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Space Science

Record-Breaking Galaxy Found In Deep Hubble Image 196

Posted by samzenpus
from the old-neighborhood dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers using Hubble Space Telescope have found a galaxy at the very edge of the Universe: the light from this far-flung object has been traveling a whopping 13.1 billion years to get here! The galaxy appears as a non-descript dot in the infrared Hubble Ultra Deep Field taken using the Wide Field Camera 3, but a spectrum taken using a ground-based telescope confirms that we're seeing this object as it was a mere 600 million years after the Big Bang itself."
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Record-Breaking Galaxy Found In Deep Hubble Image

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  • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:22PM (#33969590) Journal
    Considering that they state that this galaxy is 13.1 billion light years away, and 600 million years after the Big Bang... I would say that from a rough calculation that the limit you're referring to is about 13.7 billion light years.
  • by theantipop (803016) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:47PM (#33969718)
    Mathematics.
  • by sirrunsalot (1575073) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:00AM (#33969796)
    Why not? The water bottle I'm holding was created only weeks ago, but I see no reason to doubt that it could take a thousand years to biodegrade.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:19AM (#33970208)

    I'm not even certain that this question makes sense. Not trolling; but if we can only know what's happening in that galaxy "600 million years ago," isn't that precisely what's happening now? The future timeline of that galaxy is not something we can know unless we have somebody go there, come back, and oh, wait: That person's info will STILL be at least 14.4 billion years behind. Or at least that's my interpretation of relativity: that what's happening somewhere else at the same time, especially on galactic scales, is not a question that makes sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:59AM (#33970394)

    If we somehow knew something about its fate, then that would mean that we got that knowledge through information transfer at a speed faster than light... The most current information we have about this object is its appearance as it was 13.1 billion years ago. Anything other than that is pure speculation based on our understanding of stellar and galaxy evolution.

  • by mfwitten (1906728) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:39AM (#33970564)
    Think of space as muffin batter, and think of the galaxies as chocolate chips in the batter; as this mixture bakes, the batter expands everywhere, and consequently the chocolate chips become farther apart from each other.

    Or, think of space as a balloon, and think of the galaxies as little ink marks on the surface of the balloon; as air is pumped into the balloon, the surface of the balloon expands, and consequently the chocolate chips become farther apart from each other.

    There is no central point from which galaxies were flung; after all, into what could they have been flung? Instead, the space between matter has expanded with time (and the greater the distance between two things, the greater the rate of expansion between them).
  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:42AM (#33970578)

    Like another person pointed out earlier, due to hubble's constant for the expansion of the universe, the rate of spacetime expansion can exceed C, given a sufficiently large starting distance.

    That is to say, the reason it took 13 billion years to reach us, is because the intervening space between it and us is growing consistently to hubble's constant; Literally "New spacetime" is being injected between it and us.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble's_law [wikipedia.org]

    Basically, it is why there is a distinction between the "Observable universe", and "The universe". We cannot see all of the universe, because parts of it are so far away that the rate of expansion exceeds the speed of light, so that the light can never reach us.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:04AM (#33970690)

    It's not meaningless, just hidden from us. When a Mars probe is supposed to land at 1:23 UT, at that time the Mars probe either landed or crashed, and 30 minutes later at 1:53 UT when its signal is supposed to reach us we know whether the probe landed or crashed at 1:23 UT. If you then travel there with a clock and can somehow measure the age of the crater, you'll see that it occurred at 1:23 UT. Stuff is happening outside of your light cone, you know.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:54AM (#33971240)

    And why isn't this galaxy backlit by the overwhelming brightness of the Big Bang itself? It would seem if you looked just a little bit further back in time everything ought to be one gigantnormous flash bulb.

    The galaxy is backlit, the "flash" is merely at microwave frequencies not visible light frequencies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_background_radiation [wikipedia.org].

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @05:11AM (#33971308)

    ... how can a vacuum, with no physical or chemical properties, go 'bang?'

    There was no vacuum yet. There was a "point" of stuff/energy we can't really describe very well that expanded *very* quickly. Referring to this expansion as an "explosion" or "bang" is just a convenient analogy.

    FWIW, the phrase "big bang" was coined by opponents of the theory. It was an attempt to mock the theory.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 21, 2010 @06:03AM (#33971546)

    Light travels from the moment of The Big Bang until now approximately 14 billion years. And the speed of light is 300.000 km/s do the math. This discovery is big because now we can see how the early universe looked like which we are a part of, amazing. If you know the life spin of our universe, lets say that our universe is in its 40s, this means we are looking at our toddler pictures. Seeing this galaxy gives us glimpse in to the far past. What is there now lives only in your imagination because from that moment on that galaxy could have collided with another galaxy or was eaten by black hole or any other scenario you can come up with is plausible. Universe is so big.

  • by v1 (525388) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @10:34AM (#33973296) Homepage Journal

    the light from this far-flung object has been traveling a whopping 13.1 billion years to get here!

    What really boggles my mind is that we can detect it at all. Considering the enormous travel time, and thus the enormous distance, and that radiant power is what, quartered every time you double the distance, I'm just amazed we get any photons at all from there. At that distance, the shell of photons it emitted 13 billion years ago have got to be pretty spread out, and we'd almost be able to count them coming in, one every few minutes at best?

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