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Space Science

Astronomers Find Stars 7 Billion Light Years Away 142

Posted by Zonk
from the long-trip dept.
StArSkY writes "The Age has an article about an international team of astronomers that has discovered 14 galaxies, opening up a new era of 'galaxy hunting'. Using an infrared instrument in Chile (the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope ) — the researchers have been able to look through the glare of 20 Quasar's to identify previously obscured galaxies. 'Light from the newly found galaxies comes from the time the universe was about 6 billion years old, less than half its current age. By studying the light, the researchers have determined they are starburst galaxies that form lots of new stars -- the equivalent of 20 suns a year. Dr Murphy, who began working on the project while a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, described the results as a great leap forward. The findings have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. '"
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Astronomers Find Stars 7 Billion Light Years Away

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @01:20AM (#20647871)
    I remember reading about star-making galaxies and how the stresses of gravity were used to "tear" space apart and create matter from the resulting energy differential. I wonder if that's similar to these starburst galaxies.

    Wouldn't it be nice to live longer than our measly 70-90 years and be able to watch the progression of our knowledge? Reading this kind of article always makes me regret that I was perhaps born this early in humanity's history.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wouldn't it be nice to live longer than our measly 70-90 years and be able to watch the progression of our knowledge?
      personally, i think often about being able to outlive myself simply to know more about the universe as our technology progresses. its very saddening in a way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      According to wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starburst_galaxy [wikipedia.org], starburst galaxies generally require a large amount of gas (in order to form all the new stars) and are triggered frequently by close encounters with other galaxies. It really seems unlikely that enough matter could be generated from pair production (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pair_production [wikipedia.org]) to create stars, if that's what you're talking about. Perhaps you have it confused with pair instability supernovae http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ [wikipedia.org]
    • by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @02:53AM (#20648367) Journal
      Giving up mod points in this article to reply.

      I agree with you entirely.. I'm not scared of death, I'm scared of not knowing tomorrow. I'm sure glad I live in 2007 instead of 1807 but at the same time I don't have wish it was 3007. But for all we know humanity will get wiped out at the end of this decade and we're at the peak of human civilization at this moment in time.

      So I see where you're coming from, but we could be the final humans just as we're likely to be the first humans who meet aliens. :)
      • by motank (867244) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @04:02AM (#20648773)
        It sure is sad to think we won't know anything about the future or the past once we die. I guess i just expect that at some point, humanity will get to that point, where we know everything that's ever happened and have crazy cool gadgets i'll never get to use. i can't even imagine what they'll be! i just hope for the end of the world in my lifetime (hopefully like 50 or so years from now) so i can die knowing that at least i didn't miss out on any cool toys. plus, maybe aliens would end up finding MY bones and put me in a museum somewhere

        how crazy is it, though, that we can look so far into the past.. if only we could communicate with someone there we could ask em to tell us what was going on here 7 billion light years ago.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fbjon (692006)
          This issue is precisely why reincarnation is a comfortable thought.
          • by yoder (178161) *
            Agreed. Although I don't believe in reincarnation, I kind of wish I did. I'd rather be reincarnated than go to some heaven or hell or just turn to dust.
        • "hopefully like 50 or so years from now"

          I was born 2yrs after the first sputnik, even though I'm still waiting for my jet pack to arrive, the changes in technology and society since I was a kid are nothing short of startling....now get off my lawn!
      • by vertinox (846076)
        But for all we know humanity will get wiped out at the end of this decade and we're at the peak of human civilization at this moment in time.

        Damn you genie and your wishes! Ok how about this wish:

        "I wish to live in a time where an intelligent species (doesn't have to be human) still exists and a technological singularity has happened to that species and available to all member of that species which enables them to live forever in a time where that species is no longer in danger of being wiped out for at le
        • "I wish to live in a time where an intelligent species (doesn't have to be human) still exists and a technological singularity has happened to that species and available to all member of that species which enables them to live forever in a time where that species is no longer in danger of being wiped out for at least billions of years nor in danger of being enslaved by other species and is currently colonizing the known universe."

          Why is it that people wish to live a billion years yet don't have anything mor
          • by vertinox (846076)
            Why is it that people wish to live a billion years yet don't have anything more productive to do with their limited life than post on Slashdot?

            Because I'm forced to due the fact we live in a pre-singularity society and have to work a job to pay rent and eat and work and procreate and all the other things animals with limited time spans.

            My question to you is why should I do anything productive if I'm going to die anyways? If in a 5 billions years all the humans are dead and no one cares except alien archaeol
            • If there is no point in a seventy year existence, then how is there any point in an infinite existence?

              I'd also recommend reading Ecclesiastes. It is fascinating how folks 3,000-4,000 before you came to the exact same conclusions and what their reasoning was beyond that. It is probably a 30 minute read...
    • Have you considered that you may be born at the very end of humanities history.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_Clock [wikipedia.org]
    • If you have Jesus in your heart he'll let you look at earth for eternity from the pearly gates of heaven!
    • Look at it this way: You're one of the fathers of humanity. You get to help set precedent for the tens of thousands, or maybe even millions, of years that follow.
    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      I remember reading about star-making galaxies

      The term is "star burst" galaxy, as you use later in your posting. To be more precise, although these galaxies contain reasonably normal amounts of gas and dust, they seem to be turning them into stars at a higher than normal efficiency. But most of the mass of the galaxy remains in the form of dispersed dust and gas, not in aggregates like stars and planets. (How much the dark matter component aggregates is a separate question, and quite disputed.)

      and how the s

  • by 9Nails (634052) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @01:23AM (#20647889)
    Hmmm, is this far enough?
  • Title is misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by scarpa (105251) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @01:24AM (#20647895) Homepage
    The point of the article is not that the galaxies were 7 billion light years away, there have been galaxies observed over 10 billion light years from us.

    The real story is that these galaxies were in front of quasars and the infrared technique has now allowed observation of them.
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @01:53AM (#20648055) Homepage Journal
      The real story is that these galaxies were in front of quasars and the infrared technique has now allowed observation of them.

      But quasars cover only a very small part of the sky. It's like moving a dead cockroach that's under the couch to reveal more dust, just like the rest of the dust on the couch. But its just regular dust.
           
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sosarian (39969)
        I was going to moderate this comment, and then said to myself...how do you rate a strange analogy?
        • by jd (1658)
          Moderation should move into the quaternion domain. There needs to be +i xroach, +j strange analogy and +k outright bizarre.
      • The point is not the distance (as the parent to your comment has pointed out), nor the galaxies themselves, but the technique used.
        • And maybe this technique could be used on living cockroaches as well, the ramifications would be enormous.
      • by Alinabi (464689)
        You need to clean your place and get out of the house more often.
        • by Tablizer (95088)
          You need to clean your place and get out of the house more often.

          You must not be familiar with slashdot users.
               
      • Now try it without moving the cockroach.
    • By the way, [Run:Expose_my_ignorance.exe], if these stars are 7-10 billion light years away, what does this mean for the age of the universe? I'd always heard something around 6 billion years... Doesn't it mean that these stars are 7-10 billion years old?
    • by desi90415 (945681)
      10 billion light years? How is this possible? Age of universe is claimed to be 14 billion light years. Since it took 10 billion years for the light to travel to us, and conservatively assumingg we are equidistant from big bang (ie 5 billion light years each), age of the universe has to be atleast 15 billion years for us to be viewing something that is 10 billion light years away.... am i missing something? or is speed of light not quite what it used to be??????

      these cosmic conjectures are beginning to soun
  • by Nymz (905908) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @01:33AM (#20647943) Journal
    If we are seeing them 7 billion light years away, and we are 4.5 billion light years old, that means they won't see us coming for another 2.5 billion years. Oh the poor bastards.
    • by QuantumTheologian (1155137) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @01:37AM (#20647975)
      You forget that the universe is expanding, and there's no such thing as universal simultaneity.
      • by Nymz (905908)
        If that's true, that universal simultaneity is false, then it should have no effect on us catching up to them. Not to mention I don't believe in coinicidences, there must be a reason ALL 14 of them are hiding behind quasars?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          They're actually hiding in front of quasars:

          The galaxies, which are about 7 billion light years from Earth, have until now been difficult to detect, because they lie in front of bright, distant objects known as quasars.
          • by Nymz (905908) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @02:22AM (#20648237) Journal

            They're actually hiding in front of quasars
            They sure are bold, I've never seen a hiding strategy quite like that before, we should name it the QuantumTheologian Defense in you honor.
            • by DikSeaCup (767041)
              You're forgetting your air combat tactics - "hiding in (front of) the sun" was a way of getting the jump on your enemy.

              Hmmmm ...

              • by Nymz (905908)

                You're forgetting your air combat tactics - "hiding in (front of) the sun" was a way of getting the jump on your enemy.
                Hmm... I guess the old saying is true, "The best offense, is a good QuantumTheologian Defense".
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          If that's true, that universal simultaneity is false, then it should have no effect on us catching up to them.

          It's not clear that we could catch up to them. Depending on the future expansion rate of the universe, in 7 billion years they could be moving away fast enough that we could never "catch up".

        • by khallow (566160)
          The coincidence was that the same astronomers looked for them in front of quasars. And they found them too.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by drawfour (791912)
      I'm sure that Bush and Cheney have already started making plans. :)
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        according to the good book, these galaxies cant be more than a few thousand light years away either.
        • by pnewhook (788591)

          according to the good book, these galaxies cant be more than a few thousand light years away either.

          Actually no, since that would assume a big bang creation 6000 years ago which is wrong.

          The galaxies are where science says they are. But since the universe was created solely for our benefit 6000 years ago, then a big bang theory is impossible (since science says nothing goes faster than light) so that actually PROVES the existance of God!

    • that means they won't see us coming for another 2.5 billion years.

      Perhaps, but even if the Universe were not expanding, it will take us at least 7 billion years to get there so I'd hardly call it a surprise attack!
      • by ross.w (87751)
        "Ah! But they don't know that we intend to attack without mercy!

        Nothing in the world is more surprising than the attack without mercy!"

        From the movie Little Big Man for those who don't get the reference.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @01:50AM (#20648037)
    Come on, Zonk, learn how to use an apostrophe.
    • by Tablizer (95088)
      Come on, Zonk, learn how to use an apostrophe.

      He can't see the screen well because there's a quasar in front of him. It appears every time he opens his pr0n.
               
  • "Dr Murphy, who began working on the project while a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, described the results as a great leap forward."

    Shouldn't that be a great leap BACKWARDS?
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @02:54AM (#20648369)
    We start tomorrow.

    I have only done this once before, so you will be responsible for bringing your own guns and supplies.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Carbon016 (1129067)
      I hope safety is guaranteed...
    • by GospelHead821 (466923) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @07:09AM (#20649551)
      I bet that my brother dies fording the river on the way to the spaceport and that we lose at least two oxen by the time we get past Alpha Centauri.
  • Bending of light (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vulcann (752521)
    Isn't it conceivable that light coming from such a distance may not be traveling in a straight line? ESPECIALLY since there are 20 quasars between here and the place we assume the galaxies to be. Quasars would exert powerful gravitational pulls like black holes which theoretically should bend any light passing them. Is it possible these galaxies are not actually as far as 10 billion light year away after all?
    • Re:Bending of light (Score:4, Informative)

      by QuantumTheologian (1155137) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @03:08AM (#20648459)
      The galaxies are in front of the quasars.

      The galaxies, which are about 7 billion light years from Earth, have until now been difficult to detect, because they lie in front of bright, distant objects known as quasars.
      What made them tough to see was that the quasars were so bright, that they drowned out the signal of these galaxies. The thing that's interesting about this finding is that they were able to use observations in the infrared range to differentiate the signal of the galaxies from the background of the quasars.
    • the amount of deflection due to gravity, as I understand it, is excruciatingly small. It is only because of our great distance from these galaxies that we can see the deflection at all. in fact, due to the expansion of the universe over that timescale, the light hasn't passed through as much actual space as you might think. it in fact passed through extra space as the universe expanded (and continues to expand) around it.
  • Makes you wander... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ls671 (1122017)

    If those stars still exist... If they do, they must have changed quite a bit before we received data from them...

    Hello ! this is me emitting radio signals from a 7 billion light years away planet, come and join me for dinner, what do you expect to find when you arrive, even if you could get there instantly ? ;-))

    I mean, given Einstein "curving of the universe", we could even be looking at ourselves 7 billion years ago ;-)

    • Except our solar system didn't exist 7 billion years ago ;)
      • by ls671 (1122017)
        According to our estimations, which are far from being 100% sure I would say. So we can't rule out that possibility for sure although it is unlikely ;-)
  • Old News. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chapter80 (926879) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @04:22AM (#20648865)
    This is old news. These stars were around 7 Billion years ago.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by maroberts (15852)
      This is old news. These stars were around 7 Billion years ago.

      It's not old news, unless you can prove it by linking to the dupe story on Slashdot from 7 billion years ago.
  • "opening up a new era of 'galaxy hunting'"

    Yawn.

    Nothing more annoying than a bunch of clueless journalists trying to drum up an anecdotal case as the beginning of a new grandiose trend that will possibly change our lives.
    • by CFBMoo1 (157453)
      Yawn.

      Nothing more annoying than a bunch of clueless journalists trying to drum up an anecdotal case as the beginning of a new grandiose trend that will possibly change our lives.


      If it gets people interested in science and astronomy, who cares? At least galaxies are easier to drum up then say someone working with feces in other industries. I bet their marketing department has a stinker of a time doing PR for those jobs.
  • I wrote this 7 billion light years ago.
  • Has anyone ever considered the theory that the universe is not only ever expanding but also ever recreating in the middle? Also shouldn't we be able to tell where the middle of the universe is by obsering in which direction we can see the farthest? I'm in no way an astronomer, i just have some personal theories.
    • by pedestrian crossing (802349) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @06:18AM (#20649301) Homepage Journal

      Has anyone ever considered the theory that the universe is not only ever expanding but also ever recreating in the middle? Also shouldn't we be able to tell where the middle of the universe is by obsering in which direction we can see the farthest?

      There is no "center" of the universe. You're probably confused by the popular image of the big bang that shows a point of light in the vast darkness that explodes into the universe.

      But there is no "vast darkness" outside the universe, by definition the universe is everything. There is no "outside the universe" (of course that makes it hard to do an animation of the big bang on TV).

      Every point in the universe is the "center". It's just that the "center" has smeared out across the whole universe as it has expanded from the big bang. On a large scale, everything is moving away from everything else.

      • by swehack (975617)
        Yeah but that doesn't make sense to me, it has to be moving somewhere and if it's moving somewhere then it has to originate somewhere.

        Do you know of any online documentation that explains this more in depth?
        • by kwikrick (755625) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @07:07AM (#20649539) Homepage Journal
          Here's an analogy I always like to clarify how the universe expands.

          Imagine that the universe is like the rubber surface of a balloon. Note that we only consider the actual space ON surface to be the universe. Now as the balloon balloon expands, the distance between any two points on the surface increases. But there is no center of the universe, i.e. no reference point ON the surface of the balloon that is special in any way. Of course, the surface of the balloon is a 2D space, and our universe is at least 3 dimensional, or perhaps 11 dimensional, according to some theories. And to describe our expanding balloon, we also needed to imagine an extra dimension... uh oh, sorry, now I'm making things complicated again. Anyway, I hope you get the picture.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Jugalator (259273)
            Yeah, that's a popular analogy.

            Then some use to say "but you can go INWARDS into the balloon, to its center", but since an expanded balloon is like an expanded universe, that analogy would be to going back in time. And since space and time is most definitely intertwined in the universe, that would also require going back in space. So while you can go back into the center of that balloon alright, what you would end up with would just be the (supposed, maybe not on a quantum mechanical level) singularity of t
            • by Xerxes314 (585536)
              No, that's also wrong. The analogy breaks down because balloons are necessarily closed; they have to hold air inside and be made of a finite amount of material. The universe need not be finite and it need not be closed. It could just as well be flat (imagine an infinite flat rubber sheet being pulled apart) or open (saddle-shaped is the usual analogy). But if you have trouble picturing that, don't worry about it; high-dimensional curved geometry is just a tricky subject to hold inside the human brain.
          • by DikSeaCup (767041)

            Imagine that the universe is like the rubber surface of a balloon. Note that we only consider the actual space ON surface to be the universe. Now as the balloon expands ...

            Now just imagine what's going to happen if the universe slips out of God's hands while he's trying to blow it up!

            (joke - I'm Agnostic)

            Which reminds me, we need to come up with a word for calling whatever it is that happens when you let go of a balloon and it flies around the room ... then we could have a cult waiting for the "Cosmic (Whatever)".

            (I get to be treasurer!)

      • by CaroKann (795685)
        Of course I may be completely wrong, but as I understand it, the phrase "everything is moving away from everything else" is a bit misleading. What is actually happening is that real, physical 'space' is constantly being created, and, as time goes on, there is more and more 'space' between everything and everything else. Is it 'movement' when you create space between two objects?

        Simple movement, in an environment with no hard, fast point of reference like the universe, can be a hard concept to pin down. E
        • by rca66 (818002)

          What is actually happening is that real, physical 'space' is constantly being created,

          No, there is no space "created". But at least you are right, that the notion of "everything is moving away from everything else" is indeed a bit misleading - although not really wrong. What changes is the metric, which measures the space, which of course affects the measured distances between objects. The model is based on the General Theory of Relativity. As you might have heard, this theory describes gravitation as cu

      • by edxwelch (600979)
        > There is no "center" of the universe.

        People who don't live in the center of the universe always say things like that. Just like losers always say winning isn't everthing and poor people say money can't bring hapiness.
    • by renoX (11677)
      [[Has anyone ever considered the theory that the universe is not only ever expanding but also ever recreating in the middle?]]

      Yes, such theory was proposed, and it was found incompatible with our observations.

      [[Also shouldn't we be able to tell where the middle of the universe is by obsering in which direction we can see the farthest]]

      In current 'big bang' theory, there is no middle: the best analogy is that of an infinite cake expanding (like inside an oven), it has no center, yet it grows.
    • by Marcosll (1158487)
      Something infinite can have a centre?

      Are we sure that a trillion light years away there's nothing?

      Maybe it's reassuring to think the earth is relatively near the centre of the universe.

  • You just found the mirror.
  • Impossible (Score:1, Funny)

    by hey0you0guy (1003040)
    We all know the universe was created 4,000 years ago. There is no way these stars are 7 billion years old.
  • I wonder if they'll ever "look back in time" this way enough to have at least a hint of observational evidence that cosmic inflation [wikipedia.org] really took place? That would be interesting to know, because it's such a challenged and "illogical" theory on a few levels.
  • I might be completely mistaken here, but IIRC, if you send e.g. a theoretical laser beam straight up into space, after a couple of billion years, it should return to the point of origin from the other side (even though it was traveling in a straight line, for all that we can tell) because of space-time being bent into itselve ('unendlich in sich geschlossen', was the term in german, it think).
    So, how far 'back' do we hae to be able to see into space in order to see the milky way being formed? Or am i compl

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