Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Vastness Of Space

This record-breaking object, known as JKCS041, is observed as it was when the Universe was just one quarter of its current age. X-rays from Chandra are displayed here as the diffuse blue region, while the individual galaxies in the cluster are seen in white in the Very Large Telescope's optical data, embedded in the X-ray emission.


To put this in perspective, the light we see from this galaxy was produced 10.5 billion years ago. Or, at the speed of light, it traveled 61,724,248,005,000,000,000,000 miles in that time.


MK said...

Puts our puny existence into perspective doesn't it.

Randy said...

I always question these kinds of things. Who has really measured it? I was taught that science was based on observation, who observed that these stars were there so many million years ago?

So much of today's scientific fact is nothing more than theory. Maybe it's good theory, but it's still just theory.

LL said...

Randy, it's not theory. The speed of light can be precisely measured. The distances can be precisely measured. That comes under the rubric of fact. Other scientists can perform the same tests independently and realize the same results.

cube said...

It is an awesome universe we inhabit.

Chuck said...

MK, humbling isn't it?

Randy, not to disagree because your questions are legitimate but most of science is ultimately theory. If someone says they have proven something scientifically, be suspicious (see global warming). As LL says, the relevance of the theory comes in it being able to be reproducible by other scientists and have them reach a consensus(again see global warming).

I have always thought that we will never fully understand the Universe which makes it a wonderful place to live.

Look to history: the Earth was flat, the stars revolved around the Earth, life was produced spontaneously, etc.

Our future selves will look back hundreds of years from now and laugh at how naive we are today.

While the current theories are good and sound, as we do more research we will both refine and dispell current thinking.

I don't view this as a knock against science but more an advantage of it.

Cube, cool isn't it? When I was a teen I would use an exercise to get to sleep in which I would try to imagine infinity. The thought that as far away as you can imagine, there is an infinite distance past that point, is great. We as humans cannot of course grasp infinity but it is still fun to attempt it.

Bob Qat said...

Distances to objects outside of the local group are estimated (not measured) by red-shift of the spectrum, called cosmological redshift or Hubble redshift. There is a apparent correlation of distance and redshift: The farther away things are, the more red-shifted (longer the wave length) of the identifiable spectrum of known elements. The object subject to measurement must be emitting light.

This method assumes that an element emit the same spectra everywhere in the universe, and that there is no such phenomenon as "tired light."

cube said...

I used to do that with numbers. I thought it was the coolest thing to ponder the fact that numbers never ended but went on ad infinitum.

Karen Howes said...

Awesome, Chuck! I'll watch any show about space. :-)

Chuck said...

Bob Qat, agreed

Cube, maybe I'm not the only weird one. I do love numbers too. Same as distance. Any number you can think of, there is an infinite number beyond that.

Karen, Check out The Universe (can't remember what channel)

DaBlade said...

10.5 billion used to be a big number before Obama started cranking out our debt to the tune of Trillions... By the way, have these numbers been vetted by Algore and his team of consensus hippies?

Chuck said...

DaBlade, good point on Obama, makes infinity seem small doesn't it?

cube said...

This reminds me of the day when my eldest daughter was very young and I explained that the stars in the sky were suns that were very far away. The look on her face, when the full implication of that hit her, was unforgettable.

cube said...


Obama = Infinite Ego

Our money is his to spend because he knows best.