Friday's 'Comment of the Day' --"Advanced Extraterrestrial Life May be Beyond Human Comprehension"
"Dark-Matter Mystery" --Core of One of the Largest Galaxy Clusters in the Universe Baffles Astronomers

"The Pale Red Dot" --13.2 Billion Years Old: The Most Distant Object in the Observable Universe



A deep optical image of the afterglow of the gamma-ray burst GRB 090429B, arguably the most distant object known in the universe.The light from this object has been traveling towards us for about 13.2 billion years, or 96% of the age of the universe. Since the universe is not static but expanding, today this object is much farther away than 13.2 billion light-years - more like about thirty billion light-years. It tells us that 13 billion years ago, this event was more than 17 billion lightyears closer than today. The expansion of the universe is like blowing up a balloon with stars painted onto its surface; an expansion of spacetime itself. 

The most distant objects in the universe are also the oldest -- or at least that is how they appear to us, because their light has had to travel for billions of years to get here. They are also extraordinarily faint since they are so far away, and only in the last decade have astronomers been able to stretch their vision using the newest telescopes and clever techniques.

One such innovation occurred with the launch of the NASA Swift satellite in 2004; it searches for bursts of gamma-ray emission, called GRBs. These flashes, thought to result from the especially spectacular deaths of massive stars, are the brightest events in the cosmos during their brief (only seconds-long) existence. But because they are so bright, they can be seen even when they are billions of years away.

The scientists were unable to detect any faint trace of the putative galaxy in which this massive star once lived, helping to confirm the great distance of this GRB. Other important details in their new paper confirm that the object is similar to more nearby GRBs, and consequently that - even at this early stage of cosmic life - at least some stars already resembled stars in our local universe.

The Daily Galaxy via the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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Instead of saying "the timespace is expanding" we could also say "the 'material' objects in timespace are shrinking".

I'm willing to bet that there are even MORE distant galaxies beyond that object which are so incredibly far away that NO LIGHT from them reaches us; with distance they slowly fade from view.

I always thought what constitutes our "Universe" is really just a grouping of several trillion galaxies being inexorably tugged towards another grouping of galaxies (another "universe" somewhere beyond the 13.2 b/y threshold.

Someone explain this to me. The light we see left the object 13.2 billion years ago -- suggesting a distance of 13.2 billion light years. However, the text suggests that the actual distance of the object today is 30 bly. So, during this time, the object has moved 17 bly away from us (more accurately, what became the Milky Way and the object have moved away from one another).

So, the universe is expanding at a speed greater than the speed of light? How can this be?

If we are moving away from an object at a speed greater than the speed of light, how can light of that object ever reach us?

Someone please explain the basics of the expansion of the universe.

@qed: That is because we are moving as well.

The universe is expanding at a speed greater than the speed of light. The speed limit only applies to special relativity. The expansion is governed by general relativity and not subject to that speed limit. Think of the expanding balloon analogy.

@qed good question. The calculations'are neither easy nor exact. Cosmologists say "the universe is expanding" even "ever faster".
The areas from where the light can no more reach us are behind s.c. "edge of the observable universe". And they say of course, there are galaxies and other objects behind this edge, as Matt Rhodes wrote above. And suppose we are in one of "many universes" in a "superuniverse", etc. etc. They seem not to have proof of anything faster than "light" yet, inspite quantum physics "entanglement" which is instant but no complete information. Our "knowledge" depends very much on light. comrad reminds above, that we are moving, too. Well, is it the timespace expanding (e.g. in between galaxies)or are e.g. the galaxies moving in timespace? Both, most probably. And when timespace expands, why faster among e.g. galaxies, than inside 'material' objects?? So that these "shrink" in relation to the whole area (see my hint above). It is itriguing to see how the research and the theories develop.

This 'balloon idea' is the flat universe theory, the mainstream 'consensus' that smacks of pre-copernican epicycles.

As others have stated above, there's something very wrong with this picture.

Astronomer Halton Arp has shown many gross contradictions of observation & redshift assumptions, this 'flat universe' paradigm will collapse eventually.

So... 13.2 billion years ago this object was 13.2 billion light years away... how did we get 13.2 billion light years away from this object if the big bang occured 13.7 billion years ago? So the big bang propelled us from the epicenter 13.2 billion light years in only 0.5 billion years?

I've often wondered about this issue of whole galaxies traveling away from the big bang faster than the speed of light. After all, if they were sending light from the location (at which we currently see them) 13.2 billion years ago, how did they get there that fast. Also, the issue of inter-galactic spacetime expansion smacks of employing imaginary technology to solve problems. Where does our galaxy end and inter-galactic space begin? Does spacetime 1 meter inside that radius NOT expand? By extrapolation, is spacetime within our solar system expanding? How about spacetime within atoms? It's a slippery slope.

While nothing can move *through* space faster than light, there is nothing stating space itself can't move/expand faster than light.

I would have to assume that there is a reserve of "light" that has accumulated over time that we are currently seeing. So, even though the object is moving away from us > speed of light, it is the reserve that we are actually seeing. Ultimately, assuming again that the object is moving greater than the speed of light, that reserve will eventually diminish and we will no longer be able to see the object until it - if it ever does - reduces its speed to < the speed of light in which much time will need to pass in order for that light to reach earth again.

Would I be wrong is suggesting this?

Mind blown.

btw. the s.c. "big bang universe" seems to have no "center" and no "edge" or "margin" - or has someone found any? Also, the "space" is not "immaterial" - it belongs to the same "existence" as the s.c. "matter". And the "space" extends unevenly. It seems to extend more where there is less s.c."matter" existence, creating s.c."voids" in the universe whereas inside "(quasi-)stable" galaxies, objects, molecules, atoms it seems not to expand significantly. If it were expanding evenly everywhere keeping the relative sizes stable, how could we even notice it? By the light slowing down?? =)) I hope you don't mind this more philosophical than experimentally physical approach.

some one is having a laugh, and I don't mean God.

13.2 billion years...does this mean that light isn't traveling as fast as the expansion of the universe? At 96% of the age of the universe shouldn't that light have come and gone already?

@t.zverina - wouldn't the "location" of the big bang be (or have been), by definition, the center of the universe? Of course you run into the sort of problems that you would encounter if you were on one of half a dozen row boats in the middle of the ocean on a cloudy night. Who is really drifting away from whom? We just don't have a frame of reference. And this doesn't even take into consideration multiverses.

The real "center" of the universe is unknown and many people believe it doesn't exist at all. However the center of the visible universe is you. In fact the center of the universe is different for each of your eyes. The visible universe is essentially a giant sphere and each point in the universe is its own center of the observable universe.

Just like a ballerina spinning away from its partner, and the partner spinning away at the same speed, you then effectively double the speed of separation.

The entire Physics we have developed thus far contains relative knowledge based on the data collected. The speed of light appears as a limit that comes in the way. The comments above are so contradictory. we are adding to the confusion. If the universe always existed than we do not need the expanding universe that is constantly accelerating. It is all the Big Bang origin theory that contains such built-in aspects. Unless the matter of our origin is settled we will continue to have such anamolies!

@monorail45, @Cullen : well, if the "big bang universe" was a singularity (in "nothing") at its beginning, as "big bang" cosmologists believe, and expands since then together with its space,which it includes, this whole "universe" is the original center. And actually the measurements and calculations (e.g. of expansion velocities, microwave background) vary no different way in any direction observed. (btw. the "observable universe" is no "universe" and must correctly be called "our observable area of the universe")

It still can't imagine and comprehend the idea of the universe expanding faster than light. This would mean that we, here on earth are moving away from at least one object in the universe faster than light. Take for example that very faint star we are talking about now. Does this it mean that the more we get drawn apart that we would eventually see the birth of the universe again. Or that there are other places in the universe where if we were right now we could be seeing the big bang (if it really existed).

One important question in this nonstationary universe is: What do we call "velocity" in a space that is expanding, unevenly, faster than light moves in a stationary vacuum?

@Narendra Nath(ISRO?) Do the recent collected data confirm the evidence that our universe is a huge bubble structure after an explosion in its middle with the matter located on its quite flat surface in this sence:

The Hubble Constant is the foundation-stone of Big Bang Theory and has been falsified by observation numerous times:

However, to come up with this ‘flat Universe’ theory, they use this same Hubble Constant.

Isn’t this simple cognitive dissonance, albeit on a mass scale? Cosmology & Astrophysics are both dominated by ‘big bangers’, they run the State-funded institutions & control the peer-review system. They are not about to turn around now and say: “Oh Balls! We were wrong all the time!” This is not human nature, but the true scientist should always be ready to re-write the encyclopedia.

@orkneylad Paranoid much? Yes, I like most scientists believe the big bang theory to be the most complete picture we currently have of the universe but to state that we would not be able to admit that it is wrong is simply an ignorant statement. There is not a single legitimate scientist that honestly believes that the Big Bang Theory is a complete and 100% apt description of our universe. We "big bangers" remain ready to re-write the encyclopedia but will not pick up the pen until a better theory comes along that makes more prediction with better accuracy than the Big Bang Theory. Because if we rewrite the book based on our beliefs and anecdotal evidence then we are no longer scientists but philosophers. And its not like we haven't admitted “Oh Balls! We were wrong all the time!” like with the advent of General Relativity which overturned one of my favorite scientists of all time: Sir Issac Newton. Not to mention the advent of Quantum Mechanics which was very difficult for one of greatest scientific minds of all time: Einstein but even he was able to admit he was wrong and swallow his pride. No true scientist can blindly fight for a theory no matter how much evidence supports it, but only a fool can fight for a theory with no evidence.

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