Olbers' paradox


Olbers' paradox
/ohl"beuhrz/, Astron.
the paradox that if the universe consisted of an infinite number of stars equally distributed through space, then every line of sight would come from a star and the night sky would glow uniformly, which is observationally not true.
[1950-55; after H.W.M. OLBERS]

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      in cosmology, paradox relating to the problem of why the sky is dark at night. If the universe is endless and uniformly populated with luminous stars, then every line of sight must eventually terminate at the surface of a star. Hence, contrary to observation, this argument implies that the night sky should everywhere be bright, with no dark spaces between the stars. This paradox was discussed in 1823 by the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers (Olbers, Wilhelm), and its discovery is widely attributed to him. The problem was considered by earlier investigators and can be traced back to Johannes Kepler (Kepler, Johannes), who, in 1610, advanced it as an argument against the notion of a limitless universe containing an infinite number of stars. Various resolutions have been proposed at different times. If the assumptions are accepted, then the simplest resolution is that the average luminous lifetime of stars is far too short for light to have yet reached the Earth from very distant stars. In the context of an expanding universe, it can be argued similarly: the universe is too young for light to have reached the Earth from very distant regions.

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Universalium. 2010.