Punctuation in Space : Astronomy's biggest question mark? It's between all those asterisks.

The astronomers will tell you it is just an optical illusion, a pair of galaxies caught in the act of mating as seen from the wrong angle. Happens all the time.

In the 1960s and ''70s, Halton Arp, an astronomer in Southern California, asserted that galaxies millions of light years apart - but which appeared superimposed together in the sky - were interacting locally.

His claim cast doubt on the Big Bang Theory of the universe. Astronomers now agree that he was wrong.

NOW A GENUINE question mark has been discovered, in the corner of a James Webb Space Telescope observation of a pair of dust clouds known as Herbig-Haro 46/47 that are in the process of forming into two stars.

The discovery made a splash on social media. '' Ze space mall information kiosk has been found by JWST,'' a commenter jaked on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

IF YOU accept the spooky rules of quantum mechanics and the premise, as Einstein disapprovingly put it, that God plays dice with the universe, then you have to accept that chance and randomness are a fundamental bedrock of reality.

In such a universe, where the laws of physics have been grinding away for 14 billion years, coincidences are unforeseeable but inevitable.

Still, there are times when it's worth stepping back to listen to '' the music, '' as Einstein once referred to the beauty and mystery of the cosmos. You are ' free to consider that question mark as an alien graffiti, a comment on both their and our relation to existence.

Point being, we've barely begun to know anything - that's why we build telescopes. [ Dennis Overbye ]


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