Saturday morning astronomy news roundup

Scientists are concerned that Earth bacteria are hardy enough to survive the trip to Mars aboard spacecraft and possibly colonize the Red Planet. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory simulated the conditions that the bacteria would be exposed to, both on Mars and in space, and found that some of the spores survived for 18 months—twice the time it takes spacecraft to get to Mars. From a biblical perspective, this is not all that surprising. As ancient biblical commentators pointed out, the universe was created with the potential for life built into it—and as Hugh Ross has explained in great detail in his many books, the universe is undeniably tuned for life. It makes sense that the most basic forms of life would be hardy enough to survive the otherwise harsh conditions beyond the Earth.

Scientists at MIT have created a simulation of the universe that begins from just 12 million years after the Big Bang to now. (Twelve million years may sound like a long time, but in terms of the ~14 billion-year age of the universe, it’s not long at all.) Such simulations are carried out on supercomputers, as they would otherwise take thousands of hours to process on ordinary desktop computers. This newest simulation is an improvement on previous cosmological simulations, because, among other things, it more faithfully produces the mixed population of galaxies observed in the universe, including graceful spirals like our Milky Way, and giant ellipticals like M87, and captures the present-day proportion of hydrogen and heavier elements in galaxies. The universe, itself, is the greatest laboratory ever created, but we are limited in our ability to “experiment” with it. In order to learn about the structure of the universe and the way it has changed with time, scientists have to create simulations and see how well they match up with observations of the universe on different scales of both size and time.