Traveling Back In Time

This came across my Twitter feed from Astronomy Magazine last week, and I thought I would send it out with a quick commentary:


PHOTO CREDIT: V. Tilvi, Texas A&M University/S.L. Finkelstein, University of Texas at Austin/C. Papovich, Texas A&M University/CANDELS Team and Hubble Space Telescope/NASA

Recently astronomers snagged this image: the most distant galaxy ever to be photographed, 13.1 billion light years away. We are looking 13.1 billion years back in time, in a universe that is only an estimated 13.8 billion years old. That means, this image shows what conditions in our universe looked like just 700 million years after the big bang and the creation of…well…everything.

Pretty heavy stuff, as Marty McFly would say.

700 million years to us is a heck of a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that long at all; just 5% of the total age of the universe. It’s sometimes tough to think about these numbers in ‘human terms.’ So, let’s mix things up. Let’s say the average age of our MANY, MANY SUBSCRIBERS is 40 years old. So for the sake of this representation, think of our 13.8 billion year old universe as you; a 40 year old person. 5% of a 40 year old person is just 2 years.

So think of your 40-year-old self as the same age as our universe. You’re standing in a great big room and you can somehow see all the way back to 1975. Imagine being able to see your environment, and even seeing other people that you know have to be roughly your age, when they were just one or two years old.

Seeing a galaxy in an environment so ‘new’ is interesting because it puts us so close to the big bang, and so close to when the universe we know and love today came to exist. To me, it offers a great way to pass the time, trying to imagine what was here before there was a here, where it all came from, and why we’re here at all. It’s an attempt at imagining the unexplainable.

It’s like being a 40 year old, and trying to describe what your day was like 41 years ago. It’s just as difficult to imagine rewinding the clock on the environment in this picture more than 700 million years. There was no universe, there was no space, no time, no elements, no light, nothing. There are lots of theories. Depending on your religious views, the universe before then could lie in the hands of a Creator. We may not ever know, but…it’s still pretty cool stuff to try and think about.

Enough from me…read it from the pros:



5 thoughts on “Traveling Back In Time

  1. Jeff K says:

    Amazingly thought provoking.

  2. songbirdrw says:

    Question: what is the green box in the photo showing us? Is that indicating the whole galaxy they have identified? and how do they come to be able to draw a box around just certain “specks” and not others?

  3. songbirdrw says:

    I read the article you linked us to again, and I think it’s saying that as they are able see more and more distance, they are comparing the photos to see what is there “now” (in the farther distant photos) that wasn’t there before (in the closer photos?)

  4. Joe says:

    Redshift! It’s a bit technical to get into in a blog comment box, but basically by measuring how ‘red’ an object seems tells us how fast it is moving away from us…how far it’s light has shifted into the red portion of the light spectrum. How fast it is moving away, tells us how far away it is as we know the universe is expanding. The green box is showing us a patch of light, a galaxy, that has an extremely high redshift. In comparison…if an object were moving towards us, it would have a blueshift. Great question!

  5. Mike says:

    “Heavy? Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth’s gravity?” 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s