Astronomical Arguments: Paper Topic Ideas
You may pick one from this list, or if there is some other
astronomically-themed scientific controversy (historical or modern) you
want to write about, let me know.
- The Size of the Galaxy (Early 1900s): Is our galaxy
relatively small, with the Sun near the center, or much, much bigger
with the Sun at the outskirts?
- The Distance to Spiral Nebulae (1920s): Are the "spiral
nebulae" small collections of gas and dust within our own galaxy? Or
are they very distant and very big, being galaxies of their own? This
argument set the stage for the famous Curtis vs Shapley "Great Debate"
- Big Bang vs Steady State (1950s): Was the universe created
all at once in a "Big Bang" billions of years ago, or is it eternal,
existing in a "Steady State"?
- The Origin of the Moon (20th century): How did the Moon
form? Was it "captured" by the Earth? Formed out of the same primordial
stuff that the Earth was? Did it split off from a rapidly spinning
Earth? Was it created in a giant impact early in the solar system?
- What powers the Sun (early 20th century)?: Gravity? Chemical
Reactions? Nuclear reactions?
- Dark Matter or Alternative Gravity (ongoing): The motion of
and clusters of galaxies indicates that there is 10x more matter in the
universe than we can see. Is it really there, or do we not understand
the laws of gravity properly?
- Dark Energy or something else (ongoing): The expansion of
the universe seems to be accelerating with time. Is this real?
- Pluto: Planet or not? (ongoing): Is Pluto a planet?
Should people care whether or not it is called a planet?
- Early Martian Climate (ongoing): Early in Mars' history, was
it a warm, wet place with oceans? Or has it always been cold and
- Where is the most promising place to look for life in the
Solar System (not including Earth!)? (ongoing): Mars? Titan? Europa?
- Is there other intelligent life in our Galaxy (ongoing)?
- Did the dinosaurs really die from a cosmic impact (ongoing)?