and from opposite sides of the vast...system you may observe two great streams of star clouds..." These streams have been observed and mapped. Conventional astronomy associates them with the "spiral arms of our galaxy."
Ensa is 1/1000th of Orvonton, therefore it is about 1/10th the radius and 1/10th the thickness of Orvonton (cubic volume varies as the cube of the change in linear measure). If Ensa is 30,000 light-years in radius, then Orvonton is about 300,000 light-years in radius. On p. 359 we are told that it is 250,000 light-years from the outermost inhabited worlds of Orvonton to Uversa, at the enter of the superuniverse.
There are, indeed, thousands of objects the size of the "Milky Way spiral nebula" in the sky. There are 1,000 in Orvonton, and an equal number in each of the other superuniverses. On p. 130 we are told that we will soon see "no less than 375 million new galaxies in the remote stretches of outer space." The most extensive survey of galaxies to date suggests there are about ten million visible out to 2,800 million light-years (see "The Clustering of Galaxies," in Scientific American, November 1977, p. 76 for more on galactic surveys and estimated distributions, but some of the inferences may not be correct).
If the Milky way nominally contains 100 billion suns, this is not inconsistent with the idea that it corresponds to Ensa, with 1 billion inhabited planets.
The terms "nebula" and "galaxy" seem destined to cause confusion. When man first started to catalog the fuzzy splotches he could see in the sky with the unaided eye and with crude telescopes, they were called "nebulae," or "clouds" in Latin. The Milky Way, on the other hand, was visually special and got the specific name "galaxy," from "milk" in Greek. (I am uncertain whether the Greeks may have called it this themselves.) These were simple observational facts, like "angina pectoris" starting out as a "pain in the chest." Like angina, the meanings attached to the words have evolved with man's growing information about the world around him.
Eventually, better telescopes disclosed that some of the "nebulae" were made of individual stars, while others could not be resolved into stars. The closest of the ones which seemed to be made of stars had a certain range of regular structure, ranging from the globular to the spiral, so it was assumed that all objects of these shapes in the sky were made up of many stars, whether the individual stars could be seen or not. Since the biggest and best known fuzzy splotch of stars already had the specific name "galaxy" attached to it, this name was taken as the generic name for all the fuzzy splotches which were either obviously made of stars, or matched one of the related globular-to-spiral shapes at least some of which were known to be made up of stars. These then became the galaxies, while the rest of the nebulae continued undifferentiated as "nebulae."
Hubble drew a very famous diagram classifying the regular galaxies into ten groups (regular = globular-to-spiral). On the basis of some clever matching of the red shift in stellar spectra to the luminosity of certain variable stars of supposedly standard brightness (the Cepheid variables) Hubble founded a school of thought in cosmology which dominates present-day astronomy. He announced that the galaxies (in general) were extragalactic (outside the Milky Way). Of course, he seems to have been generally correct. It appears, however, that not all of the "galaxies" were outside the local region of space. In particular, Hubble and his many followers systematically ignored the effects of the galactic (Milky Way) mass on the propagation of light, which was predictable from the general theory of relativity.
Recent discoveries of quasars and other unusual objects have raised serious questions about the overall applicability of Hubble's discoveries to understanding cosmological questions. These objects appear to be receding from us at velocities near that of light. This seems most improbable, and recent work is beginning to provide us the theoretical basis for understanding in part how the red shift arises from non-cosmological sources. The fact remains that most of the "spiral nebulae" identified by Hubble as extragalactic are so; however, those which lie near the Milky Way or within [it] may not all be extragalactic. The effect of the mass of the Milky Way is to impart a red shift to the observed light. This mimics the effect of a high velocity of recession of a galaxy at great distance.
There are other effects which confound our attempt to locate galaxies in outer space by use of spectroscopic observations.
As for any overlap between the superuniverses, it seems clear to me that none is intended. A zone of quiet space separates the superuniverses from the first outer space level, and I speculate that some vacant area exists between the superuniverses. On p. 167 we are told "practically all of the starry realms visible to the naked eye on Urantia belong to the seventh section of the grand universe..." Clearly there are some which do not, but not many. These exceptions probably include some galaxies in outer space. They may also include parts of the sixth and first superuniverses, but it would be hard to be sure. We would have to look for something curious about 90 degrees along the plane of the Milky Way in either direction from Saggitarius. I don't know what we might find. The other superuniverses may be too far away to see. (or they may not, of course.)
A Service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship