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NASA Sees Glow of Universe's First Objects 327

Damek writes with news from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which has captured light from what may have been the first glowing objects in the universe, light generated 14 billion years ago. From the article: "'We are pushing our telescopes to the limit and are tantalizingly close to getting a clear picture of the very first collections of objects,' said Dr. Alexander Kashlinsky... 'Whatever these objects are, they are intrinsically incredibly bright and very different from anything in existence today.' Astronomers believe the objects are either the first stars — humongous stars more than 1,000 times the mass of our sun — or voracious black holes that are consuming gas and spilling out tons of energy. If the objects are stars, then the observed clusters might be the first mini-galaxies..."
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NASA Sees Glow of Universe's First Objects

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  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @06:36PM (#17306310)
    Once the have a telescope that can peer past that glow, they find the number "42" at one of the cosmos and a hitchhiker thumb at the other end.
    • by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @07:13PM (#17306806)
      For some reason I thought there would be a trendy restaurant out there
      • Anything to explain the apparent faster-than-light light in the slashdot writeup (RTFA FIRST- in reality they're looking at stuff only 13.2 billion light years away, not 14 billion- which would indicate light that was older than the universe itself at 13.7 billion years old).
        • Re:Almost there... (Score:5, Informative)

          by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @08:22PM (#17307544)
          RTFA FIRST- in reality they're looking at stuff only 13.2 billion light years away, not 14 billion- which would indicate light that was older than the universe itself at 13.7 billion years old
          The actual horizon is 53 billion light years away, not 13.7. Consider a photon emitted very early, when the universe was still small, that reaches Earth today. During the first year of that photon's life, it would crossed only one light year of space on its trip to us- the first one.

          13.7 billion years later, that first light year has expanded like a rubber sheet to have a disproportionate contribution to the 53 billion, compared to light years that the photon covered later on, just before reaching us. You can't just multiply the total elapsed time by c. You have to actually do an integral over time for the entire trip to get the 53 billion, where the integrand is the product of c by the "stretch factor" S(t) at that point on the trip: the factor by which the space that a photon was flying through at time t has expanded by now (as considered relative to a frame where the Earth is at rest). I don't know what this function would be, but I do know it's a function of time (or more specifically, time since the Big Bang in a frame at rest with respect to the microwave background radiation).

          If S(t) were fixed at 1.0, you'd expect an integral of 13.7 billion light years. But it isn't fixed at 1.0; it is always greater than that and only approaches 1.0 at the end since light years at the end of the trip haven't had much time to expand. At the start of the trip S(t) could have been very high, depending on the age of the universe at the time.
          • See, that makes no sense to me at all. For space to strech at such a high velocity with a horizon 53 billion light years away, you'd have to have the big bang expanding FASTER THAN LIGHT. That's a heck of a lot of information coming from apparently nowhere.

            OK, I misspoke. I can believe that is indeed the case- but I can't see any natural explaination for it to be the case.
            • Re:Almost there... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by snarkth ( 1002832 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @09:15PM (#17308000)

                The expansion of space itself is not constrained by the speed of light, only the matter/energy within it.

                Read Inflation for Beginners [] which is an excellent, relatively (argh) non-technical treatment of the subject.

                Relevant quote: "One of the peculiarities of inflation is that it seems to take place faster than the speed of light. Even light takes 30 billionths of a second (3 x 10(exp-10) sec) to cross a single centimetre, and yet inflation expands the Universe from a size much smaller than a proton to 10 cm across in only 15 x 10(exp-33) sec. This is possible because it is spacetime itself that is expanding, carrying matter along for the ride; nothing is moving through spacetime faster than light, either during inflation or ever since. Indeed, it is just because the expansion takes place so quickly that matter has no time to move while it is going on and the process "freezes in" the original uniformity of the primordial quantum bubble that became our Universe."

                I don't know what you mean by "information coming from apparently nowhere."

            • Re:Almost there... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @09:50PM (#17308250)
              See, that makes no sense to me at all. For space to strech at such a high velocity with a horizon 53 billion light years away, you'd have to have the big bang expanding FASTER THAN LIGHT.
              The speed of light is a local speed limit for your velocity relative to any objects that you're passing by right now. Not your nonlocal velocity relative to things that are far away. All the rubbery space in between could be doing anything and making a contribution as it expands everywhere. A galaxy can be at rest relative to the Big Bang (i.e. relative to the microwave background) just like we are on Earth (we're actually moving 380 km/s relative to it but never mind). If it's far enough away, there will be enough inflation to give a recession velocity greater than the speed of light, no matter how slow the galaxy is "actually" going. Recession velocity is affected by both the local velocity of the source and nonlocal effects from the inflation of space along the way, so it's nonlocal.

              If the universe is expanding at all, then there will have to be galaxies far enough away to be receding at greater than the speed of light. But there is still no local motion greater than c. Superluminal motion that is nonlocal can't be used to send superluminal messages, and space that didn't exist at the time you passed its current location shouldn't count towards your "speed" anyway.
          • by iggy_mon ( 737886 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @08:44PM (#17307736) Homepage
            i won't lie to you...

            i understood each and every word you said... if i read them separately
            when i read them together... WHOOOSH! what the #$^*(^2)?!

            btw, i love that there are people who know more about certain topics than me, it makes life interesting.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Follow the direction of the hitchhiker thumb. If a bunch of Klingons start attacking you, you took the wrong exit.
    • Soon, you'll be able to just fucking google for it [] :
      Keywords : God's last message to creation []
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ozbird ( 127571 )
      Once they resolve the glow, they'll find it's a message written in fire in letters thirty feet high that reads:
      "We apologise for the inconvenience."
  • Please explain (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gabrill ( 556503 )
    If it took 14 billion years for the light to reach us, and the universe is 14 billion years old, does that mean that we are on the very edge of the expanding universe? Does that mean that we should be able to "see" the outside edge of it?
    • by miyako ( 632510 )
      The problem is, you are thinking of the universe as expanding from a center point out, when as I understand it, every point is expanding away uniformly from every other point.
      At least, that's the way my non-physicist brain understands it.
      • Re:Please explain (Score:5, Informative)

        by Gospodin ( 547743 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @06:49PM (#17306470)

        A good way to think of it is to imagine us as living on the skin of a balloon as it is being blown up. You are moving away from every other point uniformly, but you aren't near the "edge".

        In more physics-friendly language, there are only two possibilities - either the universe is open or it's closed. If it's open, then it's infinite in all directions and there is no edge (we don't think this is the case, but it's still technically possible). If it's closed, then there simply is no edge because as you travel in any direction you curve around to head back where you came from.

        It might also help to realize that while the visible universe may be "only" 14 billion light years or so in radius, the longest dimension of a closed universe could be several times this number due to inflationary expansion. So we may not be seeing everything that's actually out there.

        • I thought that the state of the art is that the universe is very nearly flat- that it's only when you get next to stars and galaxies that you start to notice curvature. But that on the scale of the large-scale structure of the universe, that it's flat. This would indicate that space extends infinitely in all directions.
          • Nah, that's just propaganda from the flat universalists!

            Slashdot standards indicate that you can't have a thought that takes less than 20 seconds to type- so I added this sentence.
          • space extends infinitely in all directions.

            Tell that to the dragons and the space demons that live on the edge of the universe.
          • State of the Art (Score:5, Informative)

            by jd ( 1658 ) < minus city> on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @08:22PM (#17307550) Homepage Journal
            The state of the art is that the Universe is a shape. That's about as much agreement as we're likely to see for some time. Current theories range from soccer-ball shape (which would explain the extreme uniformity of the microwave background radiation without needing Inflation Theory) to a strange 12-dimensional ultra-sausage (3 dimensions are circular, time is flatish, the other 8 are curled up to almost zero size - this gives us String Theory, one of the better bets for a Grand Unified Theory but difficult to prove and in definite violation of the Keep It Simple philosophy) to a perfectly normal sphere that expands indefinitely (currently the best explanation for the calculated value for the Hubble Constant) to a dimple that will expand into a flat plane (which is the best explanation for why none of the constants seem to be, well, constant).

            The current belief is that more than one of the theories is likely to be wrong, although it is entirely possible that they are all correct depending on the observer and/or universe. (In the Many Worlds theory, there is one instance of the Universe for every possible permutation of valid events that could ever occur. If this theory is correct and the shape of the Universe is dictated by events, then the shape of the Universe is determined by which branch you happen to be on at the time you do the observation. If branches can interact, this may vary between observations.)

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by LionKimbro ( 200000 )
              I'm not confident that the shape is necessarily bound, like you're indicating. The Wikipedia article, [] for instance, gives several alternatives, but doesn't say that scientists are pointing at one or the other.

              I have seen articles presenting arguments for the different sorts of shapes that you are presenting, but I haven't seen anything saying, "But we know for sure, it's not infinite in all directions." To the contrary, I have seen many reputable sites (such as Hubble research sites, NASA sites, and so on
          • No.

            Picture a balloon with dimples in it near stars.
        • we don't think this is the case

          We who? I hope you're not speaking for everyone.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          An article that came up a couple of days ago, suggested that the universe might be shaped like a dodecahedron [], where each face is "joined" to it's rotated opposite face.

          I found this hard to visualise until I realised that dodecahedrons tessellate perfectly in 3D space. So just picture a bunch of glass dodecahedrons stacked together with invisible seams, stretching to infinity, except there's only really 1 of them, and the rest are just reflections.

          *If* the universe is closed like this, it *could* be a lo

    • Re:Please explain (Score:5, Informative)

      by LionKimbro ( 200000 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @06:53PM (#17306520) Homepage
      Ah; Excellent question.

      If you look at the "known universe," it appears that we are in the exact middle, dead center, of the known universe.

      When we see the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, [] we are seeing "the edge" of the visible universe, that we can see.

      As you look further and further away from where we are, you see deeper and deeper into the past, until you see back as far as we can, where we see only the cosmic microwave background radiation, uniformly, like a sphere, in all directions.

      Most astrophysicists doubt that we are at the exact middle.

      The reason we can't see things beyond the visible universe, [] is simply because light hasn't existed long enough to get to us, from things that exist beyond the edge of our light cone of vision.

      Right? If light has only existed for, say, 14.7 billion light years, then you're not going to be seeing something that's 20 billion light years away. Or 100 billion light years away.

      It makes sense that, at the very edge of our vision, we see the genesis of the universe, in all directions.

      Astrophysicists today do not know how large the universe is, and it may well be infinite, in all directions. Astrophysicists take this idea very seriously, as far as I understand. That said, they also take seriously the idea that it is smaller than the observable universe, and just has a wrap-around effect.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by rudeboy1 ( 516023 )
        OK. Been meaning to have this conversation with someone in the know, but I'll have to make do with slashdotters (I keed, I keed!)
        I understand what you are saying, mostly. But, define this concept of infinite space. To me, anything that exists 3 dimensionally must have physical measurements, and thusly, a point in which it ceases to geographically exist. Saying the universie is infinite seems (respectfully, I'm not trying to troll here) like trying to finish that science paper early so you
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          Well, I just walked out of my statistical thermodynamics final and unfortunately, I'm not sure that I can help you out any. I won't claim to be an expert in the field, but the general consensus seems to be that the universe as a system should follow the laws of thermodynamics. That being said, I'm not sure how you handle an real infinite system in regards to any of the thermodynamics laws. I mean, sure I pull spheres from infinity all the time, but really it's just a convenient cheat for us lazy physicists.
        • by terrymr ( 316118 )
          It's infinite in size. If it gets bigger it's still infinite in size.

          Just don't think about the fact that if it got bigger it must have been smaller before that.

          Makes your head hurt doesn't it ?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by lawpoop ( 604919 )
          This might help you understand what people generally mean. ( I might be totally wrong here, so anyone more knowledgeable feel free to correct me. )

          You talk about a thing that exists 3-dimensionally needing to be measured. That's fine for a thing, but space is not a thing. Space sort of *is* the measure of things. If you imagine an x-y-z axis, space *is* that axis. And in the case of infinite space, those axes go on forever. Space is not a thing; it's the, uh, space in which things exist. It's just the dist
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LionKimbro ( 200000 )
          Keep in mind that my understanding is that of a lay person keeping track of things by wikipedia, and occasional conversation with live scientist. But here's what I understand, so far.

          Space is expanding, but it's expanding in the sense that the distance between galaxies is growing larger. Not that it's expanding out "into" something, or anything like that.

          Imagine an infinite universe, existing in all directions, filled with galaxies.

          Now, take the same space, but multiplying all (x,y,z) coordinates by, say,
      • Re:Please explain (Score:4, Informative)

        by Jazzer_Techie ( 800432 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @07:24PM (#17306924)
        Right? If light has only existed for, say, 14.7 billion light years, then you're not going to be seeing something that's 20 billion light years away. Or 100 billion light years away.
        You're pretty much right, up to the fact that the universe is not static. Since space itself has been expanding (at varying rates throughout the history of the universe), talking about distance is not as straightforward as it may seem. Cosmologists use many different measures of distance [], each telling you something about the object. The "lookback time" is how long the light has been traveling when it gets to you. But during the transit time, the object has moved away from you as the space between expanded, so the object is not really $lookback_time number of light-years away.
      • If you look at the "known universe," it appears that we are in the exact middle, dead center, of the known universe.

        Which is, in a closed universe model, simply because we are in the exact center of the universe, in that there is as much universe on any "side" of us as on the exact opposite "side"—not, it should be noted, that we are in any way special in that, the same thing holds at every point in the universe; for a very simple, one-dimensional analog, consider the space defined by the set of point

    • by jfengel ( 409917 )
      Actually, it means we're in the exact center of it. If the universe is 14 billion years old, then there's a ring of 14-billion-year-old objects around us.

      Well, we're not really in the center. The classic two-dimensional analogy is the surface of a balloon. As the balloon expands, everything moves away from everything else. No matter where you are, everything appears to be moving away. Every point gets to think of itself as the "center".

      So you have the idea that if we look in one direction and see somethin
    • Think of an inflatable rubber ball, think of its outer surface. It is of finite area, yet it has no boundaries. As it expands, every point on the surface moves away from every other point. Imagine a 2-dimensional creature living on the surface. Its universe is the surface of the ball, the light that it sees by travels along the curved surface of the ball. It can not see beyond its universe, just as we can not see beyond our 3-dimensional universe.

      Now add a dimension to that scenario. We live in a 3-dimensio
    • by terrymr ( 316118 )
      The part that bothers me is if the light took 14 billions years to get here at the speed of light, then how did we get here first ?
    • Draw a bunch of small dots on a sheet of paper; take it to xerox; set it to magnify by 120% and 140% or something; xerox the dotted paper with the zooming settings to transparencies.

      Now pick a dot on the original paper. Place the transparencies on the top of the same dot in the same orientation. You see all the other dots (except the one you picked) moving away from the selected dot.

      Now do the same with a different dot. What do you see?

      You see the same effect. Choose another, and another. They are all the s
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @06:37PM (#17306330) Homepage Journal
    Focusing on glowing objects...

    "Ahhhh, I can see what it says!"

    "What is it?"

    "Its a sign of some kind!"

    "A sign?, what does it say?"

    "Look out behind you!"
  • Since when is a star of 1000 times the mass of the Sun a humungous star? The Sun is a pretty small star compared to others...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Google video has a vivid short movie [] relating the size of planets to the larger stars we know about.

      "W CEPHEI" wins this video at 288194 times the size of the earth!
      • Quoth the 'pedia []:
        One of the most massive stars known is Eta Carinae, with 100 - 150 times as much mass as the Sun;
        • Eta Carinae is the only unquestionably massive star with the mass of 100+ solar masses. It is also suspeted that it nears a theoretical upper limit for the mass of a star to form, as its own radiation becomes so critically strong that it blows apart its own stellar atmosphere and shed a tremendous amount of material into interstellar space (eta Carinae is this near critical phase). In other words, the radiation pressure of a massive star eventually overcome gravitational force, hence leading to a very unsta
      • by Ucklak ( 755284 )
        Well if you really want to feel insignificant, view this little ditty on size: icsu/powersof10/ []
    • Since when is a star of 1000 times the mass of the Sun a humungous star? The Sun is a pretty small star compared to others...

      *holds back urge to make a "Your mom"-joke* ;)
    • by neurostar ( 578917 ) <neurostar @ p r i v o n .com> on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @06:49PM (#17306472)

      The Sun is a pretty small star compared to others...

      Right, but the 1000 times the mass would be a huge star. The most massive stars known today are on the order of 100 times the mass of our sun. So these might be stars that are ~10x larger than the largest currently observed stars.

    • It is true that there are stars that are far more massive and brighter than the our sun.

      However, while not "special" in any way, Sol is much larger than average, because the vast majority of stars are really small, dim red dwarfs.

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
        dim red dwarfs.

              I'm a mentally retarded native american vertically challenged person, you insensitive clod!
  • by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @06:38PM (#17306344) Homepage Journal
    ... 'cause 14 billion years is about as old as news can get. Literally.

    Thank you, I'll be here all week, enjoy the sushi!
    • As no comedian would ever recommend the sushi. Seriously, club kitchens are about the height of sketchy.

      Unless you're some crappy open miccer at Japone in DC. . . then I could see it.

      Failing to find a correlation between sushi and comedy clubs, I could have put together you're not a comic because the joke sucked. Too obvious.

      • How exactly do they make vinegar? From sour grapes?
        • The post was unmodded when I started the reply.

          Sour grapes probably doesn't apply, however, since I've walked the comedy road and found it wanting. That said, I'll be onstage tonight to support a friend's open mic with my tired old material and try to suppress the bile that fills my throat when I hear yet another poorly executed hack-ass premise from a newbie.

          But hey, maybe it does apply, as I'm a bitter mofo who's not making millions of dollars telling jokes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @06:42PM (#17306386)
    by some more powerful equipment. From New Scientist Space: "Because Hubble's mirror is larger than Spitzer's, it turned up dwarf galaxies too faint for Spitzer to resolve. "Once we remove pixels in the Spitzer images corresponding to the locations of these galaxies, the background infrared light level mostly disappears," Cooray told New Scientist. 'We think, therefore, the infrared light seen in Spitzer images is mostly due to the faint infrared glow from these dwarf galaxies.'" The full article []
    • by pln2bz ( 449850 ) * on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @08:03PM (#17307368)
      This story is very typical of space stories these days. You get some speculation from some scientists about what they expect that they should be seeing, tenuously based upon some weak observational data. A public release is put together and the news story gains steam because it invokes some concept that tickles the imagination of the public (gigantic black holes and stars, for instance). Then, when better observations come in and suggest that maybe we shouldn't be so sure of our prior speculation, there is little effort to correct the record.

      It was interesting to observe that this (probable) garbage made it onto Slashdot, whereas the Stardust mission results (with actual data) did not. It seems that the space news cycle is caught in a competition to make the most outlandish claim possible in order to get the attention of the public these days. Investigating anomalies within the current paradigms has taken a backseat to wild speculation. There's little interest anymore in questioning the early assumptions that got us to this point in the first place:

      Our conviction in stellar birth by way of gravitational collapse survives observations of R Corona Australis, which is generating enigmatic x-rays and 100 million degree F temperatures at a very early stage of the supposed collapse ( 304starbirth.htm []).

      Our conviction in our theories about supernovae survived observations of Supernova 1987A (see pictures at 24solar3.htm []), which defied traditional theories about supernovae in nearly every single respect. Even though plasma physics tells us that we can understand the structure we see in those images down to the number of beads in the smaller ring, we continue to ignore those explanations because they involve electricity in space.

      Our conviction in the theory of black holes was not dampened at all by the associated problems with generating the observed quasar jet 3C273 ( 4td []), which extends 100,000 light years -- even though the lifetime of the X-ray producing particles is only about 100 years.

      And then there's the Stardust mission -- which when combined with the results of the Deep Impact mission indicate quite clearly that our early assumptions about comets were quite wrong. Scientists are now apparently trying to invent scenarios for how it could be that comets would contain exotic meteorite particles as well as particles that have clearly been formed under intense heat. Perhaps they should consider that these initial speculations were wrong in the first place. I doubt we'll see any such sanity though. More likely, we'll see additional new speculations to support the earlier unsupported speculations.

      There increasingly seems to be far less glory these days in doing the homework that we'll be graded on and far more interest in fantasizing about multi-dimensional space and gigantic black holes.
      • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
        You get some speculation from some scientists about what they expect that they should be seeing, tenuously based upon some weak observational data.

              All of astronomy is based on a handful of photons!
      • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @08:55PM (#17307834)

        I've looked over the EM/plasma theories before. The cosmological scale theories might have a grain of truth, but the Solar System scale theories (eg, that comets are highly charged objects) contradict both what we see and our models of electromagnitism. Comets formed from existing material. It's quite possible that pre-solar system collisions and supernova created the features seen in the above comet material. But it's not plausible to explain this with an exotic theory that has stable highly charged objects (immersed in the solar wind which would drain away the charge) and huge, unobserved voltage potentials (the Earth and Moon vary enough in their orbits that we should experience some of this phenomena, but we don't).

        And then there's the Stardust mission -- which when combined with the results of the Deep Impact mission indicate quite clearly that our early assumptions about comets were quite wrong. Scientists are now apparently trying to invent scenarios for how it could be that comets would contain exotic meteorite particles as well as particles that have clearly been formed under intense heat. Perhaps they should consider that these initial speculations were wrong in the first place. I doubt we'll see any such sanity though. More likely, we'll see additional new speculations to support the earlier unsupported speculations.

        No, this is relatively modest disagreement with the models of comets and their origins.

        We have already observed objects with enormous mass packed in a very small location. Maybe our "black hole" models of what happens when that much mass is packed into one place is inaccurate, but these objects do exist. And multi-dimensional models are one approach for understanding models involving forces other than gravity. For example, the first Kaluza-Klein model was a five dimensional model which was able to explain general relativity and the electromagnetic force. However, in the process it introduced a scalar field which we've never seen experimentally. So that likely indicates that the model is incorrect, but that's the only significant cost of the model. It otherwise models gravity and EM pretty well.
  • Speed of light? (Score:2, Interesting)

    I don't understand how even if we are on opposite sides of this expanding balloon (or whatever other expansion analogy you want to pick) how this can exceed the speed of light. I can't see another way for light from the birth of our universe to reach us only now.

    *thinks about it more*

    Nope, doesn't make sense to me.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mgrivich ( 1015787 )
      Space-time itself can expand faster than the speed of light, and did so in the early universe. That is, even though point A and point B used to be very close, and light was going from point A to point B, point A and B keep getting father apart, so the light has further and further to go.

      You may say, "But I thought nothing can go faster than the speed of light." However, you'd be wrong. General relativity allows for this effect.

      Unfortunately, using this to create a faster than light drive is still not con
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @07:10PM (#17306770)
    Obviously. If you go back far enough in time, of course you'll see the glow from when the dimmer switch is just being turned up. I can't believe we waste perfectly good Science Money on wacky alternative theories, when the EUDS explains this perfectly.
  • by edwardpickman ( 965122 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @07:11PM (#17306774)
  • and we're stuck in this big black tunnel...
  • Get the papers here (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ambitwistor ( 1041236 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @07:22PM (#17306904)
    The journal articles that go along with the story:

    New Measurements of Cosmic Infrared Background Fluctuations from Early Epochs []
    On the Nature of the Sources of the Cosmic Infrared Background []

    (These were posted in the article, but only under a tiny "More info" link at the bottom that is easy to overlook.)
  • by StupendousMan ( 69768 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @07:28PM (#17306974) Homepage
    You can read the technical papers on which this press release is based: [] []

    The basic idea is that the astronomers used an infrared
    space telescope to take very deep images. They then tried
    to remove all the obvious sources of light, and examined
    the resulting "blank" images very carefully. They claim that
    there are very faint sources of infrared radiation which
    remain, and that the spatial correlation of these sources
    is roughly what one would expect if they were young galaxies
    in the very early universe.

    There are limited opportunities for other astronomers
    to examine the same regions with other telescopes and
    at other wavelengths; that could provide evidence that
    might support the claim, or weaken it (if, for example,
    radio telescopes detect some of these sources and
    show that they are ordinary galaxies in the relatively
    nearby universe, that would weaken the claim in
    the press release).

    We can also just wait a decade or so for JWST, a more
    powerful infrared space telescope, to observe the same

  • The article says the light is 13 billion years old and the estimated age of the uinverse is 13.7 billion years. 14 billion years is not correct.
  • Let's say I can see the light from 2 stars. You tell me that one star is 1000 light years away and the other is 5000 light years away. Given that both are visible from my observation point, how were you able to tell me the distance (in light years) that the light traveled to get here?

    I know the speed of light is a constant. I just don't know how you can observe one light source and know how long it took the light to get here unless you already know the distance by some other means.
    • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @08:15PM (#17307480)
      It's a very long series of conjectures basically. You measure the redshifts from known close star and "fixed" stars (star that don't appear to move). You come up with a series of ratios, you interpolate the distance based on redshift.

      I am simplifying vastly here but you get the gist. It's about measuring close things and then using what you know about them to measure far things.
      • 1000 or 5000 light years is too close for using "redshift" to measure its motion of a star. Its own internal motion within a Galaxy would gravely affect the measurements.

        For anything close (a few hundred light years), a triangulation should be adequate. But any farther distance out (but within our own galaxy), it actually becomes hard to measure its accurate distance. Likely you could use the spectral distribution of the star to determine what kind of star it is and figure out its distance based on its brig
  • A little help here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alex_guy_CA ( 748887 ) <> on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @08:40PM (#17307704) Homepage
    I've never understood this. If light from the beginning of the universe started traveling at the speed of light 14 billion years ago, how can we be out ahead of it to see it? At what point did the particles that became us move out from the beginning of the universe faster than light, so we can now turn back to the direction from which we came and see what should be very far ahead of us. No this is not a troll. It's a real question. Thanks in advance.
    • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @09:14PM (#17307990) Homepage Journal
      Consider tracing a path over the surface of a balloon with a pen as you're inflating it. You will move the pen a certain distance depending on whatever speed you draw with, but the path you've drawn will be longer than that distance. If you start out with two pens, and move them slow enough relative to the expansion of the balloon, it will take a long time before they meet (or they may never meet), even though they'll each traverse the original distance between eachother in a short amount of time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mgrivich ( 1015787 )
      If the universe is flat or open like a bedsheet, then it is infinite in extent, and has always been infinite in extent, or at least larger than we can see. As time passes, we have to look further away (or further back in time) to see the beginning. If the universe is closed like a balloon, then we still have to look further and further away, but we may end up looking back at our own position, just further back in time. A good, semi-technical discussion of the big bang can be found at http://www.talkorigi []
  • Warning (Score:2, Funny)

    by Cctoide ( 923843 )
    Do not stare into universe with remaining eye.

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.