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Cosmic distance record 'broken' - Comments

DELETED_ACCOUNT_1ST_AMENDEMENT_TRUMPS_ALL's Avatar Comment 1 by DELETED_ACCOUNT_1ST_AMENDEMENT_TRUMPS_ALL

It took the "light" from this event 13.14 billion years to reach us. 13.14 billion light-years away. Unless I'm making silly math errors (like I often impatiently did in college), that's (9.4605284 × 10^15) x (13.14 x 10^9) meters away, or 1.24311343 × 10^26 meters, or 1.24311343 × 10^23 kilometers, or 7.72434874 × 10^22 miles away.

77,243,487,400,000,000,000,000 miles away, and we see it here on Earth today as it was 13,140,000,000 years ago.

So, by now, whatever galaxy that star is part of could be teeming with intelligent civilizations, and all the galaxies along that unthinkably long line of intervening space could be as well, and we would never know it. Could never know it. And if allowed an overly-simplistic three-dimensional imagination here for a moment, that's only a straight-line radius. Translate it to an impossibly vast circular volume, consider the possible stars and galaxies contained therein, and my head really starts to hurt.

Staggering indeed.

Wed, 25 May 2011 19:34:05 UTC | #630869

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 2 by ZenDruid

I may be mistaken here, but logically if we see light which originated at a certain point 13.14 Gya, wouldn't that indicate a point close to the 'center of expansion' of the universe? Is there any particular area of the sky where these old/distant objects are found? Could a correlation be made?

Wed, 25 May 2011 19:53:26 UTC | #630873

reebus's Avatar Comment 3 by reebus

Yes, but don't forget Fermi's paradox with reference to the Drake equation. (or Susan Blackmore also did a treatment on the longevity of civilisations).

Wed, 25 May 2011 19:57:57 UTC | #630877

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 4 by Bipedal Primate

Comment 1 by James_Evans :

So, by now, whatever galaxy that star is part of could be teeming with intelligent civilizations, and all the galaxies along that unthinkably long line of intervening space could be as well, and we would never know it.

If I'm not horribly mistaken there's no good reason to believe that life elsewhere in the universe isn't also darwinian life and since religion is an unavoidable by-product of natural selection on the path to higher intelligence and organized societies I bet they all killed each other off a looong time ago.

Wed, 25 May 2011 20:13:19 UTC | #630883

weesam's Avatar Comment 5 by weesam

Comment 1 by James_Evans :

It took the "light" from this event 13.14 billion years to reach us.....1.24311343 × 1026......or 1.24311343 × 1023 kilometers, or 7.72434874 × 1022 miles away. 77,243,487,400,000,000,000,000 miles away, and we see it here on Earth today as it was 13,140,000,000 years ago.

your use of significant figures leaves a lot to be desired!

Wed, 25 May 2011 20:14:22 UTC | #630884

Hellboy2's Avatar Comment 6 by Hellboy2

AWESOME!

Wed, 25 May 2011 20:28:53 UTC | #630891

Coel's Avatar Comment 7 by Coel

I may be mistaken here, but logically if we see light which originated at a certain point 13.14 Gya, wouldn't that indicate a point close to the 'center of expansion' of the universe?

There is no "center of expansion", that is a common misconception, thinking, wrongly, of the universe as expanding away from a particular location in a pre-existing, static space. Instead, the universe is the same everywhere and expands the same everywhere. Thus the Big Bang happened everywhere equally. That's easier to think about if you imagine running time backwards, with all space contracting equally, so that eventually everything ends up in the same place. That was the Big Bang.

Wed, 25 May 2011 20:37:54 UTC | #630897

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 8 by Steve Zara

Comment 2 by ZenDruid

I may be mistaken here, but logically if we see light which originated at a certain point 13.14 Gya, wouldn't that indicate a point close to the 'center of expansion' of the universe? Is there any particular area of the sky where these old/distant objects are found? Could a correlation be made?

I realise this may sound very strange, but no, it isn't a point close to the centre of expansion.

Imagine a very, very small lump of dough with raisins in. Now, let's add some special 'Inflationary Yeast' and the right amount of cosmic sugar, and leave it somewhere warm to rise. The dough will rise, with the same rate of expansion everywhere, with each raisin moving apart from all the others. There is no centre of expansion. Wherever you are in the dough, it will appear as if everything is moving away from you, and further things from you will move faster away than nearer things, as there will be a greater length of dough expanding between you and those further things.

Now, imagine the raisins are very, very hot indeed. They are positively glowing. Also, at first, the dough expands very, very, very fast indeed (the inflationary period). After a while, it settles down and expands at a more steady pace.

Finally, and I know this is stretching[sic] things a bit, but imagine that the dough is transparent. You can see other raisins wherever you are.

Now, wherever you are, as time passes, you will be able to see more and more raisins as their light (they are glowing hot) reaches you. Light travels (obviously) at the speed of light, so after one second you can see raisins 1-light-second away. After a year, you can see them 1-light year away. Because of the delay you will be seeing those raisins as they were a year ago.

As the point where you are ages, more and more will be visible, from longer and longer ago. If the rising dough was our universe then after 13.14 billion years you will be able to see, very faintly, things that are 13.14 billion light years away that were as they were 13.14 billion light years ago.

There is no special place to be to see these things, and there is no special place to look. Wherever you are in the dough, if you can look between the close-up raisins and you have a very sensitive telescope you will see things as they were a very long time ago.

If where you are is X years from the origin of the universe, then you can see at most things X light years away. Well, not quite. What I had said is almost right. The thing is, that the dough does not stand still as that distant light travels to reach us. It keeps on expanding. So, light may have only(!) travelled through 13.14 billion light years of distance, but the continuous expansion of the dough means that where it came from is now many tens of billions of light years away. It's as if light has been travelling on a moving walkway: in terms of the walkway (space) light never goes faster than lightspeed, but space carries light with it.

I hope that makes things clearer.

Wed, 25 May 2011 20:44:38 UTC | #630898

josephor's Avatar Comment 9 by josephor

Was that before my Great Grandaddy got married ?

Wed, 25 May 2011 20:44:48 UTC | #630899

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 10 by Bipedal Primate

@ Steve Zara

How come the expansion of the universe only applies to space and not mass? And if time was also created at the Big Bang, how come it doesn't apply to time? Or could it be that it does, but we can't measure it since there is no other instance of time to compare it to?

And are these questions stupid?

Wed, 25 May 2011 21:12:13 UTC | #630906

DELETED_ACCOUNT_1ST_AMENDEMENT_TRUMPS_ALL's Avatar Comment 11 by DELETED_ACCOUNT_1ST_AMENDEMENT_TRUMPS_ALL

Comment 5 by weesam :

Comment 1 by James_Evans :

It took the "light" from this event 13.14 billion years to reach us.....1.24311343 × 1026......or 1.24311343 × 1023 kilometers, or 7.72434874 × 1022 miles away. 77,243,487,400,000,000,000,000 miles away, and we see it here on Earth today as it was 13,140,000,000 years ago.

your use of significant figures leaves a lot to be desired!

As do your quotations. You are missing some rather important carets. :)

Wed, 25 May 2011 21:15:25 UTC | #630908

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 12 by ZenDruid

Thanks for your explanation, Steve. I failed to consider the inflationary epoch. It is too easy to assume linear expansion from a point source....

Wed, 25 May 2011 21:23:24 UTC | #630911

healthphysicist's Avatar Comment 13 by healthphysicist

One has to be careful when discussing time and distance...the Universe is 13.7 billion years old. But it has expanded during that time, so that the observable Universe is over 40 billion-light years in any direction. We'll never observe what's beyond the observable Universe.

Wed, 25 May 2011 22:08:19 UTC | #630927

Mumbo-Jumbo's Avatar Comment 14 by Mumbo-Jumbo

Comment 8 by Steve Zara :

I hope that makes things clearer.

Yes. Thank you for your wonderful explanation(s)!

Wed, 25 May 2011 22:29:25 UTC | #630936

Faab's Avatar Comment 15 by Faab

Comment 10 by Bipedal Primate :

@ Steve Zara

How come the expansion of the universe only applies to space and not mass? And if time was also created at the Big Bang, how come it doesn't apply to time? Or could it be that it does, but we can't measure it since there is no other instance of time to compare it to?

And are these questions stupid?

Mass isn't expanding as space is, because of the gravitational pull between particles. But if you want a more in depth explanation on this, I can recommend 'The Elegant Universe' by Brain Greene as I'm nowhere near knowledgeable about this to explain it properly.

As to your second question. No, your questions aren't stupid, definitely not considering the subject. Usually its only the answers that are...

Wed, 25 May 2011 22:30:30 UTC | #630938

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 16 by Steve Zara

How come the expansion of the universe only applies to space and not mass? And if time was also created at the Big Bang, how come it doesn't apply to time? Or could it be that it does, but we can't measure it since there is no other instance of time to compare it to?

It does apply to mass. However, much mass is bound together by forces which can resist the expansion over small scales. So, whereas large galaxy clusters are moving apart, galaxies remain intact, as do stars, planets and atoms.

Some individual particles can be effected by the expansion of space. Light from distant galaxies is red-shifted. This is not because the distant galaxies are moving away from us rapidly through space (that doesn't really make sense anyway), it's because the space between us and them is expanding, and light that has travelled from them to us has been stretched too. As light is stretched, its wavelength increases.

As for why space and not time. I have absolutely no idea. I am going to look more into this.

And are these questions stupid?

Absolutely not.

Thu, 26 May 2011 01:06:23 UTC | #630961

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 17 by Bipedal Primate

@Faab and Steve Zara

Thank you very much, both of you.

Light stretches? That's kinda mind-boggling...

Thu, 26 May 2011 01:28:43 UTC | #630963

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 18 by Anaximander

We see this cosmic wonder as it was 13.14 billion years ago. We can't see it as it is now; it is beyond the horizon.

It was then (redshift+1) times closer to us than it is now, because space is expanding. So it was not 7,243,487,400,000,000,000,000 miles away then and is not now.

Thu, 26 May 2011 06:42:31 UTC | #630999

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 19 by Anaximander

I failed to consider the inflationary epoch. It is too easy to assume linear expansion from a point source....

After inflation, the expansion was slowing down some 7 billion years (because of gravitation) and then accelerating (because of the dark energy.)

Thu, 26 May 2011 06:52:48 UTC | #631003

TheRationalizer's Avatar Comment 20 by TheRationalizer

I am finding it impossible to decipher the following sentence the article, could someone explain it's meaning to me please?

Hubble's targets were galaxies - collections of stars; and GRB 090429B is the signature of a single event, a single star. So, in that sense, it might be considered apart.

What might be considered apart, and apart from what?

Thu, 26 May 2011 07:38:02 UTC | #631010

Rosbif's Avatar Comment 21 by Rosbif

Thanks Steve Zara, I shall never, ever look at a hot crossed bun in the same way. :)

Thu, 26 May 2011 08:36:50 UTC | #631023

TheRationalizer's Avatar Comment 22 by TheRationalizer

Dear young Earth creationist. If the universe is really 10,000 years old then why are we seeing the death of a star that occurred 13 billion years ago. Believing god lined up photons for us so that we can see them is one thing, but why would your young-Earth god show us that a star exploded 13 billion years before it could possibly have existed? :)

Thu, 26 May 2011 08:55:00 UTC | #631028

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 23 by Vorlund

The star must have been massive in order to have such a short life span. Or should we be revising our estimates of the age of the universe? Most stars are between 1 and 10 billion years old.

Comment 22 by TheRationalizer :

Dear young Earth creationist. If the universe is really 10,000 years old then why are we seeing the death of a star that occurred 13 billion years ago. Believing god lined up photons for us so that we can see them is one thing, but why would your young-Earth god show us that a star exploded 13 billion years before it could possibly have existed? :)

The idea doG created the cosmos just to sit back and watch us struggle with good and evil is an absurdity which they have yet to explain.

Thu, 26 May 2011 10:06:45 UTC | #631049

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 24 by Bipedal Primate

Comment 22 by TheRationalizer :

Dear young Earth creationist. If the universe is really 10,000 years old then why are we seeing the death of a star that occurred 13 billion years ago. Believing god lined up photons for us so that we can see them is one thing, but why would your young-Earth god show us that a star exploded 13 billion years before it could possibly have existed? :)

It's to test our fate, of course!

Thu, 26 May 2011 10:44:42 UTC | #631067

Haizum74's Avatar Comment 25 by Haizum74

To this day I still have trouble comprehending distances in LYs, same with kilometres. However, as someone worked it out above it still blows ya mind when you think about that distance.

Thu, 26 May 2011 11:46:30 UTC | #631083

weesam's Avatar Comment 26 by weesam

Comment 11 by James_Evans :

[As do your quotations. You are missing some rather important carets. :)

I was just leaving in some of your made-up numbers, there was no need to quote your entire post to make that point. The original point still stands. Cheers

Thu, 26 May 2011 11:48:05 UTC | #631085

Dave H's Avatar Comment 27 by Dave H

Comment 22 by TheRationalizer :

Dear young Earth creationist. If the universe is really 10,000 years old then why are we seeing the death of a star that occurred 13 billion years ago. Believing god lined up photons for us so that we can see them is one thing, but why would your young-Earth god show us that a star exploded 13 billion years before it could possibly have existed? :)

When debating with creationists, that is my favourite example which I use to explain what is meant by "falsifiability" - arguably the most important pillar of science (and the F in "FiLCHeRS"). That is, in order for a statement to be testable (and have meaning), you must be able to think of evidence that would disprove it. (The claim might survive the test and live for another day, but it still needs to be testable.)

The argument goes as follows. If the universe was made 10,000 years ago, then the light from stars that are 10,000 light years away should only now start to reach us - we should see new stars popping into the sky every night, or at least every month - and each new star would be progressively further away. This doesn't happen, and if your excuse is that some stupid god created the stars with their light rays already stretched to earth, that excuse is not falsifiable. That is, there is no evidence that could conceivably disprove it, because if you allow gods to tamper with the evidence then there is no such thing as evidence. The concept of Falsifiability is equivalent to saying that "the evidence must matter".

At that point I ask them: If light rays cannot be trusted because they are being manipulated by some stupid god, then why do they look at their bank statement or look before crossing the road?

Thu, 26 May 2011 12:55:42 UTC | #631098

healthphysicist's Avatar Comment 28 by healthphysicist

To B. Primate -

The expansion of the Universe occurs OVER time...so time is expanding. If time stopped, the Universe would not expand. This is why time only goes in one direction. It is also related to the fact that entropy increases as the Universe expands over time.

Thu, 26 May 2011 13:04:49 UTC | #631102

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 29 by Schrodinger's Cat

When I used to manage a large American political forum, there was a subsection just for religion. I never ceased to be amazed at just how much evidence for the age of the universe creationists were capable of blatantly ignoring.

The question of how on Earth it is possible to see something 13 billion light years away if the universe is not at least 13 billion years old was a perennial topic. Indeed, never mind 13 billion.......howcome we even see stars beyond 6000 light years, which is only a small fraction of our own galaxy.

The mind numbingly idiotic response of creationists is invariably some special invocation to God's magic wand changing the laws of physics. The most idiotic of all being that God created the universe 'already old'.

The truly absurd lengths that creationists go to. God created 200 billion galaxies in a region 40 billion light years wide.....and made it 'look' as though it was all 13 billion years old......all so that one poxy little spec of dust could have life on it.

But one question leaves creationists utterly stumped. Why does an all-powerful God, with such an amazing magic wand, NEED to create 10 ^ 80...an astronomical number.... more atoms than are necessary to sustain Earth ? If he does need to....and what other explanation is there......then he is subject to the laws of physics. So why not just dump God and go with the laws of physics ?

Thu, 26 May 2011 13:48:15 UTC | #631120

KABOOM's Avatar Comment 30 by KABOOM

Comment 4 by Bipedal Primate :

Comment 1 by James_Evans :

So, by now, whatever galaxy that star is part of could be teeming with intelligent civilizations, and all the galaxies along that unthinkably long line of intervening space could be as well, and we would never know it.

If I'm not horribly mistaken there's no good reason to believe that life elsewhere in the universe isn't also darwinian life and since religion is an unavoidable by-product of natural selection on the path to higher intelligence and organized societies I bet they all killed each other off a looong time ago.

Religion gets a bad rap for making homo sapiens kill one another. The reality is that "killing our own" has been hard wired into our makeup for way longer than religion has been around.

Chimps and humans are the only 2 species of mammals that regularly kill each other and we both evolved from a common ancestor that preumably did the same. The rate of "killing" amongst homo sapiens is actually lower than it was "pre-religion" and lower than exists today within most chimp populations. Yes, today man will still kill one another over religious differences, border disputes, oil, etc, but we are doing so to a less extent than the hunter and gatherers.

Thu, 26 May 2011 14:26:25 UTC | #631132