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Most Distant Object Yet Detected, Bagged By Galileo Scope

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  • by UnixUnix (1149659) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:24AM (#27713067) Homepage
    After the Big Bang... comes the Big Cigarette.
  • by mah! (121197) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:28AM (#27713101) Homepage
    correct Italian spelling: "Telescopio Nazionale Galileo [tng.iac.es]" (not 'Telescopio Nationale Galileo' as written in the story blurb)
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:29AM (#27713105) Journal
    Perhaps we can then figure out roughly the size of the star that blowed up, in that it can't have been a star that takes more or less than about 600 million years to do that.

    Also, it probably was very weak in heavier elements, so it would have been a very pure collection of hydrogen. So, we're looking at a pretty "pure case" of massive star formation, fuel burning and some kind of hypernova.

    This is really interesting stuff.

    RS

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by derGoldstein (1494129)

      At the risk of exposing my ignorance, what lead you to conclude that the star was weak in heavier elements? Considering how far away it was, which reduces the chances of "contaminating events" (collisions and the like), what would have kept it from 'fusing' right up to a nickel-iron core?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rubycodez (864176)

        when that early star exploded it would have had heavier elements, iron has been detected from 900 million years after big bang.

        http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/17403 [physicsworld.com]

      • I said "probably". There is, of course, chances of contamination from previous stars. IIRC, the universe originally consisted of a massive soup of energy and matter. Hydrogen is the simplest element: 1 proton, 1 electron. In highly energised situations, you can strip the electron off, and instead of hydrogen,you just have a proton feeling lonely (Ha). So, the first element would logically be Hydrogen.

        It takes time (millions of years) for stars to form, and given the energetic state of the early universe,

        • I did read carefully. I was wondering if there was any reference in one of the articles mentioned that I missed, which literally stated "probably very weak in heavier elements", thereby making that a reference to something in the article, as opposed to your assumption. Posing a question to an assumption isn't considered rude, or "un-pedestrian", to my knowledge.

          Moreover, pedestrian or not, I still challenge your conclusion:
          Yes, the outer "shell" of the expanding universe is made up of lighter elements.
      • Simple. Because all heavy elements (where heavy means heavier than hydrogen) are created in stars.
        That early, there were simply no stars before that, so nobody could produce them.

        Of course, the star himself did produce them. But the question where my knowledge ends is: Do stars with that size burn right trough to the usual iron stage, or do they explode earlier, and if yes why?

      • by jae471 (1102461)

        Initially, the star would have been very metal*-poor (only a little lithium left over from the big bang.)

        Given that star went supernova only 630My post-big bang, it is reasonable to assume it had a minimum mass of 3-4 Msun, and a maximum of probably 10-15 Msun. Those numbers suggest that it did fuse right to nickel.

        The interesting thing (what the parent was probably refering to) is not really the final metallicity (which is merely a function of the star's mass) but the initial metalliticy, which cannot.

        *To

    • by khallow (566160)

      Perhaps we can then figure out roughly the size of the star that blowed up, in that it can't have been a star that takes more or less than about 600 million years to do that.

      I believe the current guess is that such stars are among the largest stars known.

      Also, it probably was very weak in heavier elements, so it would have been a very pure collection of hydrogen. So, we're looking at a pretty "pure case" of massive star formation, fuel burning and some kind of hypernova.

      Even the earliest stars would have helium as well. In the earliest universe, there was crudely three parts hydrogen to one part helium (with, I gather, traces of heavier elements like lithium). And massive stars make heavier elements fast. It's possible that hypernova could go off though before the star managed to build up an iron core. I don't think we understand the circumstances of either early universe star formation or the

    • Also, it probably was very weak in heavier elements, so it would have been a very pure collection of hydrogen.

      possibly, but it could have been a truly massive star. when the universe was much more dense, it would seem conceivable that much more massive stars could form than are seen now. I would imagine that a 100+ solar mass star would burn very fast and, being that massive, create heavier elements.
    • by lgw (121541)

      the star that blowed up

      Assuming English isn't your first language: the past tense of blow is blew (one of those irregular verbs we're so fond of) so that should be "star that blew up".

      If English is your first language: step away from the internet and read a book!

    • I'm not an astrophysicist, but isn't the [super]nova itself what *produces* heavy elements?

  • Everyone knows the Earth and therefore the Universe is only 6,000 years old.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:34AM (#27713147)

    This happened billions of years ago, and Slashdot is just reporting it now?

    • by jez9999 (618189) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:33PM (#27713645) Homepage Journal

      At least it's not a dupe!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by K. S. Kyosuke (729550)
        For that, you will have to wait until they announce the find of a mirror image caused by that gravitational lens over there.
      • by pmarini (989354)
        TV signal from planets orbiting that star are slower so we don't know if it's a dupe yet...
    • by ookabooka (731013)
      I was going to post it a few billion ago when I was out that ways and saw it first hand, but I figured someone already did so I didn't. I don't want to be responsible for a dupe.
    • This happened billions of years ago, and Slashdot is just reporting it now?

      Slashdot is just reporting from the frame of reference of the gamma photons, who experienced this explosion two days ago.

      • Yup, one of the funny little twists that result from relativity is something that happened 630 million years ago also happened just now from a different frame of reference, and both are entirely accurate. So from the perpective of the right frame of reference (in this case, it would involve something travelling at 99.9999999999999% of the speed of light from our frame), this is a recent event.

  • It's fitting... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Daemonax (1204296) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:39AM (#27713205)
    "It's fitting, in this 400th anniversary of the astronomical telescope, that the Telescopio Nationale Galileo (TNG) in the Canary Islands would be used to uncover the most distant object ever seen by mankind.

    It's fitting in a numerological sort of way... I'm sure that any day you'd care to pick out in the year could be linked to some date in the past that is also connected with some event in the field of astronomy, whether it be the birthday of a famous astronomer, the discovery of a moon, an extra-solar planet, the day Voyager started photographing or stopped photographing a planet...

    Sorry to be an old grump.... Perhaps it's simply because I found out a very cute girl I know thinks numerology is anything more than utter nonsense and I want better genes for my children...
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So you are almost as mystical as she is, by thinking that numerology could be hereditary...

      • by jae471 (1102461)
        I think its more the "stupid genes" that allow one to believe numerology that he's trying to avoid.
    • by Kingrames (858416)
      You sound like an Ologyologist.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by mah! (121197)
      "It's fitting in a numerological sort of way"

      It's fitting just because 400 years ago Galileo Galilei (same name as the observatory, see?), in 1609 began his astronomical observations, and as a direct result of that came in direct conflict [wikipedia.org] with the religious establishment [wikipedia.org], since he began supporting Copernicus's heliocentric theory.

      Try to explain that to the enlightened individuals who still insist nowadays that the universe is 5000-6000 years old, that dinosaur bones were placed there by some humorous d
    • It's probably a good thing that you found out that you and that cute girl had such major religious differences.

      Myself, I recognise numerology as one of the elements of the set all things that I will not be able to rationally decide with anything I now know or am likely to learn as a human being. Other elements of this set include the why-ness of Pi's irrational value; whether the mathematical expressions on which the theory of thermodynamics rests are truly convergent; whether randomness is a fiction like

  • How far... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I do wonder how far back we can actually see... Is there a time period from which all the light has already passed the Earth?

    • 1) As far as our technology permits
      A) No.

    • Indeed it would be interesting if we'd detect some light from before the Big Bang. It would either show what happened before the Big Bang or that light can travel faster than ... light speed?
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Umm, the current working scientific theory is that there was no "before" the big bang... The big bang created what we know as "timespace."

    • by jae471 (1102461)
      Generally speaking, you can see as far back as the CMB. You can get some details from the anisotropies in the CMB, which reveal information prior to the CMB, but a great deal of the pre-CMB research is theoretical, not observational.
    • Re:How far... (Score:4, Informative)

      by The_Wilschon (782534) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:16PM (#27714041) Homepage
      You can see as far back (in light) as the time when the universe was last opaque. This (approximately the same distance from us in all directions, thus forming a sphere) is called the surface of last scattering.

      At the time of and before last scattering (approx. 400,000 years after the Big Bang, if our cosmological theories are reasonably close to correct), light was constantly being absorbed and reemitted, as in the interior of a star today. If you suddenly removed all the matter from a star (obviously impossible, but bear with me here), then the photons that had last been emitted would travel off in all directions.

      The universal last scattering was a vaguely similar event, in that matter became sufficiently dispersed (due to the expansion of the universe) that light could now travel long distances without interacting with matter. Obviously this was not instantaneous, but on cosmological scales, it was pretty quick.

      Now, an object that is at a certain temperature will in general radiate a certain amount of light, distributed in a very particular way over a range of frequencies. For instance, the temperature of the Sun's photosphere (which is about as far into the Sun as you can get and still have the gases be reasonably transparent, thus, it is the Sun's surface of outermost scattering, one might say) almost determines the spectrum of light that the Sun emits, and therefore the color that we see (yellow). This is called blackbody radiation [wikipedia.org].

      So, the universe at the time of last scattering contained a gas of photons with a certain spectrum determined by the overall temperature of the universe then. When the universe became transparent, this photon gas remained, and remained at the same spectrum. It still permeates the entire universe. However, due to the expansion of the universe, the wavelength of each and every photon has increased since then, and the density of photons has decreased, leading to a photon gas that looks as if it comes from a much cooler object. In fact, now the largest number of the photons in the universe lie in the region of the spectrum designated "micro-waves", thus we refer to this leftover photon gas as the cosmic microwave background [wikipedia.org].

      The CMB was a direct prediction of Big Bang cosmological models, and not a prediction of any other cosmological models, and so its observation dealt a death blow to other models such as the steady state universe.
      • by drerwk (695572)
        I understand the last scattering due to electron reabsorbtion - or de-ionization. But I am not familiar with "The universal last scattering was a vaguely similar event, in that matter became sufficiently dispersed (due to the expansion of the universe) that light could now travel long distances without interacting with matter. Obviously this was not instantaneous, but on cosmological scales, it was pretty quick."
        Can you give me a link?
        • I didn't think that one out too carefully. The main point is that the mean free path of the photon increased dramatically and suddenly on cosmological scales. I just wrote a quick and dirty plausible reason (hence "vaguely") for this without looking up the extant research. Certainly though, that de-ionization would be caused by expansive cooling of the universe.

          As I'm not myself a cosmologist, I don't have a link for you, unfortunately. I'm just extrapolating from my knowledge of statistical and parti
    • by naam00 (1145163)

      I do wonder how far back we can actually see... Is there a time period from which all the light has already passed the Earth?

      Yes. That period is called 'just now'.

  • Far out maaaan!
  • Considering the amount of Anonymous Cowards posting in this thread, you'd think it's a 4chan invasion.

    Now cue the 4chan jokes...

  • So now we've seen the end (or the beginning?) of the first interstellar war. I wonder how much more we'll see in the coming years?
    Only 600 million years for a star system with planets to form and one or more civilisations to evolve, then discover and annihilate each other is quite a respectable feat!

  • by croto (909381) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:29PM (#27714165)
    The decoupling of matter and radiation is an extremely interesting event that happened 400,000 years after the big bang. Its nature makes it the oldest possible observable event, and interestingly enough, thanks to experiments as COBE and WMAP we have very pretty pictures [wikimedia.org] of that event.
    • Oh, that's cheating. Yes, the cosmic background radiation is a consequence of the event that occurred, but you cannot see an actual, physical "event" along the lines of an exploding star.
    • by drerwk (695572)
      Unless we can detect gravity waves from before the decopling.
    • I've seen this picture a lot of times an it fascinates me.

      One question though; why is it an elongated ellipse? Is this supposed to be a "picture" of the entire universe, taken from the vantage point of the 'scope? If so, would it not have to be a 3-d image, with the viewer inside basically a sphere, where the (internal) surface of the sphere is the picture itself?

      I'm not doubting what this picture is, I'm just confused over how the 3-d to 2-d projection is done.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by croto (909381)

        Yes, it is a picture of the entire universe when it was 400,000 years old taken today from the earth. But in the same way we take pictures with photo cameras, the object which the picture was taken of is 3D but the resulting picture itself is 2D. In the case of the CMB, we can think of the picture as follows: for each latitude and longitude on the earth, you point a camera straight up and record the CMB photons coming from that direction. Then, for each point on the surface of the earth (2D) you have a num

  • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:18PM (#27715179)

    Congrats to the scientists!

    The most distant object I've ever observed was on an astronomy trip to Costa Rica in February. I had set myself the challenge of sighting the nearest star in the night sky (Alpha Centauri C, aka Proxima Centauri), and the most distant object visible in all but the largest amateur-size telescopes, the quasar 3C273.

    I nailed them both in a single night with patience, finder charts and an 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain. 4.2 light years and 2.5 to 3 billion, depending on which reference you use. Proxima is in a cluttered Milky Way field, while 3C273 appears to form a double star with a star in the Milky Way, not far from Gamma Virginis.

    ...laura

    • Depending on the time of year, you might also have been able to see the furthest object visible to the naked eye: the Andromeda Galaxy, 2.5 MLY away.
      • Would the Andromeda galaxy be visible from Costa Rica? I thought CR was too far south of the Equator for anything in that part of the northern night sky to be visible.

      • M31 is an easy naked-eye object if you have good dark skies. If your skies are really dark you can try for M33, though it just looks like a piece of sky that isn't as dark as the rest of the sky. I've seen both from northern Canada.

        Both are theoretically visible from Costa Rica, but are pretty low in the northern sky.

        ...laura

  • by heroine (1220) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @06:08PM (#27716487) Homepage

    Too bad not one article said how distant it was. Still working on that one, but at least we know it's the "most" distant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jae471 (1102461)
      From the second link:

      As shown by follow-up observations performed with ground-based telescopes, it was a very distant event, and soon it looked like this was the farthest GRB ever observed. A team of international astronomers led by Swift Italian Team and CIBO, using the AMICI prism with the Italian Telescopio Nazionale Galileo, was able to compute its redshift at about 8.1, corresponding to a distance of more than 80 Gpc, when the universe was only slightly more than 600 million years old (Figure 2).

  • "Telescopio Nationale Galileo" should be "Telescopio NAZIONALE Galileo" instead ;-)
  • Jeez, whatever happened to peer reviews...

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