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Most Distant Object Yet Detected, Bagged By Galileo Scope

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the long-time-ago-in-a-galaxy-far,-far-away dept.

Space 101

An anonymous reader writes "It's fitting, in this 400th anniversary of the astronomical telescope, that the Telescopio Nationale Galileo (TNG) in the Canary Islands would be used to uncover the most distant object ever seen by mankind. The gamma-ray burst from April 23, a powerful explosion from a dying star, was detected by the Swift satellite using on-board gamma-ray and X-ray instruments. A flurry of activity led to the remarkable discovery that the event occurred roughly 630 million years after the Big Bang. This makes GRB 090423 the most distant known event!"

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101 comments

It's natural (5, Funny)

UnixUnix (1149659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713067)

After the Big Bang... comes the Big Cigarette.

Re:It's natural (1)

asparagus (29121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713905)

And for the billions of years since, we haven't managed to do it again. Maybe the simplest version of Hubble is that things don't work as well as they once did...

Re:It's natural (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27716695)

the Big Cigarette

So a cigar then.

Re:It's natural (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27718233)

Stop boasting.

Re:It's natural (1)

awrowe (1110817) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720291)

So we need to rename this event the "Lewinsky Event"?

Re:It's natural (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 5 years ago | (#27719569)

They were aiming for the bigbang era... came in only 600 million years after... close but no cigar.. no cigar shaped ufo either ;)

Re:It's natural (1)

vgerdj (742840) | more than 5 years ago | (#27746413)

cums; After the Big Bang, the Big Cigarette.

fixed that for you

Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (3, Informative)

mah! (121197) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713101)

correct Italian spelling: "Telescopio Nazionale Galileo [tng.iac.es] " (not 'Telescopio Nationale Galileo' as written in the story blurb)

Re:Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713327)

Did you really have to Godwin the thread so early?

Re:Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713459)

hey, got no mod points, but that is funny!

Re:Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713557)

moin, hab'ich keine Punkte, aber das ist doch doof!

Re:Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (-1, Redundant)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713413)

TNG = The Next Generation.

Noob.

Re:Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713669)

Noob = NÃÃÃÃÃ, Obst oder BÃlle.

So ein Schrott.

Re:Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (1)

Qh Oh (1540985) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713793)

Interestingly enough, the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo, is on La Palma [wikipedia.org] in the Canary islands archipelago.

So it is located next to West Africa, on Canarian territory, managed by Fundación Galileo Galilei (sounds... Spanish?) and owned by the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics [www.inaf.it] .

Re:Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27718903)

Actually, the Canary Islands are Spanish territory.

Re:Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722859)

Sure, italians are a Nazionale nation. Perhaps that explain their big noses.

I agree - very interesting info (4, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713105)

Perhaps we can then figure out roughly the size of the star that blowed up, in that it can't have been a star that takes more or less than about 600 million years to do that.

Also, it probably was very weak in heavier elements, so it would have been a very pure collection of hydrogen. So, we're looking at a pretty "pure case" of massive star formation, fuel burning and some kind of hypernova.

This is really interesting stuff.

RS

Re:I agree - very interesting info (2, Interesting)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713535)

At the risk of exposing my ignorance, what lead you to conclude that the star was weak in heavier elements? Considering how far away it was, which reduces the chances of "contaminating events" (collisions and the like), what would have kept it from 'fusing' right up to a nickel-iron core?

Re:I agree - very interesting info (2, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713733)

when that early star exploded it would have had heavier elements, iron has been detected from 900 million years after big bang.

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/17403 [physicsworld.com]

Re:I agree - very interesting info (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713743)

I said "probably". There is, of course, chances of contamination from previous stars. IIRC, the universe originally consisted of a massive soup of energy and matter. Hydrogen is the simplest element: 1 proton, 1 electron. In highly energised situations, you can strip the electron off, and instead of hydrogen,you just have a proton feeling lonely (Ha). So, the first element would logically be Hydrogen.

It takes time (millions of years) for stars to form, and given the energetic state of the early universe, star formation would have been difficult. Eventually, stars would form, and they would be pure hydrogen. Some would last a really long time (some might still exist today!) and some would be gigantic hyperstars that would blow apart within a several million years, leaving behind blackholes and some heavier elements. But the universe would still be even more overwhelmingly composed of hydrogen than now.

So I think it would be reasonable to conjecture that early stars would have more hydrogen, and the earliest stars would be even purer.

Hence, my qualifier of "probably very weak in heavier elements", and thus my point that this is very interesting news. It will be fascinating to see what comes of the data.

On a more pedestrian note, please read more carefully.

cheers,

RS

Re:I agree - very interesting info (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713979)

I did read carefully. I was wondering if there was any reference in one of the articles mentioned that I missed, which literally stated "probably very weak in heavier elements", thereby making that a reference to something in the article, as opposed to your assumption. Posing a question to an assumption isn't considered rude, or "un-pedestrian", to my knowledge.

Moreover, pedestrian or not, I still challenge your conclusion:
Yes, the outer "shell" of the expanding universe is made up of lighter elements. However, this star did *explode*, and there aren't many things that would lead to a star exploding, if you take away the possibility of collision. Fusing into heavier elements and eventually breaking the equilibrium when iron-nickle is produced (Type II supernova [wikipedia.org] ) seems more likely to me.

Re:I agree - very interesting info (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713749)

Simple. Because all heavy elements (where heavy means heavier than hydrogen) are created in stars.
That early, there were simply no stars before that, so nobody could produce them.

Of course, the star himself did produce them. But the question where my knowledge ends is: Do stars with that size burn right trough to the usual iron stage, or do they explode earlier, and if yes why?

Re:I agree - very interesting info (1)

jae471 (1102461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714983)

Initially, the star would have been very metal*-poor (only a little lithium left over from the big bang.)

Given that star went supernova only 630My post-big bang, it is reasonable to assume it had a minimum mass of 3-4 Msun, and a maximum of probably 10-15 Msun. Those numbers suggest that it did fuse right to nickel.

The interesting thing (what the parent was probably refering to) is not really the final metallicity (which is merely a function of the star's mass) but the initial metalliticy, which cannot.

*To an astronomer, anything heavier than helium is a metal

Re:I agree - very interesting info (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714349)

Perhaps we can then figure out roughly the size of the star that blowed up, in that it can't have been a star that takes more or less than about 600 million years to do that.

I believe the current guess is that such stars are among the largest stars known.

Also, it probably was very weak in heavier elements, so it would have been a very pure collection of hydrogen. So, we're looking at a pretty "pure case" of massive star formation, fuel burning and some kind of hypernova.

Even the earliest stars would have helium as well. In the earliest universe, there was crudely three parts hydrogen to one part helium (with, I gather, traces of heavier elements like lithium). And massive stars make heavier elements fast. It's possible that hypernova could go off though before the star managed to build up an iron core. I don't think we understand the circumstances of either early universe star formation or the conditions for a hypernova to answer your questions.

Early massive stars (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 5 years ago | (#27715389)

Also, it probably was very weak in heavier elements, so it would have been a very pure collection of hydrogen.

possibly, but it could have been a truly massive star. when the universe was much more dense, it would seem conceivable that much more massive stars could form than are seen now. I would imagine that a 100+ solar mass star would burn very fast and, being that massive, create heavier elements.

Re:I agree - very interesting info (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#27715681)

the star that blowed up

Assuming English isn't your first language: the past tense of blow is blew (one of those irregular verbs we're so fond of) so that should be "star that blew up".

If English is your first language: step away from the internet and read a book!

Re:I agree - very interesting info (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27728977)

cut me slack dude - I was dealing with a crowd of 6 year olds all day...

Re:I agree - very interesting info (1)

MoeDrippins (769977) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720975)

I'm not an astrophysicist, but isn't the [super]nova itself what *produces* heavy elements?

Heresy!!!111!!1!!!!one!! (2, Funny)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713139)

Everyone knows the Earth and therefore the Universe is only 6,000 years old.

Re:Heresy!!!111!!1!!!!one!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713435)

This wasn't a troll, and neither is this. I'm actually curious. How many mods are not Judeo-Christian?

If 80% of the US is of Christian faith, with the majority of the remaining 20% of the Jewish faith, you would think that post deserves at least a mod +1 Funny...

Re:Heresy!!!111!!1!!!!one!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713581)

If your demographic division is right, then those 20% would have modded -1 "inaccurate", since orthodox jews believe that the earth is 5000 years old.

Also, we're still missing the +1 "Bill Hicks" mod.

Re:Heresy!!!111!!1!!!!one!! (1)

kachakaach (1336273) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713619)

This wasn't a troll, and neither is this. I'm actually curious. How many mods are not Judeo-Christian?

If 80% of the US is of Christian faith, with the majority of the remaining 20% of the Jewish faith, you would think that post deserves at least a mod +1 Funny...

According to the 2008 demographics collected by one of the most conservative private Christian colleges around (Trinity), almost 25% of the US is NOT Christian, with over 15% of this group in my personal segment, "Agnostic or Atheist", (those of Jewish faith are about 1.2% of total). Your 80/20 percentages are not only misleading, they are also just plain wrong.

source: http://tr.im/jH4c [tr.im] (trincoll.edu)

Re:Heresy!!!111!!1!!!!one!! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714679)

And most of the 80% doesn't consist of the crackpot fundies who believe that 6000 year old crap anyway. That's just a small fringe group who happens to stamp their little feet and scream a lot, so they sound bigger.

Re:Heresy!!!111!!1!!!!one!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713541)

This is not a troll, just a lame attempt at a joke. Either mods are so serious today that humour goes over their heads, or they're all Christian fundamentalists and are offended by the sarcasm contained in the post. Given all the religion bashing that goes on here, I sincerely doubt it is the later.

Re:Heresy!!!111!!1!!!!one!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713675)

How about the following explanation:
A) It wasn't funny
B) The mods are trying to discourage this particular type of "not funny", since it's old, and just makes the site look even more hate-ridden than it usually is.

Let's start posting gay-bashing jokes, and mod them up to show that "it's ok, we're cool with this type of humor"

Slashdot is late again (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713147)

This happened billions of years ago, and Slashdot is just reporting it now?

Re:Slashdot is late again (4, Funny)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713645)

At least it's not a dupe!

Re:Slashdot is late again (2, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713911)

For that, you will have to wait until they announce the find of a mirror image caused by that gravitational lens over there.

Re:Slashdot is late again (1)

pmarini (989354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714533)

TV signal from planets orbiting that star are slower so we don't know if it's a dupe yet...

Re:Slashdot is late again (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714031)

I was going to post it a few billion ago when I was out that ways and saw it first hand, but I figured someone already did so I didn't. I don't want to be responsible for a dupe.

Re:Slashdot is late again (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714923)

This happened billions of years ago, and Slashdot is just reporting it now?

Slashdot is just reporting from the frame of reference of the gamma photons, who experienced this explosion two days ago.

Mod Up Informative (1)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 5 years ago | (#27716911)

Yup, one of the funny little twists that result from relativity is something that happened 630 million years ago also happened just now from a different frame of reference, and both are entirely accurate. So from the perpective of the right frame of reference (in this case, it would involve something travelling at 99.9999999999999% of the speed of light from our frame), this is a recent event.

Re:Mod Up Informative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27717467)

Try submitting a Y2K story to Slashdot to see how well that goes. Y2K is after all a recent event according to your "right frame of reference".

Re:Slashdot is late again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27730343)

From the point of view of the photons this happened now, or, is happening then. English doesn't have the appropriate tense for a perspective at the speed of light

It's fitting... (2, Interesting)

Daemonax (1204296) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713205)

"It's fitting, in this 400th anniversary of the astronomical telescope, that the Telescopio Nationale Galileo (TNG) in the Canary Islands would be used to uncover the most distant object ever seen by mankind.

It's fitting in a numerological sort of way... I'm sure that any day you'd care to pick out in the year could be linked to some date in the past that is also connected with some event in the field of astronomy, whether it be the birthday of a famous astronomer, the discovery of a moon, an extra-solar planet, the day Voyager started photographing or stopped photographing a planet...

Sorry to be an old grump.... Perhaps it's simply because I found out a very cute girl I know thinks numerology is anything more than utter nonsense and I want better genes for my children...

Re:It's fitting... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713309)

So you are almost as mystical as she is, by thinking that numerology could be hereditary...

Re:It's fitting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713495)

Nurture v. Nature

Film at 11

Re:It's fitting... (1)

jae471 (1102461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713751)

I think its more the "stupid genes" that allow one to believe numerology that he's trying to avoid.

Re:It's fitting... (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713337)

You sound like an Ologyologist.

Re:It's fitting... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713391)

Sorry to be an old grump.... Perhaps it's simply because I found out a very cute girl I know thinks numerology is anything more than utter nonsense and I want better genes for my children...

I hear you. Up until recently, I was dating a girl who frequently talked about "energy" and read New Age books all the time, but she was like Stephen Hawking compared to the other women I've been with. I can't seem to meet a woman who doesn't believe in one or more of:

1. New Age "energy" stuff involving crystals, pyramids, and yoga

2. Conspiracy theories, including 9/11 "the [Jews|government] did it", or the truly crazy one about the alien lizards who control the Earth

3. Astrology

4. Bizarre medical theories, like reflexology, homeopathy, and so forth

5. Food faddism, like eating bread or drinking milk will eventually kill you ...and on and on.

This is what I get for living in Vancouver, I guess. It's probably worse in San Francisco so maybe I should count my blessings.

Re:It's fitting... (1)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713463)

the alien lizards who control the Earth

Your ideas intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:It's fitting... (2, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713509)

Holy crap! I just googled alien lizards who control the earth [google.com] and got 498,000 hits! I seriously thought you were making this shit up.

My condolences on your inability to find a sane woman, and I no longer wish to subscribe to your newsletter. There are many informative web sites I can visit instead.

Re:It's fitting... (1)

pmarini (989354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714603)

5 minutes to find that out? (time between your two posts)
the world changed in 1984 [imdb.com]

Re:It's fitting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713531)

Maybe you should enroll at a university/college that does natural science? Most women I know from my working place at university don't believe any of the above.

Re:It's fitting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713789)

Return to school just to meet women? Not a bad idea, but I think I am out of their dating age bracket. Plus I already have two degrees - I don't need another one. That said, there is nowhere like university when it comes to meeting smart, attractive, healthy, cool women, I fully agree.

I've heard the East Coast lacks the woo-woo hippy vibe of the West Coast, but I've never been out there. I have these images of hardnosed career women strolling around in suits...hey, that sounds pretty good.

Re:It's fitting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27717903)

Return to school just to meet women? Not a bad idea, but I think I am out of their dating age bracket. Plus I already have two degrees - I don't need another one...

Once you get married, you can just stay out at a local pub a little late, and get the third degree.

Re:It's fitting... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713817)

Well, you as a man are there to be the dominant role and offer her a defined reality.
I don't mean that in a evil "you think what I say" asshole kind of way.
But in a '"he gives me safety and comfort" supportive guidance' kind of way.
If she knows that you are very secure of your reality, she wants to join in, thereby leaving that superstitiousness behind.

Re:It's fitting... (2, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713989)

Don't despair, one day, you will certainly find one that believes in World-healing properties of tantric group sex.

Re:It's fitting... (1, Informative)

mah! (121197) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713965)

"It's fitting in a numerological sort of way"

It's fitting just because 400 years ago Galileo Galilei (same name as the observatory, see?), in 1609 began his astronomical observations, and as a direct result of that came in direct conflict [wikipedia.org] with the religious establishment [wikipedia.org] , since he began supporting Copernicus's heliocentric theory.

Try to explain that to the enlightened individuals who still insist nowadays that the universe is 5000-6000 years old, that dinosaur bones were placed there by some humorous deity just in order to make us wonder, or simply that Evolution [wikipedia.org] is 'just a theory'...

Happy round-numbered birthday to both events, I say, or in other words: eppur si muove. [wikipedia.org]

"-1 overrated" Why? (Re:It's fitting...) (1)

Qh Oh (1540985) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714851)

How is a comment 'overrated' when it is explaining to the GP the why of the original /. post?

Go on, I suppose this comment of mine will now be modded down as 'redundant' or even 'flamebait'.

Re:It's fitting... (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721395)

It's probably a good thing that you found out that you and that cute girl had such major religious differences.

Myself, I recognise numerology as one of the elements of the set all things that I will not be able to rationally decide with anything I now know or am likely to learn as a human being. Other elements of this set include the why-ness of Pi's irrational value; whether the mathematical expressions on which the theory of thermodynamics rests are truly convergent; whether randomness is a fiction like centrifugal force; and whether the Universe is as fractal as it appears to be (and if it is, what exactly is my relationship as a sentient being to the self-similar sentience that would necessarily exist on levels above and below those I am aware of).

PS: please reply with contact information and astrological data of "cute girl".

How far... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713261)

I do wonder how far back we can actually see... Is there a time period from which all the light has already passed the Earth?

Re:How far... (1)

UncleWilly (1128141) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713363)

1) As far as our technology permits
A) No.

Re:How far... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713439)

No. That light which is now "past the earth" would be "somewhere", so by symmetry there is light just as old that is now "past somewhere" but is here on earth now.

Re:How far... (1)

Jonas Buyl (1425319) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713601)

Indeed it would be interesting if we'd detect some light from before the Big Bang. It would either show what happened before the Big Bang or that light can travel faster than ... light speed?

Re:How far... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713665)

Umm, the current working scientific theory is that there was no "before" the big bang... The big bang created what we know as "timespace."

Re:How far... (1)

jae471 (1102461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713813)

Generally speaking, you can see as far back as the CMB. You can get some details from the anisotropies in the CMB, which reveal information prior to the CMB, but a great deal of the pre-CMB research is theoretical, not observational.

Re:How far... (3, Informative)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714041)

You can see as far back (in light) as the time when the universe was last opaque. This (approximately the same distance from us in all directions, thus forming a sphere) is called the surface of last scattering.

At the time of and before last scattering (approx. 400,000 years after the Big Bang, if our cosmological theories are reasonably close to correct), light was constantly being absorbed and reemitted, as in the interior of a star today. If you suddenly removed all the matter from a star (obviously impossible, but bear with me here), then the photons that had last been emitted would travel off in all directions.

The universal last scattering was a vaguely similar event, in that matter became sufficiently dispersed (due to the expansion of the universe) that light could now travel long distances without interacting with matter. Obviously this was not instantaneous, but on cosmological scales, it was pretty quick.

Now, an object that is at a certain temperature will in general radiate a certain amount of light, distributed in a very particular way over a range of frequencies. For instance, the temperature of the Sun's photosphere (which is about as far into the Sun as you can get and still have the gases be reasonably transparent, thus, it is the Sun's surface of outermost scattering, one might say) almost determines the spectrum of light that the Sun emits, and therefore the color that we see (yellow). This is called blackbody radiation [wikipedia.org] .

So, the universe at the time of last scattering contained a gas of photons with a certain spectrum determined by the overall temperature of the universe then. When the universe became transparent, this photon gas remained, and remained at the same spectrum. It still permeates the entire universe. However, due to the expansion of the universe, the wavelength of each and every photon has increased since then, and the density of photons has decreased, leading to a photon gas that looks as if it comes from a much cooler object. In fact, now the largest number of the photons in the universe lie in the region of the spectrum designated "micro-waves", thus we refer to this leftover photon gas as the cosmic microwave background [wikipedia.org] .

The CMB was a direct prediction of Big Bang cosmological models, and not a prediction of any other cosmological models, and so its observation dealt a death blow to other models such as the steady state universe.

Re:How far... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27714361)

For instance, the temperature of the Sun's photosphere (which is about as far into the Sun as you can get and still have the gases be reasonably transparent, thus, it is the Sun's surface of outermost scattering, one might say) almost determines the spectrum of light that the Sun emits, and therefore the color that we see (yellow)

Uh...no. The sun appears yellow only after it passes through the atmosphere. From Wikipedia:

Our Sun itself is white. It is sometimes called a yellow star (spectroscopically, relative to Vega), and may appear yellow or red (viewed through the atmosphere), or appear white (viewed when too bright for the eye to see any color). Astronomy images often use a variety of exaggerated colors (partially founded in faint light conditions observations, partially in conventions). But the Sun's own intrinsic color is white (aside from sunspots), with no trace of color, and closely approximates a black body of 5780 K (see color temperature).

Re:How far... (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 5 years ago | (#27715693)

Ah right. I looked at the temperature of the photosphere (wikipedia gives 5800 K), and then at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PlanckianLocus.png [wikipedia.org] , and thought that that looked like it could be in the yellow. But I am colorblind, so it is not surprising that I goofed that bit up. A decent helping of confirmation bias undoubtedly came into play as well, I'm sure. Thank you for the correction!

Re:How far... (1)

drerwk (695572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27717317)

I understand the last scattering due to electron reabsorbtion - or de-ionization. But I am not familiar with "The universal last scattering was a vaguely similar event, in that matter became sufficiently dispersed (due to the expansion of the universe) that light could now travel long distances without interacting with matter. Obviously this was not instantaneous, but on cosmological scales, it was pretty quick."
Can you give me a link?

Re:How far... (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 5 years ago | (#27718011)

I didn't think that one out too carefully. The main point is that the mean free path of the photon increased dramatically and suddenly on cosmological scales. I just wrote a quick and dirty plausible reason (hence "vaguely") for this without looking up the extant research. Certainly though, that de-ionization would be caused by expansive cooling of the universe.

As I'm not myself a cosmologist, I don't have a link for you, unfortunately. I'm just extrapolating from my knowledge of statistical and particle physics.

Re:How far... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27718935)

That's pretty close.

The surface of last scattering occurred when the photon gas decreased in temperature enough that when a photon interacted with an atom, the atom was not ionized. Thus, atoms could form and not be broken up, which increased the mean free path tremendously.

Re:How far... (1)

naam00 (1145163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27719749)

I do wonder how far back we can actually see... Is there a time period from which all the light has already passed the Earth?

Yes. That period is called 'just now'.

Wow... (1)

bytethese (1372715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713639)

Far out maaaan!

Slash4Chan? (1, Troll)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713721)

Considering the amount of Anonymous Cowards posting in this thread, you'd think it's a 4chan invasion.

Now cue the 4chan jokes...

Re:Slash4Chan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27713831)

No one reading this wants to post under their own names and admit that they're actually reading something interesting rather than the iPhone article above this one on the front page. :)

Re:Slash4Chan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27714093)

There's an iPhone article on the front page?? Why am I wasting my time reading this crap then!

Re:Slash4Chan? (1)

Turzyx (1462339) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713867)

oh please /b/ehave lolol

They found my remote location (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27714005)

Time to move... Once people know about the place, tourists come right after that. I hate tourists... Guess it's time to move somewhere even more remote.

Hail! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27714123)

I for one welcome our most distant overlords!

So that's what interstellar wars look like (1)

Swoopy (101558) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714151)

So now we've seen the end (or the beginning?) of the first interstellar war. I wonder how much more we'll see in the coming years?
Only 600 million years for a star system with planets to form and one or more civilisations to evolve, then discover and annihilate each other is quite a respectable feat!

Re:So that's what interstellar wars look like (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 5 years ago | (#27734353)

Or it could've merely been one battle in a Time War raging for trillions of years.

Not really the oldest event ever seen - CMB (4, Interesting)

croto (909381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714165)

The decoupling of matter and radiation is an extremely interesting event that happened 400,000 years after the big bang. Its nature makes it the oldest possible observable event, and interestingly enough, thanks to experiments as COBE and WMAP we have very pretty pictures [wikimedia.org] of that event.

Re:Not really the oldest event ever seen - CMB (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#27714915)

Oh, that's cheating. Yes, the cosmic background radiation is a consequence of the event that occurred, but you cannot see an actual, physical "event" along the lines of an exploding star.

Re:Not really the oldest event ever seen - CMB (1)

drerwk (695572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27716001)

Unless we can detect gravity waves from before the decopling.

Re:Not really the oldest event ever seen - CMB (1)

MoeDrippins (769977) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721017)

I've seen this picture a lot of times an it fascinates me.

One question though; why is it an elongated ellipse? Is this supposed to be a "picture" of the entire universe, taken from the vantage point of the 'scope? If so, would it not have to be a 3-d image, with the viewer inside basically a sphere, where the (internal) surface of the sphere is the picture itself?

I'm not doubting what this picture is, I'm just confused over how the 3-d to 2-d projection is done.

Re:Not really the oldest event ever seen - CMB (2, Informative)

croto (909381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721211)

Yes, it is a picture of the entire universe when it was 400,000 years old taken today from the earth. But in the same way we take pictures with photo cameras, the object which the picture was taken of is 3D but the resulting picture itself is 2D. In the case of the CMB, we can think of the picture as follows: for each latitude and longitude on the earth, you point a camera straight up and record the CMB photons coming from that direction. Then, for each point on the surface of the earth (2D) you have a number - and that's the picture. These photons are coming from a very distant place in the universe and started traveling to us a very long time ago; and the energy of those photons is proportional to the amount of energy there was at that point in the universe when the photon started its trip towards the earth. Then that picture is telling us what the distribution of matter-energy was 400,000 years after the big bang.

You are perfectly right that the picture is like the internal surface of a sphere, and I've seen balloons with the CMB painted on it, which is probably the best representation of the picture. However, we like to have things on flat paper, and for that we need a projection from the surface of the sphere to a flat space. This is equivalent to the projections used to represent world maps on flat surfaces. I'm not sure what the particular projection used for CMB is.

Another interesting fact is that that picture is not the "actual" picture taken: it has been through two processes. In fact, originally it looks like this [nasa.gov] . This is due to the well-known doppler effect. We are moving with respect to the CMB photons, so the photons coming from the direction we're moving into seem to be more energetic than the photons coming from the opposite direction. This fact allows us to measure the speed we're moving through the CMB which happens to be about 600km/s.
After correcting for the doppler effect, what's left is this [lbl.gov] . In fact, the universe was extremely homogeneous 400,000 year after the big bang. However if one looks carefully it is possible to detect inhomogeneities in that picture, as small as 1 in 10^5. Those inhomogeneities is what actually is represented in the pictures as the one I showed in the previous post.

Re:Not really the oldest event ever seen - CMB (1)

MoeDrippins (769977) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721331)

Truly fascinating. Thanks so much! (If I could mod + reply I would, but alas...)

My own most distant object (2, Interesting)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27715179)

Congrats to the scientists!

The most distant object I've ever observed was on an astronomy trip to Costa Rica in February. I had set myself the challenge of sighting the nearest star in the night sky (Alpha Centauri C, aka Proxima Centauri), and the most distant object visible in all but the largest amateur-size telescopes, the quasar 3C273.

I nailed them both in a single night with patience, finder charts and an 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain. 4.2 light years and 2.5 to 3 billion, depending on which reference you use. Proxima is in a cluttered Milky Way field, while 3C273 appears to form a double star with a star in the Milky Way, not far from Gamma Virginis.

...laura

Re:My own most distant object (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27715899)

Depending on the time of year, you might also have been able to see the furthest object visible to the naked eye: the Andromeda Galaxy, 2.5 MLY away.

Re:My own most distant object (1)

Scarletdown (886459) | more than 5 years ago | (#27718725)

Would the Andromeda galaxy be visible from Costa Rica? I thought CR was too far south of the Equator for anything in that part of the northern night sky to be visible.

Re:My own most distant object (1)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721361)

M31 is an easy naked-eye object if you have good dark skies. If your skies are really dark you can try for M33, though it just looks like a piece of sky that isn't as dark as the rest of the sky. I've seen both from northern Canada.

Both are theoretically visible from Costa Rica, but are pretty low in the northern sky.

...laura

and how distant was it? (2, Interesting)

heroine (1220) | more than 5 years ago | (#27716487)

Too bad not one article said how distant it was. Still working on that one, but at least we know it's the "most" distant.

Re:and how distant was it? (3, Informative)

jae471 (1102461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27717365)

From the second link:

As shown by follow-up observations performed with ground-based telescopes, it was a very distant event, and soon it looked like this was the farthest GRB ever observed. A team of international astronomers led by Swift Italian Team and CIBO, using the AMICI prism with the Italian Telescopio Nazionale Galileo, was able to compute its redshift at about 8.1, corresponding to a distance of more than 80 Gpc, when the universe was only slightly more than 600 million years old (Figure 2).

Re:and how distant was it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27719007)

As shown by follow-up observations performed with ground-based telescopes, it was a very distant event, and soon it looked like this was the farthest GRB ever observed. A team of international astronomers led by Swift Italian Team and CIBO, using the AMICI prism with the Italian Telescopio Nazionale Galileo, was able to compute its redshift at about 8.1, corresponding to a distance of more than 80 Gpc, when the universe was only slightly more than 600 million years old (Figure 2).

No idea what Gpc, I looked it up and found it to be Gigaparsecs [wikipedia.org]

With One gigaparsec being about 3.262 billion light-years. From above, that's about 261 billion light years away.

Tea bagged? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27718335)

Did anybody read Most Distant Object Yet Detected, Tea Bagged By Galileo Scope? I must be watching too much Fox news

A little typo.... (1)

KingofGnG (1319253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720019)

"Telescopio Nationale Galileo" should be "Telescopio NAZIONALE Galileo" instead ;-)

By a caleidoscope...? (1)

beef3k (551086) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720877)

Jeez, whatever happened to peer reviews...
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