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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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  • Does it still exist? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:10PM (#33969536)
    So does it still exist? Considering how far the light is traveling to get here, is there any way to determine if the galaxy is even still there? Then again I don't imagine they just disappear but I dunno it could be suffering heat death and all the stars burning out.
    • by Brad1138 (590148) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:18PM (#33969568)
      No, there is no way to know for sure if it still exists, but I think most don't "live" that long and it has probably faded out or "evolved" into something different.
    • by Lanteran (1883836) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:18PM (#33969570) Homepage Journal
      I think there's a maximum length after which a galaxy cannot exist; diminishing element returns from supernovae. Unfortunately I'm not sure how long it is, but it's much longer than 13 billion years; individual red dwarves can last for hundreds of billions of years. As for merger with other galaxies or destruction by a supermassive black hole though, its anyone's guess.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by atfrase (879806)

        I think there's a maximum length after which a galaxy cannot exist; diminishing element returns from supernovae. Unfortunately I'm not sure how long it is, but it's much longer than 13 billion years; individual red dwarves can last for hundreds of billions of years. As for merger with other galaxies or destruction by a supermassive black hole though, its anyone's guess.

        If the universe is under 15 billions years old, how do we know red dwarves can last 100 billion years?

      • Considering the article estimates the bing bang to have happend around 13.7 billion years ago, I don't see how red dwarves can exist for over 100 billion years.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by sirrunsalot (1575073)
          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 nacturation (646836) * <nacturation.gmail@com> on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:50AM (#33970054) Journal

          Considering the article estimates the bing bang to have happend around 13.7 billion years ago, I don't see how red dwarves can exist for over 100 billion years.

          Observe a red dwarf over a period of years and estimate its current mass as well as its rate of mass depletion. Then do the math and calculate the amount of time it will take until its mass is such that it is no longer a red dwarf. Obviously someone has done this and come up with an estimated longevity of more than 100 billion years.

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            Observe a red dwarf over a period of years and estimate its current mass as well as its rate of mass depletion. Then do the math and calculate the amount of time it will take until its mass is such that it is no longer a red dwarf. Obviously someone has done this and come up with an estimated longevity of more than 100 billion years.

            You can't argue with logic like that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tpstigers (1075021)
      It's still there, or at least it was when I was there last month. The pizza's not nearly as good as it used to be, though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kilrah_il (1692978)

        I guess you were eating at "The Restaurant at the Start of the Universe". I like their band.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by fractoid (1076465)
          That's the Big Bang Burger Bar to you.
          • To you it may be but to me, a listener of the original radio series and reader of the (the correct, unbastardised) UK versions of the book it is known as the Big Bang Burger Chef.

            • by fractoid (1076465)
              We should come to some arrangement whereby I tell him to keep off my lawn while you tell me to keep off your lawn.
      • by tehcyder (746570)
        I don't know what it is, but there's something slightly fishy about your post.
    • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:42PM (#33969688)

      according to relativity, if we see it it exists.

    • Since every direction we look we see the same type of cosmology at the edge of visible space, 1)we are no closer than 13~bly from the edge of the universe, and 2)What is seen here has already followed the same pattern of galaxy life cycle that can be observed from looking from farthest away to closest in.

      So, It still exists as a distinct galaxy or it has merged with another galaxy.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaxy_formation_and_evolution [wikipedia.org]

      PS NO, it's not still in the location we observe it today, it has

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by hcs_$reboot (1536101)
      Yes it does. Someone should really go up there and clean that piece of dust sticked to the mirror.
    • by yariv (1107831) <yariv.yaari @ g m a i l . c om> on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:55PM (#33969770)
      This question is not well phrased. There is no universal "now" in relativity. You probably mean something like "in our reference frame does this galaxy exist somewhere now", and then the answer is that we can't tell. If you'll choose some other reference frame, you'll get different points to correspond to our "now". So abandon the notion of "still exist", it exists "now" in the most meaningful way, the point we see when we look there...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Here is an interesting twist for you.

      What if that blob of a gallaxy is is really the Milkyway when it was very young and the light we are seeing has in fact traveled around the curve of the Universe so we can see it now the way it was then.

      We only have to wait 13.1 billion years to see if it evolves into what we see locally now.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by symbolset (646467) *

        Sorry, but it took a really long time to compose my response to the parent. Please refer below.

        Also: if the curvature of space is recursive and uniform in all directions, and we can see ourselves from here, then the microwave background pattern of the Universe is not an echo from the Big Bang. That signal must then be ourselves at whatever distance the curvature loops back, and the pattern is doppled by the masses along the loop which gives us a way to map all that is.

        • That occurred to me as well after I hit submit.

          The three degree background might be the energy emitted by all the stars, etc., and attenuated (inverse square) by the distance and overlaped with itself each time it travels back to its origin. That would explain the uniformity of it.

          Of course this would mean we live in a bounded Universe that was only(!)13.1 billion light years wide.

          Just as interesting is to consider that from the view point of that galaxy now a sentient would see the Milkyway looking the
      • by dintech (998802)

        What if that blob of a gallaxy is is really the Milkyway when it was very young and the light we are seeing has in fact traveled around the curve of the Universe so we can see it now the way it was then.

        Whoa. As Keanu Reaves would say.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 galact

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by symbolset (646467)

      The Universe is really good about recycling stuff. From what we know of the preservation of mass/energy and the evolution of galaxies and stars, the stuff that galaxy was made of was is still there mostly - except for tiny fraction of mass that's been converted to energy - a small fraction of which is the light that we see. The stars have gone Nova or Supernova, faded to red giants, or collided with other stars to be reignited and reborn as a new class of star while throwing off much mass that cools to be

    • Give me 13 billion years, I'll let you know...
    • "but I dunno it could be suffering heat death and all the stars burning out."

      Unlikely, the oldest known star in the milky way is a 13.2 billion year old red giant called HE 1523-0901.
    • by norpan (50740)

      Actually, the way we see it is the way it is "now", from our point of view. Remember that time is relative.

      What this means is that there is no concept of "now" at the location of that galaxy that corresponds to our "now", apart from the point we are actually seeing.

      There is no objective observer that can observe both points "at the same time", and in fact no such correspondance exists.

      To answer your question: yes it does still exist, at least from our point of view of time.

  • Record breaking (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DavMz (1652411) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:32PM (#33969640)

    I am not sure it is a record-breaking galaxy, but Hubble is definitely a record-breaking telescope!

  • 13.1 billion light years? That is like, totally far out, Dude.
  • So they're trying to tell me that within 600 million years of the big bang, that galaxy managed to get 13 billion light years away from where our galaxy now lies? Even if we and it are at opposite ends of the universe, it would have to have gotten 6.5 billion light years from the center of the universe in those 600 million years, yes? It sounds like it must have been going a bit over the speed limit, don't you think? It got that far away, and still had time to form into a galaxy? Why is my slide rule meltin

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Woek (161635)

      Good question! I think it has something to do with the stretching of space-time. The galaxy was there 600 million years after the big bang, 13 billion light years from where we were going to be, but space-time (the universe) was smaller. In a way, the light-year was smaller than it is now, but that galaxy was still moving away from our location at nearly light speed.
      What is interesting to me is that a galaxy could be formed at all in 600 million years!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mfwitten (1906728)
      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
    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        It seems this new galaxy is right on the border of what part of the universe will ever be observable.
        One parsec is 3.262 light years
        13.1 billion light years = 3980 Mpc
        Apparently, Hubbles constant places the rate of expansion at 77 (km/s) / Mpc:
        77 (km/s) / Mpc * 3980 Mpc = 306460 km/s

        So, this galaxy is moving away from us roughly at the speed of light. I guess that means time will appear to stand still when we observe that galaxy?
  • If it emitted this light 13 billion years ago then at that point it was the edge of the universe
    We know that the universe has been expanding since it started, so we're not looking at the edge right now. We're looking at what used to be the edge.

    What boggles my mind however, If at a mere 600 million years after the big bang the universe already expanded to that size. How big and vast must it be by now? Truly mindblowing. Almost literally when I try to imagine.

  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Neil Boekend (1854906)
      In a way it is. Everything is. The cosmic background radiation simply has so much redshift it's shifted to microwave (redshift of over 1000). WMAP [nasa.gov] has made a picture.
      Note that this glow isn't from the Big Bang itself. The universe was so hot (over a billion K) it wasn't transparent yet. There were no protons and neutrons, only a superheated quark soup. The signal WMAP captured was from about 400.000.000 years later: when the universe expanded and cooled enough to get transparent.
    • by qmaqdk (522323)

      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.

      That gigantnormous flash bulb is on. Right now. It's called cosmic microwave background radiation [wikipedia.org]. Only we can't see it with the naked eye because of the expansion of the universe.

    • 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].

  • The Earth is 6500 years old, or approximately 12000 metric years. The heavens were created at the same time, so we can only assume that the universe itself is 6500 years old, as well.

    So if this galaxy was created 600 million years after the creation of the universe, then it exists 599,993,500 years in the future. Adjust for inflation and it's approximately 13.1 billion years in the future. We could be seeing our future selves.

    But Armageddon is going to happen in 2012, right? Is God playing tricks on us

  • by master_p (608214) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:51AM (#33971232)

    So can a galaxy be created in 600 million years?

    • Considering that they have observed a galaxy that appears to be 600 million years old I would say the answer is yes.

      Theorists could spend 10 years working out that by best estimates 700 million years is the earliest, but it only takes (repeated) observation to prove them wrong.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mdsolar (1045926)
      Yes. The fluctuations in density seen in the cosmic microwave background are large enough that some can collapse under gravity to galaxy massed globs within a few hundred million years. What has been more of a mystery is how stars can form since gas needs to cool to condense enough to form stars and big bang gas is very clean and has a hard time cooling radiatively. One might think that only very massive stars might form but then this would never dirty up the gas since they would soon collapse to back ho
  • by XARG (188455) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @05:32AM (#33971406)

    I am surprised to see so many comments without even one mentioning the difference between the AGE of the Universe (13.7 billion l.y. ) and the SIZE of the observable universe (radius 47 billion l.y.).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe [wikipedia.org]

    From the Wiki Article:
      The age of the Universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years. While it is commonly understood that nothing travels faster than light, it is a common misconception that the radius of the observable universe must therefore amount to only 13.7 billion light-years. This reasoning makes sense only if the Universe is the flat spacetime of special relativity; in the real Universe, spacetime is highly curved on cosmological scales, which means that 3-space (which is roughly flat) is expanding, as evidenced by Hubble's law. Distances obtained as the speed of light multiplied by a cosmological time interval have no direct physical significance.[11]

    So, the light from this Galaxy actually traveled more than 13.7 billion years (I don't know how to make the conversion but probably around 45 billion ?)

    XARG.

  • Actually, what you mean is the edge of the observable universe. If any of the inflationary models are correct there may be way, way more universe out there beyond this little blob of light, they're just cut off from observation here because the light from them hasn't had time to reach us since the inflationary phase ended. If, as is probably the case, we're in another phase of accelerating inflation, we'll never see beyond this horizon because the space between here and there is expanding faster than the
  • 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?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aminorex (141494)

      hubble has a 2.4 m2 reflector. estimate the galaxy at 4x10E37 watts, with 2.5e18 photons per watt, and you get about 1200 photons per second. there are a LOT of stars in a galaxy.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      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.

      It doesnt take all that many doublings to reach the end of the universe.

      The difference between 8 light minutes (distance to the sun) and 12.1 billion light years only is 49.56 doublings.

  • by FauxPasIII (75900) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @11:45AM (#33974328)

    At warp 9 (STNG scale) it would take round about 8.64 million years to get there.

  • So, I can create a galaxy in less than 600 million years. If I do this, then nobody better complain when I become its Galatic Overloard!

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