Hubble findings point to universe's fate

January 14, 1992|By New York Times News Service

ATLANTA -- Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope, including the surprising discovery of boron in an ancient star and the most precise measurement so far of heavy hydrogen in space, have given astronomers new insights about early cosmic history and perhaps a clue to the fate of the universe.

Astronomers using the orbiting telescope have also found that clouds of primordial hydrogen, thought to be randomly distributed in the most distant reaches of space, may be nearby as well.

These discoveries, reported here yesterday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, were made by ultraviolet instruments that have managed to produce illuminating results despite the telescope's flawed primary mirror.

The findings raised perplexing questions about the creation and evolution of the universe.

Scientists said the boron discovery may force modification in details of the widely held Big Bang theory, which postulates the origin of the universe in a single explosive moment. Results of the heavy hydrogen, or deuterium, measurement supported the idea of a brilliant beginning in the Big Bang, but seemed to predict a universe without end.

"We're looking at the ashes of the Big Bang and trying to read the whole history of the universe," said Dr. Donald D. Clayton, an astrophysicist in Clemson, S.C.

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