Record-breaking galaxy found at the edge of the Universe

By Phil Plait | October 20, 2010 11:00 am

The record for the most distant object in the Universe ever seen has been smashed: a galaxy has been found at the staggering distance of 13.1 billion light years!

Here’s the Hubble image of this incredibly far-flung object:

hst_udf_z8.6

Yeah, I know. Doesn’t look like much, does it? But oh, what it means…

That’s a galaxy, probably smaller and more compact than our Milky Way, but a galaxy. It’s so dim that the faintest star you can see with your unaided eye is 4 billion times brighter. Its distance is simply numbing; the Universe itself is only 13.7 billion years old, so the light from this object began its journey on its way to Earth just 600 million years after the Universe itself formed.

Wow.

Finding it wasn’t easy. I mean, look at it! It’s a dot. And what makes it worse is that it was in this image:

hudf_wf3_z8.6

[Click to encosmofy.]

There are thousands upon thousands of galaxies in this image, so imagine trying to comb through them to find… a dot. I marked the location of the galaxy with an arrow so you can see it. Seriously, it’s there. Get closer to your monitor, and you’ll see it just to the left of the arrow tip. You can match up the galaxies near it with the zoomed picture at the top of this post to convince yourself (I had to do that to convince myself, too).

But it’s there, and it blows away the record; a galaxy found just two years ago was the previous record holder with a distance of 12.8 billion light years. I want to be careful here: a gamma-ray burst was seen in 2009 that may have been even farther away than this, but that was an exploding star, a transient event. And there are other galaxies seen that may be farther away too, but their distances are estimated and have not been confirmed.

So how was this one done?

The image is of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, a region of sky in the southern hemisphere. The idea was to point the telescope at a place where we know there was very little interference from gas, dust, and bright stars, so that extremely faint objects could be detected. Different cameras were used to take extremely long exposures; this one is from the Wide Field Camera 3 (installed on board just last year). It’s the deepest image ever taken of the sky in the infrared, and the total exposure was 173,000 seconds. That’s a solid 48 hours of exposure!

The hopes for these images was to find the most distant objects in the Universe, and apparently it worked. The galaxy indicated, named UDFy-38135539, is one of several objects in the image that were flagged for further study. The images taken in different filters indicated it might be very far away (and not, say a much closer but extremely faint star). The Very Large Telescope was used to take spectra of the object; a spectrum is where the light from the object is broken up into colors (like a rainbow). This can provide useful information like an object’s composition, temperature, and for galaxies, distance. The expansion of the Universe itself shifts the spectrum of distant objects, similar to the way the sound of a car engine changes pitch as it drives past. In this case, the shift in the spectrum from UDFy-38135539 indicates the mind-numbing distance of 13.1 billion light years (for the afficiandos out there, the redshift is a whopping z=8.6).

The implications of this are staggering, too. First, it’s thought the first stars formed about 400 million years after the Big Bang itself, so this galaxy must have been coalescing around the same time.

Second, when the Universe was that young, it was filled with opaque hydrogen gas. Right around the time we’re seeing this galaxy, some sort of collection of massive energy sources switched on, sending out vast amounts of ultraviolet radiation which ionized the gas. We think the sources of this energy were giant black holes that formed in the centers of galaxies, which blast out radiation as they gulp down matter. Interestingly, this galaxy doesn’t appear bright enough to have done this on its own… perhaps it’s surrounded by a large number of smaller, fainter galaxies that lent a hand. We wouldn’t be able to see them, but collectively their power was enough to help out.

We know very little about this era of the Universe, because it’s ridiculously hard to see anything that far away. But this image strongly implies there are lots of objects out there for us to study. The field of view of this image is tiny; it’s like the area of the sky blocked by a grain of sand held at arm’s length. If we find one object in that area on a random plot of sky, chances are there thousands of such objects scattered across the heavens, waiting to be detected. Hubble would have a tough time finding them, but the James Webb Space Telescope, being constructed right now, is designed to find them! It’s much larger than Hubble, and more sensitive to the infrared where these galaxies are brightest. It’s expected to find a lot of these objects.

And when it does, our understanding of the infant Universe will explode. Even more fun will be all the weird things we’ll see that at first we won’t understand. How can a galaxy like this have formed so rapidly after the Big Bang? Did the stars form first, or later, or did it all happen at the same time? Does that change with different galaxies, different environments? What other types of objects are out there, 13 billion light years away, that we haven’t seen yet?

It may not seem like it at first glance, but these questions tap into the very heart of philosophy. When we explore the edge of the Universe, we’re trying to solve the biggest question of all: how did the Universe come to be?

Incredibly, after thousands of years of wondering, we’re actually now starting to learn the answer. And the farther we push with our telescopes, the closer we’ll get to it.


Related posts:

- The Universe is 13.73 +/-.12 billion years old
- New burst vaporizes cosmic distance record
- Galaxy cluster at the edge of the Universe
- Hubble and Spitzer find most distant galaxy
- Star found older than Abe Vigoda
- New WMAP results: quantum fluctuations, galaxies, and the first stars
- A thousand trillion suns


Comments (133)

  1. Thanks for making me feel wee tiny and insignificant…again. Stupid gargantuan universe.

  2. James Morasco

    Fraking amazing.

  3. John

    I got a question. Since at the time this galaxy formed, was the visible universe only 600,000 LYs across, more or less?

    If so, why does this galaxy appear as a dot? When we look deeper into space, we’re looking farther back in time, into a _smaller_ universe. Shouldn’t that galaxy appear like a large smudge?

  4. Rob

    Hubble Ultra Deep Field HST WFC3 IR is in an unfortunate position in the enlarged image. Cool story, though.

  5. Lucas Costa

    So, if we had an appropriate telescope (or magical powers), would we be able to take a picture of the big bang itself?

  6. Cheyenne
  7. Bjoern

    Actually, the distance of that galaxy is not 13.1 billion light years, but about 31 billion light years (if my calculation using the given redshift was right). The light travelled 13.1 billion years – but that does not give directly the distance!
    http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/Dltt_is_Dumb.html

    @John:

    Since at the time this galaxy formed, was the visible universe only 600,000 LYs across, more or less?”

    I don’t know where you got that number from. Did you perhaps mean 600 million years? (Even if yes, that still would be wrong.)

    When we look deeper into space, we’re looking farther back in time, into a _smaller_ universe. Shouldn’t that galaxy appear like a large smudge?

    Huh? How dies the last sentence follow from the previous ones?

  8. Matt

    Phil, I have what I hope is a good astronomy question that maybe you’d consider writing about if you find it interesting.

    My understanding is that due to hyperinflation, our position in in the universe is such that light from other areas of the universe has not reached us yet. We can see a 13ish billion lightyear sphere around us, but beyond that boundary there is yet more universe whose light simply hasn’t reached us yet. Stop me if I’m wrong here.

    So since the visible universe as we see it is expanding every day is it possible that one day we could retake one of these snapshots of the deep universe and suddenly notice that something new has appeared in it? Something fainter and farther away that wasn’t visible before because the light hadn’t reached us yet?

    I would imagine something like that would have to be a gamma ray burst or a massively bright star, since obviously a whole galaxy can’t just pop into view overnight…or maybe it can if we suddenly its brightness passes a threshold where our instruments can now detect it.

    Is this something that could happen? If so what would be the implications for science? Or maybe I’m completely wrong which would be good to know too.

  9. Glaisne

    Any observers in that galaxy looking back in our direction would see how our part the universe looked 13 billion years ago. Is that right? If those observers in that galaxy were looking along the same direction further out, what would they see? More universe full of galaxies and stars? Based on Ethan Siegel’s post at his blog (http://tinyurl.com/24kuh88) that would seem so. What do you think?

  10. Gus Snarp

    Wow. It’s like having a time machine. We can actually watch some of the earliest moments of the universe unfold…

  11. Messier Tidy Upper

    Whooahh! :-O

    Mind blowing stuff this. The numbers and distances and everything about this are really too extreme to be fathomed.

    My congratulations to the scientists who discovered this new Long Distance Champion of the Universe. :-)

    Wonder how long it will keep that title for? ;-)

  12. Chris

    Actually the image above reminded me of a talk given by Leon Lederman (Physics Nobel Prize winner). He said “this object would have been very difficult to find if not for the giant arrow pointing at it!”

    As a side note. Look at today’s xkcd cartoon. Phil will get a kick out of it.

  13. This whole thing with the Universe’s age seems stupid to me. How can it be, that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old if we can see galaxy 13.1 billion light years away? Doesn’t that mean that the universe expanded to 13.1 billion light year radius in just 600 million years, which by itself would mean, that the whole thing about light speed being the highest speed possible worthless?

    If light speed if the fastest speed possible, that would mean that even if the galaxies are moving at light speed away from the Big Bang spot, the Universe would be at least 26.8 billion years old (13.7 + 13.1)?

  14. Gus Snarp

    @Pumper – I’m sure there are better explanations than this, but one is that the expanding universe didn’t actually move through spacetime, spacetime itself was expanding.

  15. Marcus

    @Pumper

    Matter/Energy cannot travel faster then the speed of light. Since space is neither is can expand faster the the speed of light. In fact, during the early stages of the universe it is thought to have expanded far faster then the speed of light.

    We really don’t know just how BIG the universe is, only how big the visible universe is. It may be (although unlikly) that the universe is smaller then the visible universe or that it is far, far, far, far, far, far bigger then the visible universe.

  16. John

    Thanks @Bjoern, I did get my numbers wrong. I was typing while formulating my question. Let’s try that again:

    The Visible Universe 13.1 billion years ago was how big? 1.2 billion light years across. Today, the Visible Universe is now 26.2 billion light years across. That’s a difference of 21.8 to 1. So, the image should have an apparent size _21_ times larger than what we would expect.

    If that galaxy is say, for the sake of argument, 10,000 lys across, the size ration between it and the universe back then would be 120,000 to one. Today, that ratio would be 2.62 billion to one. Therefore, that galaxy should have a larger apparent size in the sky than what it has today.

  17. Jumblepudding

    Opening a monster can of worms, how can the actual universe be smaller than the visible universe? Does that mean that visible objects outside the actual size, and the space they occupy do not actually exist anymore?

  18. Bjoern

    @John: Sorry, but your numbers are still wrong. The radius of the visible universe is not its age times light speed.

    But even if your numbers were right, I still don’t see how your arrive at your conclusion that “the image should have an apparent size 21 times larger than what we would expect”. The argument about the size ratios makes little sense to me – we don’t see how big the galaxy was in relation to the size of the visible universe was back then; we simply see it as big as it is/was!

  19. James

    I get confused whenever astronomers talk about distance for deep-field objects.

    What are we talking about? Physical distance? Comoving distance? Luminosity distance? Light emitted 13 billions years ago does not travel 13 billion ly unless we’re talking conformal time.

  20. Marcus

    I think most just use how far away the object was when the light we are seeing started its journey.

  21. Bjoern

    @James (and @Marcus): Most astronomers, at least in press releases, talk about the “light travel time”, i. e. they simply multiply the time the light travel with the light speed. As you yourself point out (and as is also explained in the article I cited above), this makes little sense. But unfortunately, even Phil has fallen for this practice…

    @Marcus: For the galaxy we are talking about here, that distance would have been about 3.2 billion light years, also not the 13.1 billion light years (light travel time distance) which Phil gave here.

  22. The most commonly quoted distance is probably the one corresponding to light-travel time, which gives how far the light travelled along its path piece by piece in an expanding spacetime. Other measures coupled to observations – luminosity distance, angular-diameter distance – are related to that one by factors depending on redshift. Distance to an object when the light was emitted, or “now” (using the convenient proper time for comoving observers) are not particularly coupled in such direct was to observables, so I see them as having little use for anything except press releases.

  23. John

    @Bjoern: OK, I see what you’re saying. It’s not that galaxy a next door neighbor to us 13.1 billion years ago, it’s visible because it’s now in our light cone?

    But that implies it’s moved into our light cone, which is impossible based on what I understand about the big bang or whatever the current name is for the event. If it was outside our light cone 13.1 billion years ago, it should stay outside our light cone forever.

    If there was a singularity, then everything that we see and can’t see in the sky were all neighbors at one time. As the visible universe got bigger, the light from this galaxy was heading our way and it finally caught up with us, and it may be the farthest thing that we’ll ever see from the early universe.

  24. Bjoern

    @NGC3314:

    Distance to an object when the light was emitted, or “now” (using the convenient proper time for comoving observers) are not particularly coupled in such direct was to observables,…

    Err, the distance “now” is the one which has to be used in Hubble’s law. I would say that is a coupling to observables!

  25. mike burkhart

    Dose the universe have an edge ? I read it was constily expanding. And if it has an edge what lies beoynd?

  26. Pumper (#13):

    How can it be, that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old if we can see galaxy 13.1 billion light years away?

    As I understand it, I think it would be “more correct” to say that the light from that galaxy took 13.7 billion years to reach us, regardless of how far apart we were at the time the light started, and how far apart we are now.

    I’ve heard it explained with the analogy of an ant walking on an elastic band which is stretching.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant_on_a_rubber_rope
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_expansion_of_space

  27. J

    What I’d like to know is if the orbital period of Hubble is about 97 minutes, then how does it stay focused on one tiny spot for 48 hours? Is the spot perpendicular to the orbital plane?

  28. AJ in CA

    @28: That’s a good question. If the space shuttle astronauts can reach the Hubble, it must be in a very low orbit, so earth is still going to take up almost half of your field of view. I have tons of questions today :P

  29. AJ in CA

    Can someone tell me if I’ve got this right? I’m terrible with math and theoretical stuff.

    So due to cosmic inflation, extremely distant objects are actually be receding from us at greater than the speed of light (from our point of view), but because the light from those objects started out a long time ago, before the distance was so great, it still reaches us, right?
    However, if we were to try to travel to that object now, at the speed of light, we would never reach it. It’s not that these objects don’t exist, it’s just that at some point between now and when their light began its journey, we missed our chance to ever reach them, and the light they’re emitting “now” will never reach us. Is that the whole “outside our light-cone” thing?

    I don’t really grok how this can be possible, but I think that this means that as time goes by, distant objects become “disconnected” from us, and this sphere of disconnection actually gets smaller as the point at which our apparent velocity relative to distant objects exceeds light speed gets ever closer. This sphere is just an effect of our frame of reference – stuff exists outside it, but is irretrievably separate from us, like something that’s passed the event horizon of a black hole. Is that about right?

  30. Daniel J. Andrews

    I have what is perhaps a dumb question, or at least, an uninformed one. If the universe itself is expanding faster than light, does that mean in the future that light from distant galaxies will stop reaching the earth–i.e. would they appear to slowly dim out of existence from earth’s perspective?

    And taking that to its extreme, does that mean in the very far future that space-time would have expanded so much that no light would be able to reach ‘us’ (assuming there isn’t a big crunch), and this would be a very dark universe?

    Edit: I see AJ in CA sort of beat me to it.

  31. Let me ask a “simple” question. :-)

    Given an expanding universe and a photon of light from a galaxy that has taken 13.1 billion years to reach us, and a static universe and a photon of light from a galaxy 13.1 billion light years away, can you tell the difference?

  32. AJ in CA

    Ooh, I have another question I’ve always wondered about. If we don’t know the precise color of the light reaching us from a distant object, how the heck can we tell how much it’s redshifted? Does it have something to do with finding a spectrum of a specific known element, like hydrogen, and seeing how far the emission spikes have moved down the frequency graph? And if so, how do you pick out one element from the many that are in a star (or a whole darn galaxy)?

  33. AJ in CA

    @Ken B: I think the red-shift is how they do it. Something moving away from you appears to have its radiation frequencies lowered (its light is shifted toward the red end of the spectrum) – in a static universe, distant stuff wouldn’t appear to be blasting away from us at ever increasing speeds.

  34. Bjoern

    @AJ:

    So due to cosmic inflation, extremely distant objects are actually be receding from us at greater than the speed of light (from our point of view), but because the light from those objects started out a long time ago, before the distance was so great, it still reaches us, right?

    If you replace “inflation” with “expansion”, this is correct.

    However, if we were to try to travel to that object now, at the speed of light, we would never reach it. It’s not that these objects don’t exist, it’s just that at some point between now and when their light began its journey, we missed our chance to ever reach them, and the light they’re emitting “now” will never reach us. Is that the whole “outside our light-cone” thing? I don’t really grok how this can be possible, but I think that this means that as time goes by, distant objects become “disconnected” from us, …

    Also correct.

    …and this sphere of disconnection actually gets smaller as the point at which our apparent velocity relative to distant objects exceeds light speed gets ever closer.

    Here I can’t follow you. Why should that point get ever closer?

    This sphere is just an effect of our frame of reference – stuff exists outside it, but is irretrievably separate from us, like something that’s passed the event horizon of a black hole. Is that about right?

    That’s essentially right again. One even uses the term “cosmological horizon”!

    Ooh, I have another question I’ve always wondered about. If we don’t know the precise color of the light reaching us from a distant object, how the heck can we tell how much it’s redshifted? Does it have something to do with finding a spectrum of a specific known element, like hydrogen, and seeing how far the emission spikes have moved down the frequency graph?

    As far as I know, essentially yes.

    And if so, how do you pick out one element from the many that are in a star (or a whole darn galaxy)?

    That, I don’t know. I think measuring and interpreting spectra correctly is one of the hardest things to do in astronomy…

  35. Bjoern

    @John (sorry, I almost missed you comment): I wasn’t talking anywhere about the lightcone. I simply wondered what the size of the visible universe back then (respectively the ratio of the size of the galaxy to that size) should have to do with how we see the galaxy today. Could you please explain your reasoning there?

  36. Gus Snarp

    @AJ and Ken B – I may be wrong on this, but as I understand it the universe may not be expading faster than the speed of light. Most of what I’ve read on inflationary cosmology suggests a very brief, incredibly fast initial expansion, which almost immediately slowed considerably.

  37. AJ in CA

    @Daniel: This stuff is so mind-boggling, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a “dumb” question. Unless all questions are dumb. Or dumbfounded :D

    That’s a very good question. You’d think that as time goes on, light from ever more distant stars would reach us, but because of accelerating cosmic expansion, it sounds like, yeah, at some point there’d appear to be nothing outside our own galactic cluster… or galaxy… or spiral arm… or solar system…or…
    Why am I suddenly reminded of “The Langoliers”? O_o

  38. AJ in CA

    @37: Yeah, I read somewhere that there’s some kind of caveat to this stuff, that relativistic effects make objects appear to be moving even faster then they are, or something.
    There’s always a new wrinkle :P
    *head hurts*

    You know, as a Trekkie, I used to think it was a bit hokey how often on Star Trek (any of the series) they seemed to forego the “encountering new life and new civilizations” plot lines, and instead deal with some weird time/space anomaly, or something. At the time, it seemed like the space exploration angle was just an excuse to come up with some head-spinning woo about how mind-bending reality could actually be.
    Funny thing is, the more I read about cosmology, the tamer those “OMG, spacetime is weird!” episodes seem :P

  39. AJ in CA

    @#35 Bjorn: Thanks for clearing that up for me! :)
    The one bit I’m apparently confused about is that it sounds like, as the expansion progresses, that cosmological horizon should shrink, as stuff that’s closer and closer to us recedes faster and faster?

    Does the cosmological horizon grow over time, or shrink?

  40. Yousuf

    Shouldn’t the European Herschel space telescope be able to resolve this even better than the Hubble too? The Herschel is an infrared telescope like Spitzer, but even bigger than Spitzer or Hubble. It won’t be surpassed until James Webb goes up.

  41. Bjoern

    @AJ: If I remember the calculations correctly, the horizon stays roughly constant… but I really have troubles with explaining that in simple terms. :-(

  42. John

    @Bjoern: You know, trying to formulate my ideas, I find that my arguments were based on faulty lines of reasoning. I’ll have to do some more thinking on this to make sure that I didn’t follow a fallacy.

    Thanks for making me think!

  43. chris.j.

    the answers to many of these questions, to the extent there are answers, depend significantly on the topology of the universe and whether there is a cosmological constant.

    there is some deep cosmology at work here. Phil, i can’t tell from what i’ve read, what degree of expertise you have in this area, but i think a follow-up post on the mechanics of space-time expansion and its effects on the observable universe would be very well-received.

  44. N K

    Just a question on the Deep Field Photo: Does this photo just has 2 Stars from our Galaxy and rest of the structures/Sumdges/lines/blurs are other galaxies?

  45. John & Bjoern , I dunno how true this is but I have always understood expansion of spacetime to be inter galactic not intra galactic.

    As Woody Allen’s mum puts it “What do you mean the universe is expanding!!?”
    “Brooklyn isn’t expanding! You’re not expanding! Do your homework!”

    Mekon

  46. Oli

    And this image is another example of why I think the ISS project should never have been started. I’d much rather use the ISS money to launch a better space telescope to take a better look at the earky universe, than using it to launch people into LEO.

  47. Curt

    Curious. So the light from what must be (or am I wrong) a fully formed galaxy took 13.1 billion years to reach Earth. The light is then an “image” of that galaxy as it appeared 13.1 billion years ago. The question is, how long did that galaxy take to develop to be the galaxy as it appears in that image? Surely it must have taken billions of years, which would push the age of the universe back at least those billions of years. Am I wrong? Is there something wrong with the estimated age of the universe? Or is there something inherently wrong with the whole big bang theory and we will ultimately find that no matter how far we peer into our universe, there will be no end?

  48. Jon Hanford

    RE: spectral lines used to determine redshift,

    Briefly, astronomers can use elemental lines in spectra to determine the distance to an object. In this case, the Lyman alpha line of hydrogen was used to pin the distance. This line has a rest wavelength of 1216 Angstroms, in the Far-UV part of the spectrum. Using the VLT, astronomers measured this line at 11, 616 Angstroms, in the near-IR! This shift in wavelength can be used to determine the distance to the object. But this record is sure to fall eventually; galaxies with photometric redshifts of 9-10 have been identified in the Hubble UDF. This shifting of prominent hydrogen lines into the IR is a big reason why future large scopes (JWST, 30+m giant ground scopes) are optimized for NIR-MIR wavelengths.

  49. KC

    “What I’d like to know is if the orbital period of Hubble is about 97 minutes, then how does it stay focused on one tiny spot for 48 hours? Is the spot perpendicular to the orbital plane?”

    It doesn’t. The image is built up over many orbits and added together. The ultra deep field is actually made up of 800 images taken over 4 months.

  50. Armrha

    Re: Lucas Costa
    “So, if we had an appropriate telescope (or magical powers), would we be able to take a picture of the big bang itself?”

    In the first few days of the universe, all matter in the universe existed in an excited state with fantastic amounts of energy. The basic particles that make up matter started to coalesce during these days, with simple stuff like electrons and nuclei being some of the first denizens of the very new universe. Stable nuclei would take a lot longer to form, and during this era of unbound matter, all light was being continually scattered by certain properties (not to mention the relative density) of the unbound particles in the early universe, in a process known as Thompson scattering.

    This means the very early universe was totally opaque — no light got anywhere. The universe would continue to expand and cool for quite some time, and when it cooled enough all these unbound particles started coupling off. Once coupled, they scatter light much less frequently, so light was able to start penetrating further and further. Once the remaining unbound matter was more or less all gone, we have the epoch of the last scattering, where light start to go towards, well, everywhere in the universe.

    This final scattering, the first light to escape throughout the universe is what is observed today as the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR), and many properties of it were predicted based on the big bang theory and later confirmed. So far, the Big Bang is the only model that explains everything about the CMBR. This final scattering took place about 379,000 years after the Big Bang, and since this is the first light that really shone through our universe, we can’t see any further back. No electromagnetic radiation can pierce the veil of the opaque matter that the universe was before this. The big bang itself is unobservable by any known or theoretical means, but we can sure see the remnants (and the evidence of the big bang within them.)

    So, that galaxy managed to get itself formed right quick. It was kicking around just 230,000 years after the final scattering. Very impressive.

  51. John EB Good

    @J(28) and AJ in CA (29)

    I don’t remember Phil wrote that the 173,000 seconds of exposure was achieved in a single continuous exposure. Let’s check back (………), hmmmm, nope, he never wrote that! ;)

    So, in a 5820 seconds orbit, (assuming a 97 minutes orbital period) you could expect the “shutter” opened for 2910 seconds and closed for the 2910 others to make sure Earth is always “somewhat behind” the telescope for half an orbit. (maybe less, I’ll leave that subject to debate between you, atmospheric science buffs and you, astronomers too familiar with light pollution that can appreciate how much Earth’s dayside can cause more or less on some portions of the other half-orbit.) Hence, you can achieve the 173,000 seconds in 59.45 or more roughly 60 orbits.

  52. John EB Good

    And I should point this is assuming, of course, a worst case scenario of the Earth getting “dead ahead” of the telescope and right in front of the target during exposure. More precicely, if the target is aligned with the telescope’s orbital plane.

  53. DaveH

    This rivals Fomalhaut b as most amazing picture of a dot.

    @John 43,

    An analogy: Imagine a photo of an A4-size area, containing a tennis ball on a black background. It wouldn’t matter if the whole background were actually A3 or the size of Manhattan. The photo would always be of an A4 subsection of the background, and the tennis ball would always look as big as a tennis ball does relative to an A4 sheet of paper.

    The HUDF is only a picture of a tiny fraction of the sky not the whole universe, so the size of the universe is completely irrelevant.

  54. John EB Good

    @51.Armrha: If you can call 300,000,000 years “a few days”, then you’re right. :D

    That sucker is quite close to the farthest we’ll ever see.

    To those who wonder, yes, if you observe it for a long enough time, it will also disappear from our observable universe in a few “Armrha” days, at best, in a couple of weeks on that same calendar, as it should now move away from us faster than its own light.

    Now, talk about those nice paradoxes mathematicians and physicians are so fond of: As time passes, the horizon of our observable universe moves away further, yet, we should see less and less “stuff” in that Universe!

    In some billions of billions of years (to paraphrase The Amazing Carl) any future civilisation will have absolutely no clue to help them figure out the begining of the Universe. When you go to sleep tonight, think about how lucky we are!

  55. t-storm

    13.7 – 13.1 = .6

    Does that .6 relate to the 6,000 yrs that the earth has been around?

  56. Armrha

    Re: John EB
    I said,

    “In the first few days of the universe, all matter in the universe existed in an excited state with fantastic amounts of energy.”

    What is wrong with that?

    Then I say recombination took place 379,000 years later. Not 300 million years. As far as I know, it was 379,000 years. If you are going to mock my words with the “Armrha years” comment, please read my post before you do it. I don’t get why this kind of thing always happens in the comments section here.

  57. Joel

    In answer to one of the questions posed here, here’s what I understand. Basically, there is a horizon beyond which we cannot see, as space beyond that point is expanding away from us so fast that light from there will never reach us. As the universe expands, more and more distant objects will pass beyond that, so yes, we will be able to see less and less. It won’t come down to us losing sight of everything outside the Mily Way, then the spiral arm, then the solar system, etc, because individual galaxies have a strong enough gravitational force to withstand the effects of the expansion, and I believe the local group itself does too. Of course, all that is assuming that the rate of expansion isn’t accelerating, as recent studies have suggested…then the galaxy will eventually be torn apart by the expansion, then the solar system, then all matter…

    Scary stuff.

    With regards to the horizon, there’s also a theory that the Inflation in the very early universe happened in an irregular pattern, and there might be whole areas of universe – other universes, in effect – that have been separated by a horizon since, literally, the dawn of time.

    Or I may have got the whole thing completely wrong, but I think that’s right.

  58. Daniel J. Andrews

    Phil, i can’t tell from what i’ve read, what degree of expertise you have in this area, but i think a follow-up post on the mechanics of space-time expansion and its effects on the observable universe would be very well-received.

    I second that suggestion.

    Dr. Ethan Siegel, over at Starts with a Bang, also has some information on this galaxy.
    scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/10/the_best_toys_in_the_universe.php

    And this one below in which he talks about expansion and red-shift (and why “tired light” idea doesn’t work).
    scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/10/big_bang_alternatives_could_my.php

    Third Edit: Just came across this, courtesy of the link above. FAQs on in Cosmology. Good tutorial material.

    http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmology_faq.html

  59. PJE

    @56 t-storm

    HA!!! Made me laugh. Thanks

    Pete

  60. Mike Saunders

    Help me get this.
    It is said that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.
    The red shift of galaxies further away is greater meaning they are moving faster.
    But they are also further away in time.
    So, we see a red shift from a galaxy 5 billion light years away.
    This is how fast it is moving away from us 5 billion years ago.
    Why can’t it be slowing down? As we move to a galaxy 4 billion years away, the red shift is less. So there is less velocity as time passes. But it is well known that the expansion is accelerating! What am I missing that will let me get out of this paradox?

  61. does that mean it doesn’t existing anymore???

  62. mike burkhart

    As a Star Trek fan since age 6 I can say that the point was that we don’t know everything that maybe in the universe thats what the USS Enterprise and other starships were doing ,finding out and they found some strange things out there (there weird stuff in Star Wars to but that was more about a fight for freedom than finding out about unknown like Star Trek was)

  63. Yellowstone Camper

    So does it shoot double rainbows or what?

  64. So we could, “maybe” go faster than the speed of light, by folding space, or time.
    Maybe there is “hyperspace” where we are beyond the expansion of “space time” and we can pick points in the bubble to phase into…

    I think we could use gravity as a source of energy (we sort of do, but its not very efficient … say going down hill in a car, or using gravity assist for a space craft … ). Hell, I’d even settle for some “clean burning” thorium fission reactors. We already have a fusion reactor, so IDK why we try to re-invent the wheel. We’ve been orbiting this for at least 6K years, maybe more!

    big bag = explosion of space/time … expansion of space/time ====> ∞

  65. Ben

    Armrha Says:
    > This final scattering took place about 379,000 years after the Big Bang, and since this is the first light that really shone through our universe, we can’t see any further back. No electromagnetic radiation can pierce the veil of the opaque matter that the universe was before this.

    There may be a way of viewing events back before space became transparent (379,000 years after the Big Bang), and that is by the examination of neutrinos. They could travel uninterrupted through space much earlier. They are much harder to observe (obviously), but if we can get a good picture of the “cosmic neutrino background radiation”, it would be another view into the early universe.

  66. Kristo

    There was a question in this thread about why the galaxy appears as small as it does and not bigger, because of the expansion of the universe. I would really appreciate if someone explained in a bit more detail, why that isn’t so.

    Let’s say that there is a laser that fires photons into space. All photons from a laser are perfectly aligned and start out as a tight bunch. Now, as they travel, space expands. This would mean that the amount of room between the photons increases and to an observer it would seem that the beam’s diameter keeps getting larger over time.

    Now, from other comments here, it seems that it actually isn’t so, but can someone please explain, where the flaw is in that logic?

  67. Yeebok

    @61 Mike Saunders
    My take on the expansion and it’s effect on the observable universe is as others have stated. The universe is expanding faster than the speed of light in some places, and the further things are from us the faster they’re going. So there’s 2 layers really, there’s an area we can see, which will gradually expand (at the speed of light obviously) and the area there is to see, which is expanding at potentially faster than that.
    However, something 10 billion ‘years away’ is moving twice as fast as something that is 5 billion ‘years away’ and the relative speeds of both appear to be increasing. To simplify the maths say we can ‘see’ 10 billion years away. An object right on the edge of that distance 10 billion years ago, may well have been travelling from us at a crazy speed – and in a billion years, it may be 11.1 billion years away, but we’ll only be able to see 11 billion – so at some stage, it will disappear from view. Think of following a car doing 105 when you’re doing 100. Providing speed is static, eventually they’ll be too far away for you to see them.
    If you consider the big bang to be fact, which so far it seems to be then everything makes sense – put a Vespa and a Viper on a trip and the Vespa will always be closer to the point of origin providing neither can just go flat out. In that context, further away = moving faster makes perfect sense.
    Studies suggest that the speed of the universe’s expansion is increasing. I’ve read speculation that a ‘big rip’ will gradually separate all matter in the universe (if that is true) or that eventually the expansion may slow down – it depends if gravity has enough matter to eventually reverse the outward energy from the big bang. The opposite, too much matter = big crunch (everything coming together into a singularity). I think it came from A Brief History of Time. To be honest that’s the last book I read that I completely absorbed on the topic. Of course, we won’t know if a distant object’s speed does change until we’ve been able to observe it for a considerable period of time (probably decades) to even notice.
    As for the light cones thing, Professor Hawking’s most famous book describes them very well but essentially it is just using the size of the observable area (the currently 13.1billion year across sphere we live in the centre of) over time as the width of the cone, with time as the horizontal axis of the diagram (ie a wider cone covers a longer period of time).
    @64, yellowstone camper : I reckon there’d have to be some double rainbows. The universe isn’t queerer than we imagine, it’s queerer than we can imagine. So that may be one of the more normal things we find. :)

    I hope all that makes sense!

  68. Gunilla

    How old is this post? Because on hubblesite the article is from 2004? :)

  69. Joe

    Several readers, even Phil himself, marvel at the notion that we have apparently observed a fully-formed galaxy existing only 600,000 million years after the ‘bang’. It’s marvelous because it’s absurd. Obviously, it’s time to let go the big bang dogma. We’re barking up the wrong tree. It’s bad cosmology.

  70. Themos Tsikas

    I’d recommend this paper to anyone who is confused about cosmic distances, speeds and times.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0310808

  71. So this thing may actually be older than Betty White?!?!

  72. Nigel Depledge

    Ken B (32) said:

    Let me ask a “simple” question.

    Given an expanding universe and a photon of light from a galaxy that has taken 13.1 billion years to reach us, and a static universe and a photon of light from a galaxy 13.1 billion light years away, can you tell the difference?

    Sure you can – use the redshift of the atomic absorbance lines in the spectrum.

    In fact, because distance correlates with expansion velocity, we use recession velocity to measure distance (calibrated from supernova observations).

  73. Nigel Depledge

    AJ in CA (33) said:

    Ooh, I have another question I’ve always wondered about. If we don’t know the precise color of the light reaching us from a distant object, how the heck can we tell how much it’s redshifted? Does it have something to do with finding a spectrum of a specific known element, like hydrogen, and seeing how far the emission spikes have moved down the frequency graph? And if so, how do you pick out one element from the many that are in a star (or a whole darn galaxy)?

    Redshift is measured from patterns of absorbance lines, arising from several elements. The light used is an aggregate of the light emitted by all objects in the galaxy. The lines will be slightly smeared out if the galaxy rotates about an axis perpendicular to the line of sight, because them some of the stars will be moving towards us and some away from us due to teh rotation of the galaxy itself. Since hydrogen is ubiquitous, the spectra of all objects in the galaxy will contain absorbance lines for hydrogen, so the aggregate light will contain spectral lines for hydrogen.

    Because the galaxy can’t be more than a few hundred million years old, it may even contain some stars that don’t contain anything heavier than lithium (assuming they are small enough and old enough that they haven’t yet begun the CNO fusion reactions).

    The redshift of the peak of the spectrum is problematic, because you have to know the colour wavelength at which that peak started to get an accurate redshift from it.

  74. what is truth

    @ Phil : Interesting question here Phil! “When we explore the edge of the Universe, we’re trying to solve the biggest question of all: how did the Universe come to be?”

    The answer is simple, Gen 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

    It takes more faith to believe the big bang and all its dependencies than a simple faith in what God says is true.

    if there is not a God, and I believe, I have lost nothing.
    if there is a God, and you dont believe, you have lost all.

    I pray that your eyes be opened to the truth.

  75. Greg

    …so if this new galaxy is 13.1 billion light years away, and we are seeing the light from it, here. Then either that galaxy is only visible in our direction or else there is at least the same amount of of space on the other side of it. 13.1 billion light years… making the galaxy 26.2 billion light years away from us, only in that direction…

    maybe i missed something…

  76. Regulottus

    @48 Curt
    This question used to confuse me also. When the light was emitted by this galaxy it was much closer than 13.1 billion light years away, but since space/time is expanding, we see the galaxy at 13.1 billion light years away.
    Think of it this way. There is a city 100 miles away. A car leaves that city traveling straight towards you at 100 miles per hour. As the car is traveling, the road is expanding, so the car gets to you in “2″ hours. So, does that mean the city is 200 miles away? No, it just looks that way because of the expanding road.
    So, since the galaxy was much closer to us than 13.1 billion light years away, it would have had ample time to form and become what we are seeing.
    Hope that made sense.

  77. truth

    @ Phil : “how did the Universe come to be?”

    Gen 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

  78. Messier Tidy Upper

    @54. DaveH Says:

    This rivals Fomalhaut b as most amazing picture of a dot.

    As far as remarkable dots go I agree although I’d have to add the quasars to that list. :-)

    They are (or were?) seen as just dots (Quasi-Stellar Radio Sources) yet are the cores of superluminous Active Galactic Nuclei.

    @ 7. Bjoern Says:

    @John: “When we look deeper into space, we’re looking farther back in time, into a _smaller_ universe. Shouldn’t that galaxy appear like a large smudge?”
    Huh? How does the last sentence follow from the previous ones?

    I’m guessing that what John meant is that if the universe was smaller then the galaxy would seem larger in comparison & appear to take up more of it just as a domestic cat becomes an apparent giant when placed in a dollhouse. :-)

    Right?

  79. Messier Tidy Upper

    @8. Matt Says:

    Phil, I have what I hope is a good astronomy question that maybe you’d consider writing about if you find it interesting.

    My understanding is that due to hyperinflation, our position in in the universe is such that light from other areas of the universe has not reached us yet. We can see a 13ish billion lightyear sphere around us, but beyond that boundary there is yet more universe whose light simply hasn’t reached us yet. Stop me if I’m wrong here. So since the visible universe as we see it is expanding every day is it possible that one day we could retake one of these snapshots of the deep universe and suddenly notice that something new has appeared in it?

    I suggest you try posting your question there here :

    http://www.bautforum.com/

    on the Bad Astronomy Universe Today forum as well assuming you’re not one step ahead of me and haven’t already done so. ;-)

    Nice question and point actually – I’m enjoying this thread & its comments. :-)

  80. Nigel Depledge

    Curt (48) said:

    The question is, how long did that galaxy take to develop to be the galaxy as it appears in that image? Surely it must have taken billions of years, which would push the age of the universe back at least those billions of years. Am I wrong?

    To the best of my understanding, galaxies formed fairly rapidly once conditions were right for stars to ignite. It may be that there were fully-formed galaxies when the universe was only 100 million years old. Heh! “Only” 100 million years!

  81. Lots of talk about the universe currently expanding faster than the speed of light. Not true. Expanding, yes, and in every direction as evidenced by red shift. But that doesn’t equate with expansion at, or greater than the speed of light.

    Here’s an idea regarding what might have led to the ‘big bang.’ Relatively recently in human history, astronomers realized certain sized stars go ‘supernova.’ Could it be that the universe prior to the one we’re in now, had run its course (so to speak) and coalesced in to a giant black hole, perhaps the diameter of our solar system. Then that black hole did a sort of hyper-supernova event (hypernova or ultimanova, or ….) imploding upon itself -thereby triggering the Big Bang.

    I know we’re supposed to go along with the notion that time and space didn’t exist before 13.7 years ago, but I can’t accept that. Just as there’s not some of spherical brick wall at this universe’s boundary, I can’t fathom that space and time only began 13.7 B yrs ago. It’s almost like a creationist story, with such limitations.

  82. alfaniner

    Just saw this posted on Fox Snoose. Many of the comments there are astoundingly ignorant. Of course, that goes for virtually any story there.

  83. John EB Good

    Armrha: First, you’re right, I put too many zeros (three to be precice) to qualify what I thought you were talking about, the “dark ages”, and this confusion was induced by the question, not your answer to it. So, at the light of a relecture soundly suggested, I agree with you. Though Weinberg once put that at 700,000 years. I’m not sure if he’s still “à la mode” but it’s not really important. It is to be expected the number will change as a theory evolves. I put it at 300K years, you, at 379Kyrs. If we are to count how many angels can fit on a pinhead, we better ask Alan Guth! I feel he knows the real answer. ;) Yet, I feel we are now in the same ballpark.

    Maybe such confusion is deserved when one gets to give the whole “particule physics 101″ as answer to a guy who could have been satisfied with a plainer answer like “In the first 379,000 years of the Universe, it was so dense that not even light (took in its broadest sense) could escape. So no light? No picture!”

    I’m very sorry if you felt “mocked”. I think these analogies as pretty usefull to understand these awesome scale in time so in that sense, you should rather feel complimented. I know scientists often lack a sense of humor. If this basis can be accepted as a scale, I feel you’re a pretty good scientist! (I won’t put here the much required wink, since it seems you don’t understand it.)

    But now, after checking back with Weinberg’s scale again, I now believe what you put over a few days was done and dealt with in the first 34 minutes after the Bing Bang. So, if you care to enlight me again with another nuance I may have missed, I’m always glad when I go to sleep at night a bit less dumb than when I woke up that morning!

  84. Gus Snarp

    @Joe #71- Are you actually a trained cosmologist well versed in all the latest literature who can present a case for a better cosmological model, or are you just blowing smoke because you read and didn’t fully understand some general audience books on cosmology or perhaps just the Bible?

  85. Gary Ansorge

    77. what is truth

    “,,a simple faith in what God says is true.”

    ,,,and there is the crux of the problem. SIMPLE faith IS faith in God, which is exactly what one would expect from a bunch of sheep herders.

    A much more complex endeavor is “faith” in evidence, which requires us to modify our understanding as new evidence becomes available. Which is what one might expect for a sophisticated, thoughtful, educated species.

    Gary 7

  86. mike burkhart

    To What is truth the Bible tells me why every thing is here Big bang tells me how it got to be here thats the way I see it. The weirdest things in Star Wars can be found in :Mos esly cantena,Jabas place,Sports bar (episode 2)and Genois arena also the Senet(in epsiode 1 when Queen Amadalla is giveing her speach use zoom feature (if your DVDplayer has one)and keep looking over her left shoulder on a lower platform you will just see several creatures that look like ET there hard to spot)

  87. Jesse M.

    I wish press releases didn’t always use the “light travel distance” as opposed to the comoving distance or the proper distance (which are equal at the present time). See Ned Wright’s page on the subject here, which at the bottom has a “cosmology calculator” indicating that in a flat universe, an object with a redshift of 8.55 would have a comoving distance of about 30.34 billion light years from us today. Also, this book says that in a flat universe the radial comoving distance Dc is equal to the “transverse comoving distance” Dm, and that the “luminosity distance” Dl is related to the transverse comoving distance by the simple equation Dl = (1 + z)Dm. This article says the new galaxy’s luminosity distance Dl = 86.9 billion parsecs, so with z=8.55 that would indicate Dm = 9.1 billion parsecs, or 29.7 billion light years, which is close to the previous number. I wish some papers would just *give* the comoving distance rather than leave it to us to deduce though!

  88. noah

    After spending the morning reading articles about rabid, delusional, Tea-Party-ing Bible-thumpers, this takes a load of my mind. It’s nice to know that nothing these people and I say will ever really matter.

  89. JaberwokWSA

    Whoa! This conversation is amazing and mind boggling.

    A few thoughts.

    1.) If the universe expanded from a single point in a big bang 13.7 billion years ago, then if you could look out 13.7 billion light years, you would see the big bang itself. But would you be able to look in any direction to see it? All directions? Or a single direction? If it is indeed the source of the background radiation, then we can already see back to 13.7 billion years ago. So our light cone is that big, no? And if the light cone is not that big, then we are not seeing all of the actual background radiation available, meaning the data used to create the theories is incomplete, meaning … what?

    2.) From post #15, if space can expand faster than light, and light travels through space, then light has to move faster than the speed of light. So, light in expanding space would have traveled farther than light in non-expanding space over a given time. So, seeing back 13.1 billion years would actually be seeing objects closer than 13.1 billion light years. How does this come into play to explain why galaxies farther away are moving faster? Are they actually just moving the same speed everywhere, but seems to be moving faster because of the expansion of space? In other words, is the increasing redshift an artifact of actual velocity changes over distance or an artifact of an expanding universe?

    Ahhhh. Mind numbing.

  90. Bjoern

    @JesseM: Nice that you agree with me… :-) (if you didn’t notice it: I already pointed out many of the things you write here in comment 7, and even included a link to Ned Wright’s page already…)

  91. Bjoern

    @Kristo (68): You are right – due to the expansion of space, a beam of photon essentially really gets wider with time. (That’s why cosmologists often use a so-called “angular size distance”, where this effect is taken into account.) So, in reality, the galaxy was even smaller as the smudge seen in this picture here!

  92. Bjoern

    @JaberwokWSA:

    But would you be able to look in any direction to see it? All directions?

    Yes, in all directions.

    If it is indeed the source of the background radiation, then we can already see back to 13.7 billion years ago.

    Well, almost. The background radiation was emitted about 380 000 years after the Big Bang.

    So our light cone is that big, no?

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean with “that big” here…

    And if the light cone is not that big, then we are not seeing all of the actual background radiation available…

    Well, obviously we see only a very small fraction of the whole background radiation available – the whole universe is filled with it, but we see only the part of it which arrives on Earth right now!

    …meaning the data used to create the theories is incomplete, …

    You have to use the usual assumption here (for which there is in fact a lot of evidence), the “cosmological principle”: that the universe is homegeneous and isotropic, i. e. looks (roughly) the same everywhere and in every direction.

    From post #15, if space can expand faster than light, and light travels through space, then light has to move faster than the speed of light.

    No. Light travels always at the speed of light. If space expands faster, that then simply means that the light can’t reach us! (that’s essentially the reason why a cosmological horizon exists)

  93. Bjoern

    @Curt (48) (and @Joe (71) ):

    So the light from what must be (or am I wrong) a fully formed galaxy took 13.1 billion years to reach Earth. … The question is, how long did that galaxy take to develop to be the galaxy as it appears in that image? Surely it must have taken billions of years, …

    What makes you (and Joe) think that this galaxy was “fully formed”? (what do you even mean when you say “fully formed”?) What we see here is a small red smudge, we don’t see any complex structures like spiral arms etc. And as Phil points out, astronomers have thought for quite some time already that the first stars formed in the first few 100 million years. So, what’s so hard to believe about the idea that these first stars could have assembled together into such a structure as seen here in that “short” time?

  94. Chris A.

    @J (28) and KC (50):

    ““What I’d like to know is if the orbital period of Hubble is about 97 minutes, then how does it stay focused on one tiny spot for 48 hours? Is the spot perpendicular to the orbital plane?””

    “It doesn’t. The image is built up over many orbits and added together. The ultra deep field is actually made up of 800 images taken over 4 months.”

    That being said, Hubble can take exposures that are longer than a single orbit in duration. In the direction of its orbital poles (as J surmises) are regions known as the CVZs (Continuous Viewing Zones), although that’s a bit of a misnomer as they slowly drift over time, and thus are not truly continuous. There are lots of other complicating factors which can make using the CVZs tricky (e.g. the avoidance zones of the Sun and Moon, whether Hubble’s orbit is passing through the South Atlantic Anomaly (low spot in the Van Allen Belts), etc., not to mention that most targets (i.e. those with low declinations) are never in the right spot).

  95. dufus

    Does the universe really have an edge or does it just extend into infinite “space”?

    I really can’t believe that the totality of everything has an edge because if it did then that would beg the question “What’s beyond the edge?” Perhaps the universe is like a point in an infinite void expanding until it dissipates back into it’s original “nothingness” and maybe that would mean multiple universes as well (or multiple “points” where big bangs occur)???

  96. Nigel Depledge (75):

    Ken B (32) said:

    Let me ask a “simple” question.
    Given an expanding universe and a photon of light from a galaxy that has taken 13.1 billion years to reach us, and a static universe and a photon of light from a galaxy 13.1 billion light years away, can you tell the difference?

    Sure you can – use the redshift of the atomic absorbance lines in the spectrum.

    Sure, if you look at an entire spectrum. But, if you were to examine a specific frequency from a 13.1 billion light year source, could you tell if it were red-shifted from an expanding universe, or “as-is” from a static universe?

  97. Brian Too

    @26. mike burkhart,

    There’s a restaurant there. Average food, great service, a bit pricey. The sort of place you go to be seen, more than to eat!

  98. Sulayman F

    Doesn’t the redshift mean that it’s moving away from us?

  99. Expanding universe supposedly 13.8 billion years old. We see the faint image of a galaxy formed 13.1 billion years ago. That light we see has been traveling 13.1 years to reach the Hubble’s lenses. 13.1 billion years ago, we, who are made of stardust, were a lot closer to that distant galaxy we’re seeing as a few pixels of brownish-red smudge on our computer monitors.
    Some of the dust from that galaxy could be part of earth – even part of our bodies. Essentially, we could be looking at one of the cauldrons from which we were formed. Perhaps a stretch (pun intended), but it’s a bit like looking at your mother’s egg at the time it was fertilized by your father’s seed.

  100. Jesse M.

    @dufus: Does the universe really have an edge or does it just extend into infinite “space”?

    It’s thought to either extend infinitely or to be finite but with no edge (meaning if you travel far enough in one direction you just return to your place of origin), either because it has a slight positive curvature or because is flat or negatively-curved but has an unusual topology. However, the observable universe does have an edge: beyond a certain distance, there just hasn’t been enough time for light emitted by objects at any point since the Big Bang to have reached us yet.

  101. Nigel Depledge

    Joe (71) said:

    Several readers, even Phil himself, marvel at the notion that we have apparently observed a fully-formed galaxy existing only 600,000 million years after the ‘bang’. It’s marvelous because it’s absurd. Obviously, it’s time to let go the big bang dogma. We’re barking up the wrong tree. It’s bad cosmology.

    So . . .

    How else do you explain the expansion of the universe?
    How else do you explain the existence of the cosmic microwave background?
    How else do you explain the isotropy (to a few parts in 100,000) of the microwave background?
    How else do you explain the anisotropy (of around 1 part in 100,000 to 1 part in 1,000,000) of the microwave background?
    How else do you explain that the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background is exactly that of a black body?
    How else do you explain that the temperature of the cosmic microwave background is 2.7 K?
    How else do you explain the relative universal abundances of hydrogen, helium and deuterium?
    How else do you resolve Olber’s Paradox?
    How else do you explain the relative concordance between the measured ages of individual stars and star clusters and the measured age of the universe (determined from the expansion rate)?
    How else do you explain the extent to which galaxies have clustered?

    Etc…

  102. Nigel Depledge

    What is truth (77) said:

    The answer is simple, Gen 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

    OK, then. Prove it.

    It takes more faith to believe the big bang and all its dependencies than a simple faith in what God says is true.

    So, let me test my understanding of this sentence:

    You seem to be saying that it takes more faith to base an understanding of the universe on physical evidence that exists in that universe than it takes to accept that the entire universe was brought into being at the whim of some kind of intangible, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient being? Is this correct?

    if there is not a God, and I believe, I have lost nothing.

    Accepted. Sorta.

    if there is a God, and you dont believe, you have lost all.

    Not so. In fact, I would argue that I have gained something. If there is a god, then it should be pleased that I am using the rationality and the reasoning capacity with which it endowed me.

    Why should your putative god be pleased with beings who accept whatever they are told by an authority figure? Given how many religions there are (hell, given how many different flavours of Christianity there are), how can they all be right? How can you ever tell that your way is the way in which that god would prefer to be exalted?

    I pray that your eyes be opened to the truth.

    What truth? Your argument is only halfway there.

    Allow me to finish it for you:
    If there is no god, and you believe, you have lost a great deal of time, money and self-respect. Not to mention feeding some of the cynical, manipulative preachers who pilfer from the donations they elicit (yeah, these people exist, we just don’t know how many of them there are, ‘cos they don’t all get found out).

    If there is no god, and I don’t believe, I have lost nothing, and am able to live a richer and more fulfilling life without needing a pacifier.

  103. edjay

    It makes me laugh when people talk about the edge of the universe being “x” amount of billion years away. Does that mean the left-hand edge, the upper edge, the right hand edge, the edge down below us, the edge above us?

    If we face the said galaxy, it is supposedly 13 billion years in front of us – to the edge – then how far away is the edge behing us? If the same astronomers are going to say it is also 13 billion years then I would say we are caught in the age-old trap of thinking in a sphere and also thinking that the earth is the centre of the universe.

    So come on, how far away is the “other” edge of the universe then?

  104. Nigel Depledge

    Additional thoughts …

    What is truth (77) said:

    The answer is simple[-minded],

    Fixed that for you.

    Gen 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

    At the end of the day, however, what you are doing is asking everyone to accept someone else’s word for a baseless assertion.

    Even if you take all modern humans out of the loop, you still end up with a circular argument: the bible is the word of god. How do you know? It says so in the bible.

  105. Nigel Depledge

    Trolling Sock-puppet (80) said:

    @ Phil : “how did the Universe come to be?”

    Gen 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

    A few questions for you:
    What about the universe? (I.e., never mind happy-magic-land and planet Earth, what about everything else?)
    Who created god?
    How do you know?
    If your knowledge comes through some mystical revelatory process, how do you distinguish it from an hallucination?

  106. Nigel Depledge

    Ken B (100) said:

    . . . if you were to examine a specific frequency from a 13.1 billion light year source, could you tell if it were red-shifted from an expanding universe, or “as-is” from a static universe?

    Well, this all depends on what you mean by “specific frequency”.

    First, there is a physical restriction. Monochromators (components of spectroscopes) will all have a range of passband-widths, with a finite minimum bandwidth.

    Second, if you were able to take an infinitesimally small portion of the spectrum, you run the risk of receiving no photons at all.

    However, assuming that you take a very narrow slice of the spectrum, and assuming that you receive a non-trivial amount of light within that slice, it is unlikely that you would obtain sufficient information to determine a redshift and hence a recession velocity. So, to come back to your original question, no. Under these conditions, you would not be able to distinguish a static source from a receding source.

    However, in the absence of a redshift measurement, you have no way of measuring distance unless you happen to spot a supernova of the relevant kind.

    Was there a point to the question?

  107. Nigel Depledge

    Ken in Thailand (103) said:

    Some of the dust from that galaxy could be part of earth – even part of our bodies. Essentially, we could be looking at one of the cauldrons from which we were formed.

    Unlikely.

    There would still have been a vast distance between that galaxy and the Milky Way.

  108. What is truth

    @ 106. Nigel Depledge

    What is truth (77) said:

    The answer is simple, Gen 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

    OK, then. Prove it.

    If I proved it would you believe?

    It takes more faith to believe the big bang and all its dependencies than a simple faith in what God says is true.

    So, let me test my understanding of this sentence:

    You seem to be saying that it takes more faith to base an understanding of the universe on physical evidence that exists in that universe than it takes to accept that the entire universe was brought into being at the whim of some kind of intangible, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient being? Is this correct?

    What im saying here is the astronomical chance of possibility that exist in the creation of all that we know, from nothing. Into all that we see, hear, smell…. With an intelligent designer/creator impossibility is reduced to possible.

    Why should your putative god be pleased with beings who accept whatever they are told by an authority figure? Given how many religions there are (hell, given how many different flavours of Christianity there are), how can they all be right? How can you ever tell that your way is the way in which that god would prefer to be exalted?

    I agree with you here, that authority figures can and do often use religion to abuse people and manipulate their beliefs. Belief in God and Jesus “the Christ” was not intended to be a religion of obligations and managed expectations, but rather a relationship offered by God, the creator, to his creation and a plan of redemption from sin.

    …you have lost a great deal of time, money, and self-respect…

    i guess its an attitude. money and self-respect i dont allow to control me, and time is not wasted when its spent learning and growing.

    What truth?

    this is the truth-

    God is the creator of all. Rev 4:11 “…for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created”

    We, are naturally sinful, and therefor deserve to be punished by the holy, creator God. Rom 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Jam 1:15 “…and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

    Jesus died for our sins, and we have that forgiveness when we accept His cleansing. 1john 1:5-9 “…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all…and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. …if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

  109. Nigel Depledge

    What is truth (112) said:

    @ 106. Nigel Depledge

    What is truth (77) said:

    The answer is simple, Gen 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

    OK, then. Prove it.

    If I proved it would you believe?

    Since this does not constitute even the lamest attempt to back up your assertion, I shall have to assume you cannot.

    And, BTW, if you came up with some real evidence, or even a genuinely compelling argument, I would indeed accept it.

    It takes more faith to believe the big bang and all its dependencies than a simple faith in what God says is true.

    So, let me test my understanding of this sentence:

    You seem to be saying that it takes more faith to base an understanding of the universe on physical evidence that exists in that universe than it takes to accept that the entire universe was brought into being at the whim of some kind of intangible, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient being? Is this correct?

    What im saying here is the astronomical chance of possibility that exist in the creation of all that we know, from nothing. Into all that we see, hear, smell…. With an intelligent designer/creator impossibility is reduced to possible.

    Ah. I see. It is an argument from personal incredulity.

    The trouble is, we cannot post-hoc determine the likelihood of something happening according to natural laws.

    However, some pretty good evidence is available from the fact that the universe looks exactly the way we would expect if it had arisen and changed over time according to physical laws that are known to us.

    Why should your putative god be pleased with beings who accept whatever they are told by an authority figure? Given how many religions there are (hell, given how many different flavours of Christianity there are), how can they all be right? How can you ever tell that your way is the way in which that god would prefer to be exalted?

    I agree with you here, that authority figures can and do often use religion to abuse people and manipulate their beliefs. Belief in God and Jesus “the Christ” was not intended to be a religion of obligations and managed expectations, but rather a relationship offered by God, the creator, to his creation and a plan of redemption from sin.

    And you avoid answering my question.

    I’ll repeat it here:

    Why should your god respect a person for merely accepting what they are told by an authority figure?

    (Note: the authors of the bible are also authority figures.)

    …you have lost a great deal of time, money, and self-respect…

    i guess its an attitude. money and self-respect i dont allow to control me, and time is not wasted when its spent learning and growing.

    So, does this mean that you consider the worship of a non-existent entity to be “learning and growing”?

    And would not learning and growing both contribute to self-respect?

    What truth?

    this is the truth-

    God is the creator of all. Rev 4:11 “…for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created”

    We, are naturally sinful, and therefor deserve to be punished by the holy, creator God. Rom 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Jam 1:15 “…and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

    Jesus died for our sins, and we have that forgiveness when we accept His cleansing. 1john 1:5-9 “…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all…and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. …if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    Sorry, another argument from authority does not wash.

    You have not proved any of this, nor even made the lamest attempt to do so. One can only conclude that the argument from authority is all you have. Why should I accept your biblical quotes?

    Because it says so in the bible? That’s a circular argument, with no foundation.

    It seems to me that your starting point to understanding “truth” is defining your end point, then you fill in the gaps with meaningless sound-bites; and that ain’t reason.

    So, in the hope that you actually have something better than this, I’ll ask you some of the same questions I posed to another commenter (albeit in a slightly different context – in your case you claim to have “The Truth”):
    How do you know?
    If your knowledge comes through some mystical revelatory process, how do you distinguish it from an hallucination?

    Please note that arguments from authority are logical fallacies, so are not acceptable answers. Try starting with establishing some reason why I – or any other reader – should accept any of what you say.

  110. Donnie B.

    I’d like to return to the question raised earlier: why doesn’t the distant galaxy look larger, given the expansion of space during the intervening 13.1Gyr?

    I ran some numbers. Here are my assumptions:
    > Hubble constant = 100 km/s/MPc, constant over the age of the universe. This is at the high end of current estimates, and it hasn’t really been constant (accelerated expansion) but it should be close enough for the ballpark, and an upper limit.
    > Travel time of the light we’re seeing today: 13.1 X 10^9 yr
    > Width of the galaxy at the time the light left: 10,000 light-years. That’s a smallish galaxy, about 1/10 the size of the Milky Way, but again, in the ballpark. (The result for a larger galaxy would scale accordingly anyway).

    Now, if there were no expansion of space, the galaxy would look to us to be its actual width — 10Kly. How much would that light spread out over time due to Hubble expansion?

    Well, the Hubble constant across the width of the galaxy works out to be around 0.3 km/s. That is, the space through which the light from opposite sides of the galaxy is passing is widening by about 1/3 of a kilometer during each second of its transit time. And we’ve said that transit time is 13.1Gyr, so it’s a simple multiplication: the width of that space has increased by about 125×10^15 km, or 13000ly, over the travel time.

    In other words, that galaxy now appears to be a little more than twice as wide as it really was (at most). That’s significant, but not enough to smear it out over a huge patch of our sky.

  111. What is truth

    @ 113. Nigel Depledge

    – If your knowledge comes through some mystical revelatory process, how do you distinguish it from an hallucination?’

    I do not claim this, but would like you to answer your own question – If your knowledge comes through some mystical revelatory process, how do you distinguish it from an hallucination? All proof is a belief, as you have to believe it to be so, for it to be proof…

    my beliefs give me peace and a clear conscience, that is my proof, do yours? Or do you have doubts? (of course you could never admit that you have doubts, because that would destroy the world as you know it…)

  112. JaberwokWSA

    @ Bjoern for 96. Back to you.

    __________If it is indeed the source of the background radiation, then we can already see
    __________back to 13.7 billion years ago.

    _____Well, almost. The background radiation was emitted about 380 000 years after the
    _____Big Bang.

    __________So our light cone is that big, no?

    _____I’m not sure I understand what you mean with “that big” here…

    I mean that the limits of what we can see from here is at least 13.42 billion light years or we wouldn’t be seeing the radiation emitted 380 000 years a.b.b. Right?

    __________And if the light cone is not that big, then we are not seeing all of the actual
    __________background radiation available…

    _____Well, obviously we see only a very small fraction of the whole background radiation
    _____available – the whole universe is filled with it, but we see only the part of it which
    _____arrives on Earth right now!

    If my assumption that the we can see 13.42 billion light years is wrong, and we can only see only 13.3 billion light years (arbitrary figure for illustration) because of the cosmological horizon, then some of the radiation has not and will not be able to reach us. That is, the radiation between 13.42 billion and 13.3 billion light years away.

    __________…meaning the data used to create the theories is incomplete, …

    _____You have to use the usual assumption here (for which there is in fact a lot of _____evidence), the “cosmological principle”: that the universe is homegeneous and _____isotropic, i. e. looks (roughly) the same everywhere and in every direction.

    But if we can’t see the radiation between 13.42 billion and 13.3 billion light years away, then we are using a background radiation figure that is too low and doesn’t include all of the radiation that was actually available.

    So, based on all of that, I see two possibilities.

    1.) That the background radiation we see to 13.42 billion years ago, therefore 13.42 billion light years away, is the missing some of its quantity because it falls beyond the cosmological horizon. And the universe is or has expanded faster than light.

    OR

    2.) We see all of the background radiation (or the fraction of it that is directed towards Earth). And the universe can’t be expanding faster than the speed of light light Yeebok in post #69 suggested. And things can’t disappear from view because they move farther away that light can’t reach us.

    So we are either missing some radiation because the universe expanded so fast, or we see it all because the universe didn’t expand too fast.

    (By the way, how do you get the response to tab so nicely?)

  113. anonymous

    i think we’re like ants on earth: ants think it goes on forever, but the earth is round: just like space to a larger scale. am i right?

  114. Brian Too

    Wouldn’t it suck if NASA found this ancient thing, then someone pipes up with “uh, there’s a defect in the CCD array, that’s all we’re seeing!” Just a mote of dust or something.

    I’m sure that would never happen. :-)

  115. scott

    Mike – as far the universe having an edge and what it is expanding into (what medium) has always perplexed me. A friend who is physicist explained that our our universe IS expanding space and time, and thus does not expand into another space that surrounds it, but it is creating space, time, etc that we perceive and evolve in. Freaky stuff…I can’t really comprehend that…Because my mind needs to think there is an edge that is expanding into something…I mean, being in space like we are and having it around us, edges and boundaries are essential, so I cant comprehend what that “nothing” would be that are expanding into, if anything. But there still has to be an edge..right? Pushing against something…even if that something is nothing? Any help here???

  116. lemuet

    @scott: thanks, you just made my head explode.

    Maybe it’s just like in Pacman, if you go too far to one side, you’ll just end up at the other side. Which would mean there’s not really an edge, even if the Universe expands, it’s like an expanding loop in every direction, there is no need to have “nothing” to expend into.

    But probably not.

  117. coordinates for UDFy-38135539 — I have many free full resolution enhanced
    HUDF images on Flickr: Phil Plait: Rich Murray 2010.10.23

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/10/20/record-breaking-galaxy-found-at-the-edge-of-the-universe/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UDFy-38135539

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:UDFy-38135539.jpg

    800X500 px

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3c/UDFy-38135539.jpg

    large view 1280X800 0 .193 MB

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmforall/page2/

    #83 astrodeep200407aab11ac.png 14.64 MB 1550X3084 HUDF upper left corner

    You first see the Large size, easy to compare with the public views.
    Click on the photo to go to a view that offers View all sizes,
    and select Original size (free download available).

    Keep clicking on Ctrl + to enlarge in Windows Vista

    [ Seened by 10 citizens since 2008.12.11 ]

    The upper left of the two blue sources in the central area can be
    conveniently located as 62.1 % of the width of the image on your screen from
    its upper left corner, and then down 22.8 % of the height of the image.

    The colors and details on my Flickr image vary in ways that do not greatly
    reduce the available information, but rather offer a plenitude of new
    possibilites for insight.

    Tomorrow I will post on Flickr an enlarged view of the central region,
    showing about 200X200 Px.

  118. Steve Agnew

    Funny that there is no mention of the microwave background…such a structure so early in the universe must certainly be correlated with a significant “ripple” in the microwave background. Unless, of course, the model is wrong.

    It seems like the luminosity distance cited in the paper, 86.9 GPc is about three times what is normally accepted for the universe size. It is not clear why that is not also a very significant part of this observation and therefore part of the news story.

  119. Steve Agnew (122): You forgot another possibility: you’ve misunderstood how this works. You can’t see this galaxy in a MWBG ripple any more than you could see our galaxy in the background. They represent different times in the history of the Universe. You can’t see it there any more than you can see yourself in the wall of your room.

  120. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmforall/5109241842/in/photostream/

    93. astrodeep200407aab11acaa.png 2.26 MB 889×889 — small part of upper left 1/8 of HUDF — gamma reduced to 0.45 from 1.00 in #92

    The z = 8.55 galaxy is not visible in the wavelengths in the original HUDF.

    It is in the region between the 4 bright blue galaxies, above the large white galaxy in the middle of this view.

    This nicely shows the remarkable richness and beauty of the HUDF when simple adjustments are made in gamma, contrast, brightness, and color shifting to enhance the images in myriad ways.

    You can change a lot just by viewing the LCD screen from a variety of angles, and by adjusting your computer visual display options.

    The images are spectacularly enhanced when seen on a larger display.

    Since the basic blue, green, and red colors tend to systematically record data from different temperatures of origin, and thus distances in space and time, looking with both eyes through a regular wide reading glass held a few inches from the screen will cause the two sides of the glass to act like prisms, separating out the colors enough for an excellent 3D effect — like tiny flowers on a thick lawn, which rises up under the glass like a gentle mound.

    The lens can also be useful for increasing the fuzziness enough to smooth out the image at will — this facilitates rapid practice at enhancing visual understanding, utilizing natural human abilities to appreciate complex scenes.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmforall/5109215702/in/photostream/

    92. HUDF astrodeep200407aab11aca.png 2.43 MB 889×889 — copied from #83 in this photostream

    The settings for colors, gamma, and other factors have been adjusted to bring out complex, rich structures by increasing all colors available in the original HUDF data for regions that are conventionally kept dark — trying to maintain a balance that facilitates comprehension of novel realities.

    It helps a lot to adjust your computer display options to steeply reduce the green, making it easier to see the interplay of the blue and red levels.

  121. Jesse M.

    Steve Agnew wrote: “It seems like the luminosity distance cited in the paper, 86.9 GPc is about three times what is normally accepted for the universe size.”

    The size of the observable universe is usually given in terms of comoving distance, “luminosity distance” is a totally different notion of distance (see distance measures in cosmology). The comoving distance of this galaxy is only about 9.1 GPc (about 30 billion light years)

  122. scribbler

    OK, so we admit that this space is out there and we “ooo and aaa…” all over it. Think like this; what would those standing on a planet there looking this way think…

    Would they see us on the “edge of their known Universe” and wonder what is behind us that they can’t see?

  123. Darren

    @23 “But that implies it’s moved into our light cone, which is impossible based on what I understand about the big bang or whatever the current name is for the event. If it was outside our light cone 13.1 billion years ago, it should stay outside our light cone forever. ”

    Remember that the idea of light cone intersections applies to objects not in space, but in spacetime. So yes, there would be an earlier version of this galaxy whose light cone did not intersect us. But as the system aged, it moved into our light cone. The same is true of you and me.

  124. Nigel Depledge

    What is truth (115) said:

    @ 113. Nigel Depledge

    – If your knowledge comes through some mystical revelatory process, how do you distinguish it from an hallucination?’

    I do not claim this,

    Not in those precise words, but you have claimed to know “The Truth”, to whit:
    What is truth (112) said:

    this is the truth-

    God is the creator of all. Rev 4:11 “…for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created”

    We, are naturally sinful, and therefor deserve to be punished by the holy, creator God. Rom 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Jam 1:15 “…and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

    Jesus died for our sins, and we have that forgiveness when we accept His cleansing. 1john 1:5-9 “…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all…and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. …if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    These are your own words.

    Back to comment 115, then:

    but would like you to answer your own question – If your knowledge comes through some mystical revelatory process, how do you distinguish it from an hallucination?

    My knowledge comes not through any mystical process, but through learning about the world by examing it.

    All proof is a belief, as you have to believe it to be so, for it to be proof…

    This is utter garbage. Proof (for want of a better word, since the certainty of a real proof only exists in mathematics) derives from evidence. Let’s put it another way: if you want to persuade someone that your description of the world is the right one, are they more likely to accept your version if you simply ask them to take your word for it, or if you make some predictions about the way the universe behaves and ask them to go check it out for themselves?

    In fact, the process of demonstrating that reality behaves in such-and-such a way through evidence rests on a massive assumption, but it is an assumption without which none of us could function. It rests on the assumption that the input of our senses correlates with a reality that is external to the self. Without this assumption, why would you ever get up in the mornings? In fact, without this assumption, you can never know that it is morning. You can never know that your experience of getting up in the morning is actually occurring at all. This approach – taking logical positivism to its extreme – ends in only one surety: cogito ergo sum.

    my beliefs give me peace and a clear conscience, that is my proof, do yours?

    So are you really trying to tell me that, because your conscience is clear, I should believe everything you type?

    And why would you ever expect that to achieve anything?

    BTW, to answer your oblique question, on the subjects about which we speak, I also have peace and a clear conscience.

    However, this does not change the fact that you have – again – avoided answering my question. You have claimed to have “The Truth”. Your only support for this is that you have a clear conscience. So, how do you distinguish your clear conscience and peaceful mind from an hallucination?

    Or do you have doubts?

    You have just demonstrated that you know nothing of logic, nor of inductive reasoning. I have severe doubts about your sanity.

    But, as for the way in which the universe is, I have no doubt that we gradually approach better and better approximations of how it really is. Perhaps one day we really will understand how it all works.

    (of course you could never admit that you have doubts, because that would destroy the world as you know it…)

    This depends on what you mean by “doubts”. What is there for me to doubt? The universe is. The world I observe is a part of that universe. These are demonstrable facts (with the proviso I noted above).

    Why should I doubt, for instance, the existence of New Zealand (i.e. something I have never seen with my own eyes)? Not only has it been described by reliable accounts, and documented in many ways, the option exists for me to go there and see it for myself. The same can be said of pretty much any branch of the exploration of the universe and how it behaves. If I cared to test it for myself, I can do so. The only reason I would care to do that would be if I had good reason to doubt what other scientists tell me. And, since their work has been thoroughly criticised and tested by their own peers (and, believe me*, in science there is no critic so severe as a peer), why should I have reason to doubt their work? Who else is better qualified to judge the quality of that work?

    * Actually, don’t take my word for it. Go and learn it for yourself. Become a scientist. Go and work at a world-class university. Then you will see for yourself the competition that exists at the leading edge of research. However, if you are not prepared to test it for yourself, then you perforce must take my word for it.

  125. Nigel Depledge

    Some further thoughts…

    What is truth (115) said:

    @ 113. Nigel Depledge

    – If your knowledge comes through some mystical revelatory process, how do you distinguish it from an hallucination?’

    I do not claim this,

    No, but you avoided answering my preceding question, upon which the sense of this one hinges.

    I’ll ask again:

    You have claimed to have “The Truth”. How do you know?

    And, quit with the logical fallacies. Your internal mental state has no bearing on the external universe. How do you know that what you have claimed to be The Truth actually is true?

  126. Bjoern

    @JaberwokWSA: Sorry that it took me so long to answer – I was away for a few days…

    I mean that the limits of what we can see from here is at least 13.42 billion light years or we wouldn’t be seeing the radiation emitted 380 000 years a.b.b. Right?

    No, wrong. 13.7 billions minus 380 000 is not 13.42 billions, it is 13.69962 billions. (And anyway, since we only know the age of the universe with an accuracy of about 0.1 billion years, it makes little sense to talk about 13.69962 billion years…)

    If my assumption that the we can see 13.42 billion light years is wrong,…

    Yes, that’s wrong (even if one uses the correct number of 13.69962). As I mentioned already in this discussion, the distance to which we can see is not equal to the age of the light times light speed! The actual distance to which we can see in the moment is actually much large, around 46 billion light years, if I remember correctly.

    … some of the radiation has not and will not be able to reach us.

    That’s right (although your numbers were wrong). And you can even replace the “some” with “most”…

    But if we can’t see the radiation between 13.42 billion and 13.3 billion light years away, then we are using a background radiation figure that is too low and doesn’t include all of the radiation that was actually available.

    What “figure” do you mean? The energy density of the radiation? Its temperature? Or what? As I already mentioned: the radiation is assumed to be the same everywhere, so it doesn’t matter that we only see a very tiny fraction of it!

    And the universe is or has expanded faster than light.

    What do you mean when you say that? Expansion speed is the rate of change of length with time. So, what length are you talking about here? The radius of the universe? The diameter? The circumference? Or what?

    (By the way, how do you get the response to tab so nicely?)

    Use the blockquote-tag.

  127. My friends, lets go back to 101.

    The inflationary model of the big bang as proposed by Guth explains many of the problems of the old hot model. It was incorporated in the theory to explain why the universe is flat, homogeneous and isotropic in accordance with the cosmological principle (the universe is the same wherever you are). It also explains the large scale structure of the universe and how galaxies formed as we see it today. The inflationary model suggest that there was a period in time of an extremely rapid expansion of the universe (Yes, more than the speed of light) during the very early stages of the universe (about a billionth billionth billionth billionth of a second after the big bang). The mechanics of how this happened is unknown, but it has to be . . . if the big bang is correct.

    Due to this idea a large portion of the universe would be in accessible but that is ok because of the cosmological principle. Why try to see all the universe when it is all the same everywhere?

    I learned the big bang theory roughly 20 years ago, and that time the age of the universe was estimated at 12 billion years. And every year this age becomes larger, now it is roughly 13.7 billion years. What I am sure of is that when the JWT goes on line, we will discover distant galaxies further than 13.7 billion years. To protect the big bang theory we will make new models and adjust the age of the universe older. And as we see further we will continue to adjust the age of the universe and create new models of a big bang universe.

    The concept of the big bang is easy to grasp. The idea of a “beginning” is what our minds can easily accept, more so if it has an “ending”. That is why creationism flourishes. For me, it is more difficult to accept boundaries, borders, beginning, end, universe closing back on itself, go back where you started from, than just simply INFINITY. All of what science offers right know is a finite universe, this is very hard to accept.

    If you discover a new thing, would you think that it is unique and the only one? Why not more? Why not infinite. In time we will get tired protecting the big bang model and start to bark elsewhere. Tired light, and photon decay will work on a static universe assumption. CMB is just the temperature of the universe, so it could fit any scenario.

    New ideas will be brought forth. But infinity with no bounds will win!!

  128. John

    I’ve heard it stated that the expansion of space is not uniform. I also realize that if this galaxy is 13.1 billion light years away then this only represents the time traveled, NOT the actual distance of the galaxy at present. So this means that 13.1 billion years ago that we were at least 13.1 billion years from this galaxy we’re now observing? In any case, if the expansion of space is not uniform then how do we know the true distance of an object? We know that we received light from it that has crossed interstellar space for 13.1 billion years. But without uniform expansion, how do we estimate how much the space between us and this object has expanded (and to thus calculate its true distance)?

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