Harrison, Edward R. Formerly, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts.
Freedman, Wendy L. Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Pasadena, California.
Last reviewed:December 2019
- Nature of the paradox
- Big bang universe
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The classic question in astrophysics as to why the sky is dark at night. This celebrated question originated in the sixteenth century. Later, in 1823, Wilhelm Olbers presented it in the simplest terms: In an infinite universe, populated everywhere with stars, a line of sight in any direction, when extended out into space, must ultimately intercept the surface of a star. Hence stars should cover the entire sky. And if all stars are Sun-like, the sky at every point should blaze as brightly as the disk of the Sun. Olbers has been credited incorrectly with the discovery of the paradox; he did, however, express it in its most lucid form and showed that the problem still persists even when stars are irregularly distributed in clusters.
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