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Astronomers Detect the Earliest Galaxies

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the from-little-seeds dept.

Space 127

FiReaNGeL writes "Astronomers, using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, have uncovered a primordial population of compact and ultra-blue galaxies that have never been seen before. They are from 13 billion years ago, just 600 to 800 million years after the Big Bang. These newly found objects are crucial to understanding the evolutionary link between the birth of the first stars, the formation of the first galaxies, and the sequence of evolutionary events that resulted in the assembly of our Milky Way and the other 'mature' elliptical and majestic spiral galaxies in today's universe."

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127 comments

13 Billion years ago? (4, Funny)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661428)

Old news!

Re:13 Billion years ago? (3, Funny)

ari_j (90255) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662380)

Plus, it's a dupe. I read this on the mirror universe Slashdot yesterday.

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Wow, that's astounding (1)

JustNilt (984644) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661462)

I wonder when we'll find the earliest possible ones now. I always thought it took longer for them to form stars, etc.

Re:Wow, that's astounding (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30661526)

Lets hope they will find some that are even closer to the theoretical big bang time, so we can get rid of this nonsense :)

Re:Wow, that's astounding (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30661738)

Except that it's not nonsense :)

They've already found the closest thing to the big bang that's visible: the hot dense opaque plasma that's visible as the cosmic microwave background radiation, the characteristics of which coincide perfectly with the big bag theory.

Re:Wow, that's astounding (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661786)

the characteristics of which coincide perfectly with the big bag theory.

You leave my wife out of this!

Re:Wow, that's astounding (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30665254)

the characteristics of which coincide perfectly with the big bag theory.

You leave my wife out of this!

From the looks of it I'd hate to break it to you but she's been working hard and heavy behind your back.

Re:Wow, that's astounding (4, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661888)

the characteristics of which coincide perfectly with the big bag theory.

Blah blah blah. Look, I don't want to hear about how observations matched predictions. That's not science.

It's like this: I don't understand Big Bang Theory, therefore I don't like it, therefore it's nonsense, therefore your "evidence" is really just your prejudice, therefore we're obviously going to find galaxies that are ten billion years older than these ones, and therefore my theory of the Giant Cosmic Bunny Orgy Theory, which is obvious if you even think about it rationally, will be proven correct once and for all and I'll be elected the President of Physics. [xkcd.com]

Re:Wow, that's astounding (0, Redundant)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662198)

Blah blah blah. Look, I don't want to hear about how observations matched predictions. That's not science.

Except, um, that is science. You make observations, study those observations, and come up with a hypothesis about why those observations are occurring. You make a falsifiable prediction, and test that prediction, making more observations. If the observations match your predictions, bam! You now have a working theory.

Now about my racecar on a train thought experiment ....

Re:Wow, that's astounding (1, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662230)

Except, um, that is science.

No it isn't.

Re:Wow, that's astounding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662324)

Except, um, that is science.

No it isn't.

This isn't an argument!

Re:Wow, that's astounding (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662360)

This isn't an argument!

*ding* Good Morning!

Re:Wow, that's astounding (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662402)

I believe the comment you were looking for was "woosh!"

Re:Wow, that's astounding (2, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661702)

How soon they form depend on your cosmological simulation. Something had to be forming to reionize the universe, but it did not have to be galaxies of a sufficient size that you would notice them. But, the further the existence of quasars was pushed back, the more you needed somewhat organized bodied in which they could form even earlier so there were indications that some massive galaxies form early.

"Mature" galaxies? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30661512)

Can anyone confirm the applicability of Rule 34 to "mature" galaxies? Inquiring minds have noticed that it applies for almost anything else called mature!

Re:"Mature" galaxies? (3, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661708)

Re:"Mature" galaxies? (1, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662052)

DUDE! How about a NSFW warning next time?!

Re:"Mature" galaxies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662154)

Cool!
The Hand of God fingering some intergalactic pussy!

It's MY copypasta (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662590)

It's MY copypasta.
I wrote it.
I'll use it whenever I see "sexconker" used.

Although I generally believe that the less said about sexconker, the better, I do feel obligated to say a few things about sexconker's scabrous maneuvers. First off, sexconker is the embodiment of everything petty in our lives. Every grievance, every envy, every tasteless ideology finds expression in sexconker. While you or I might find it natural to want to deliver him from his appalling ignorance, we must fight for what is right. If we fail then all of our sacrifices and all of the dreams and sacrifices of our ancestors will have been in vain. The key is to realize that even if one isn't completely conversant with current events, the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that sexconker's prognoses are silly to the core. If you don't believe me, see for yourself.

It is as if we were safely on the bank of a raging river, enjoying a picnic with our friends and family, when a bunch of lewd vulgarians came along and threw us into the river. Not only must we struggle to avoid drowning in the raging torrent of sexconker-sponsored mysticism, but we must crawl out of the river before we can call your attention to the problem of bumptious thieves. He is completely mistaken if he believes that all it takes to start a rabbit farm is a magician's magic hat. I would undoubtedly not have thought it possible that we must act against injustice, whether it concerns drunk driving, domestic violence, or even cannibalism, in such a way that there is nothing he can do about it except learn to live with the fait accompli, but it's true. Right is right and wrong is wrong. However true that is, people used to think I was exaggerating whenever I said that sexconker's love of demagogism and irrationalism gives a new, perverse dimension to the old adage, De gustibus non est disputandum. After seeing sexconker toss sops to the egos of the aberrant these same people now realize that I wasn't exaggerating at all. In fact, they even realize that if we set the record straight then the sea of sadism, on which sexconker so heavily relies, will begin to dry up.

Okay, I admit that sexconker's equivocations are made of the same spirit that accounts for the majority of the problems we face in this world. But sexconker says that all any child needs is a big dose of television every day. Yet he also wants to condone universal oppression. Am I the only one who sees the irony there? I ask because he is known for walking into crowded rooms and telling everyone there that superstition is no less credible than proven scientific principles. Try, if you can, to concoct a statement better calculated to show how lawless sexconker is. You can't do it. Not only that, but I am tired of hearing or reading that everything is happy and fine and good. You know that that is simply not true.

Who is sexconker to say that censorship could benefit us? Imagine people everywhere embracing his claim that he values our perspectives. The idea defies the imagination. In order to look at our situation realistically and from a viewpoint that takes in the whole picture we must put to rest the animosities that have kept various groups of people from enjoying anything other than superficial unity. And that's just the first step. Remember, if sexconker would abandon his name-calling and false dichotomies it would be much easier for me to force sexconker into early retirement.

This is not wild speculation. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is documented fact. The tone of sexconker's statements is so far removed from reality I find myself questioning what color the sky must be in sexconker's world. sexconker's irresponsible bons mots oppose the visceral views of 98 percent of the nation's citizens. News of this deviousness must spread like wildfire if we are ever to rally good-hearted people to the side of our cause. Does anybody else feel the way I do, or am I alone in my disgust with sexconker?

Very cool (3, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661610)

I suspect I have identified such objects from submillimeter observations http://arxiv.org/abs/0802.1666 [arxiv.org] but it is very good to see a more robust population identified here.

Really? (3, Interesting)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661662)

Is 600 million years long enough to develop a complete galaxy? I'd think that might be too short for even a solor system to develop.

Re:Really? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661698)

I am not an astrophysicist, but why not? What WOULD be a a "normal" length of time for a galaxy to develop? And on what grounds do you base that reference point?

If the big bang is anything like -I- imagine it, it might only take a single year to form a galaxy

Re:Really? (4, Funny)

antic (29198) | more than 4 years ago | (#30664158)

I am not an astrophysicist, but why not?

Not smart enough? Parental pressure to follow your father into plumbing? A death in the family during a critical part of your schooling? Lived too far from suitable tertiary institutions? Can I have a hint? :P

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661798)

It may be. That is about a dynamical timescale for a galaxy merger. Star formation takes much less time than 600 million years. You would not be forming a lot of earth-like planets at that time because there was very little in the way of dust early on. Most solid phase material may have been ice rather than dust owing to the early relatively high abundance of oxygen produced in pair-instability supernovae.

Re:Really? (0)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662254)

That is about a dynamical timescale for a galaxy merger

Dynamical? Dynamical? That's not even a word! How are we supposed to take your opinions seriously if you just keep making words?

In any respect, does anyone really know how much time a galaxy takes to form?

Re:Really? (4, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662444)

Google can be your friend: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamical_time_scale [wikipedia.org]

Here is a classic paper on galaxy formation: http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1977MNRAS.179..541R [harvard.edu] you can get rough timescales from there. More modern treatments include early clustering of dark matter to speed the process along. Dark matter obviates the need to worry about cooling times to some extent though consideration of lithium hydride cooling may be important before the first prompt supernovae provide some metals (most likely pair-instability SNe). You can find out more in my paper linked above.

Re:Really? (1)

dunng808 (448849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30664700)

Took the words right out of my mouth.

Re:Really? (2, Interesting)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662628)

Since the average temperate of the Universe would have been much greater back then, all that heat could have sped up the process quite a bit compared to the current day.

Re:Really? (3, Interesting)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30663822)

Actually, the warm background can interfere with gas clouds cooling enough to collapse to become stars since the gas needs to cool radiatively. So, the warmth of the universe is a hindrance to some extent.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30665686)

> Actually, the warm background can interfere with gas clouds cooling enough to collapse to become stars

Don't they collapse due to gravity, which would be the same no matter the temperature?

Re:Really? (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30665930)

If the gas can't cool, then internal pressure can hold it up against collapse.

Re:Really? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30665578)

Time was so much faster then
It's slower then that now

Oh God (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661670)

So now the "scientists" are even saying that the galaxies come from from monkeys?! Blasphemers!

Big Deal. I can draw this crap in Photoshop... (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661700)

Big Deal. I can draw this crap in Photoshop for a lot less than the millions these jokers spend... Write me a check NASA!

The Cake is a Lie!

Re:Big Deal. I can draw this crap in Photoshop... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662406)

This is amazing they can still get data like this, I thought Hubble was stuck in the sand on Mars...

Re:Big Deal. I can draw this crap in Photoshop... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662642)

I fail to see how that works... though I guess it was a joke. I'm not sure I get it.

Re:Big Deal. I can draw this crap in Photoshop... (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30664412)

it really is amazing what NASA has done. I'm in awe of everything they do. They're wonderful people.

The predicted ID reaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30661736)

"Stars cannot evolve! DNA proves it!"

Ultra-Blue? (2)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661778)

My understanding of cosmology is at best limited, but shouldn't these galaxies appear red-shifted to the extreme? They are furthest and hence should be moving the away from us at an extremely fast pace. Is the name Ultra-blue restricted to element analysis based on spectrum? I'm just confused about the blue light.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661836)

My understanding of cosmology is at best limited, but shouldn't these galaxies appear red-shifted to the extreme? They are furthest and hence should be moving the away from us at an extremely fast pace. Is the name Ultra-blue restricted to element analysis based on spectrum? I'm just confused about the blue light.

Looking at this bit:

They are so blue that they must be extremely deficient in heavy elements, thus representing a population that has nearly primordial characteristics."

I assume this means that light, hydrogen-heavy objects will get hotter for a given amount of heat energy because of their lower density. Maybe these galaxies are red shifted, but they are relatively blue in relation to their red shift.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662028)

I'm confused.

You have a telescope that receives light from a distant object. At first:

-you don't know what it is made of

-you don't know how far away it is

-and you don't know how fast its relative motion is

How can you use red shift to predict relative motion? A shift implies a motion, and you don't know where it is moving from.

How can you make any prediction about composition if you can't be sure of the shift?

How can you make and prediction about distance if you are making up numbers about the previous two?

I've got to read a book or two on cosmology sometime. I suspect there is a lot of 'splaining left out.

And I would expect the oldest galaxies to have the least amount of hydrogen left, having had stars burning it the longest.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662144)

-you don't know what it is made of

All you have to do is run a spec analysis on the light rays. Each element produces a specific light band pattern. This can be blue/red shift calibrated

-and you don't know how fast its relative motion is

Actually you can. That's EXACTLY what red/blue shift is.

How can you use red shift to predict relative motion? A shift implies a motion, and you don't know where it is moving from.

Doesn't matter where it is moving from. It matters how it is moving RELATIVE to you the observer.

How can you make any prediction about composition if you can't be sure of the shift?

Because the element based bands, while they can shift frequency, DO NOT CHANGE RELATIVE TO EACHOTHER!

How can you make and prediction about distance if you are making up numbers about the previous two?

They are not making them up.

I've got to read a book or two on cosmology sometime. I suspect there is a lot of 'splaining left out.

Or a few dozen...

And I would expect the oldest galaxies to have the least amount of hydrogen left, having had stars burning it the longest.

Yes but considering most of the observable universe appears to be hydrogen that's a SHIT LOAD of mass to burn through.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

brainboyz (114458) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662266)

Yes but considering most of the observable universe appears to be hydrogen that's a SHIT LOAD of mass to burn through.

I'll add to this that if the light is 13 billion years old, the galaxies might have burned through everything by now but we wouldn't know because the light carrying the information to witness the change hasn't physically reached us yet.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30663738)

There is a lot of recycling that goes on so most stars now are made of material that was in a previous generation of stars. But, there are stars in our galaxy from those early times. They are low enough mass (less than 0.7 times the mass of the Sun) so that they have lifetimes longer than the age of the universe. Certain globular clusters in the Milky Way appear to be from about that time.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662296)

having had stars burning it the longest.

Except that we're seeing these galaxies as they were when they were young.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

itlurksbeneath (952654) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662302)

And I would expect the oldest galaxies to have the least amount of hydrogen left, having had stars burning it the longest.

True, but you're seeing the galaxy as it was 13 billion (emphasis homage to Carl Sagan) years ago when it was relatively new, yes?

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662440)

This is just a guess, but I'm thinking you can look for spectral lines characteristic of certain elements and simple compounds, and see how far down the spectrum they're shifted, to determine the overall degree of redshift. Once you have that information, you have a pretty good idea how far away the galaxy is. Any astronomers want to jump in and tell me if this is right, wrong, or "not even wrong?"

Re:Ultra-Blue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30664428)

...you can look for spectral lines characteristic of certain elements and simple compounds, and see how far down the spectrum they're shifted, to determine the overall degree of redshift. Once you have that information, you have a pretty good idea how far away the galaxy is.

IANAA but taken a few semesters of astrophysics and you are indeed correct. I suspect they were not using Lyman-alpha here (it's in the UV), but it is one of the common absorption spectrums used in determining redshift; it's generated from electron transitions in hydrogen. IIRC I think infrared is much easier to detect or the equipment can be made more sensitive to it which is why I'm guessing they used it in calculating these enormous distances.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#30665740)

I'm not an astronomer, but I did take a course once. You're right and wrong. By itself, the red shift will only tell you how fast it is moving relative to you. It won't directly tell you how far. Astronomers have pieced together a bunch of distance determining methods into what they call the Cosmic Distance Ladder [wikipedia.org] . In general, the larger the red shift, the farther away the object, but not always. Certain regions of the sky have smaller or larger red shifts than they are "supposed" to have. These differences are being explained by postulating the existence of "dark matter" or "dark energy".

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#30665756)

Dang! Should have previewed. There was supposed to be a link for distance determining methods [ucla.edu] , but I fouled it up. Sorry.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (5, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662602)

A few basic Astronomy tidbits for you:

Elements emit light at characteristic colors - frequencies of light. Eg, copper emits a bluish green color. By looking at the spectrum of the object, you can tell what the object is made of. If an object is moving, the spectrum will be shifted relative to normal due to the doppler effect. If it is shifted to higher frequencies the object is approaching you. If the spectrum is red shifted, it is moving away. The greater the shift, the greater the velocity.

Certain stars are close enough to Earth that we can triangulate their distance, using the orbit of the earth as the base of the triange. There is a certain class of star called a cepheid variable, some of which are in triangulateable range. Cepheids give off regular bursts of light, and due to the process by which they do that, the amount of light they give off is proportional to the frequency of the bursts. By using the inverse square law you can tell how far away a cepheid is by its brightness.

Thus, you can tell how far away a galaxy is by looking at its cepheid stars. So, by careful observation, you can detect the composition, speed, direction, distance, and age of a star. By looking at many stars, you can detect patterns like: the farther away a star is, the faster it is moving away from us.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662788)

Elements emit light at characteristic colors - frequencies of light.

To clarify so the GP doesn't think copper emits some blurred haze of green, elements emit very specific wavelenths of light that can be easily differentiated when the light is separated via a prism.

You'll see bands of light of various strenghts, and very conspicuous black lines at frequencies where it does not emit any light. Because the light was emmitted at the exact same moment (by definition), the redshift is exactly the same for all frequencies. The pattern never changes even though the the light all shifts red.

From these patterns, we know exactly what distant stars are made of. Because we have all of these elements on Earth, we know exactly what color they start out as, and exactly what their pattern is.

So, to sum up, splitting the light with a prism gives us the pattern. The pattern is compared to known elements to give us the element(s) the star is made of. The element(s) gives us the original color, which we can use to compare against the observed light. The observed red-shift from the original color gives us the distance.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30663572)

I am also confused, but about something else.
Given that
1) The universe was a dot at the big bang.
2) The Earth has been moving away from the big bang center.
3) Earth is at least 13 billion light years away from the big bang event.
4) The universe is 14 billion years old.

Then Earth is traveling away from the big bang event at (13/14 * the speed of light)?
This seems wrong, Earth must be moving slower.
So asked another way, why hasn't light that was generated only 600 million years after the big bang already flown by us.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30666006)

The answer is that there is no big bang 'center' [nasa.gov] - we are not "moving away from a big bang event" because the location of the event is the entire universe!

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661892)

The light we're seeing comes from a long long time ago, from when the galaxies were actually getting closer. Either that or it's because it's from such a long time ago that stars had only managed to produce the smaller elements and so were bluer because of the lack of oxygen. At least, that's the colour I go when I'm lacking oxygen, I assume galaxies are the same.

I think I need my bed...

Re:Ultra-Blue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662486)

> The light we're seeing comes from a long long time ago, from when the galaxies were actually getting closer

then why don't they look closer? Shouldn't they be much larger (angularly speaking) than more nearby galaxies whose light comes to us from a more recent, more "spread out" universe? I've never understood this.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30663158)

Actually it's because the galaxy is almost entirely hydrogen, which emits blue light.

What they picked up was infra-red light. By shining that through a prism, you get the elements the galaxy is composed of. From the elements you can get the original color (all elements radiate a very specific set of frequencies that act like a fingerprint). Compare the original color to the observed color, which has shifted so far it has gone from up near violet down into the infra-red, and you get distance and therefore age.

If we are able to find anything older than these we'll probably have to start looking at sub-infrared radiation. I don't know how you get a prism to split radio waves, though.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (2, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661920)

These galaxies are intrinsically blue at their rest wavelength. They have young stars and little dust.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (3, Interesting)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661946)

I believe the only reason they can see these galaxies is because they were blue to begin with.

They are using Hubble's infra-red telescope to see them, so that should tell you how far they have shifted. Obviously the pretty picture has been adjusted back to the original color. If you'll notice, the older galaxies (from 600 mil years post Big Bang) are a darker blue than the younger (700 mil years post BB).

The next ones they find will probably have to be pushing violet.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662012)

The next ones they find will probably have to be pushing violet.

There's an Ultraviolet joke in here somewhere...

Re:Ultra-Blue? (2, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661990)

mdsolar said why they're called blue -- cus that's the color of light they're emitting.

They are extremely red-shifted (in fact astronomers typically talk about such distances/timescales in terms of degree of red-shift). It's not like if you were to peer at these galaxies in a telescope they'd look blue. In fact you probably wouldn't see anything at all; Hubble is almost certainly (huh? rtfa?) using it's near-infrared cameras for this.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662114)

The article didn't explain the "rest wavelength" that was noted above in a comment. That's what I was looking for. The light has been "shifted back" to how it would appear if there was no relative movement between observer and the target galaxy.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (3, Informative)

kclittle (625128) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661992)

I *think* TFA is implying that they can determine the intrinsic color, even when highly red-shifted, and that this intrinsic color is extremely blue due to the lack of any elements other than hydrogen and helium. This would be expected, because no elements heavier than helium had yet been synthesized.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30663386)

They certainly can, it's called spectrography.

Different elements have a very distinct pattern of frequencies of light they emit when they are radiating. Since we can cause these elements to radiate on Earth to see what the base frequencies are, all we have to do is compare the pattern to the known patterns of the elements to figure out the primary elements in the galaxy. From there we can compare the base frequencies to the red-shifted frequencies and get distance/time. Hydrogen is mostly various blue wavelengths, with a very small amount of red, and absolutely nothing else.

These galaxies are almost exclusively Hydrogen, which radiates primarily blue. That means if you were sitting right in the middle of one of these galaxies at the time this light was emitted (600-700 million years after the big bang), everything would be blue. All the stars, all the gassy clouds (which were probably everywhere), all of it would be blue, because all of it would be hydrogen.

For the pictures, they just shifted the colors back to their original blue, that's not actually what was recorded. We can't see what was actually recorded, because it was recorded with the infra-red equipment on the Hubble.

Re:Ultra-Blue? (1)

fremsley471 (792813) | more than 4 years ago | (#30665968)

This would be expected, because no elements heavier than helium had yet been synthesized.

Poor lithium, you were at the ball but no-one remembers you.

just a thought (1)

houbou (1097327) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661834)

In theory, at the very edge of universe, is it possible that the primordial light has yet made itself visible? if someone could .. in theory.. travel there, would they be able to see the very creation itself?

Re:just a thought (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30661962)

Yes. Which is why Faster Than Light travel is also considered (in some respects) Time Travel.

Re:just a thought (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662046)

Yes. They'd just need to travel faster than the speed of light, and then have a very strong telescope.

Re:just a thought (1)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662070)

Are you asking about the edge as it was when the light we might detect now was emitted billions of years ago or the edge as it is now? I find it kind of difficult to speculate about the later since we're always billions of years behind of any sight we may get from it...

Re:just a thought (2, Informative)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662226)

According to TFA, hydrogen re-ionization when most of the universe was still opaque, gassy hydrogen and was not burning in the form of stars, blocks almost all of the light from 400 million to 900 million years after the BB. The only reason these galaxies were visible is because they believe they had extremely efficient hydrogen ionization, which is also why they were so blue. Before 400 million years post BB you have stars and galaxies only just forming, so I don't think there would be much in the way of light at all to be seen.

Also remember that the Big Bang is not an explosion in space, it's an explosion of space, so there might not be any visible light emmitted at all from the very beginning.

Horse pussy! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30661940)

The Earth is only 6000 years old as scientifically proven by The Bible. The Bible says the Earth is 6000 years old. The Bible says it is the word of God. Ipso facto - the Earth is 6000 years old. Case closed. Next!

This just a galaxy cluster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662036)

I'm waiting for the next sets of clusters before dating The Universe. It will be tragic news to only find this one cluster - that's going to mean we are the furthest flung cluster.

Star Wars (1)

jag7720 (685739) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662120)

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away...

I wonder if Luke saw them.

What is evolutionary about this? (1)

Thoguth (203384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662168)

I know a lot of people use the term "evolutionary" as a synonym for "gradual" or "slow" but when I think of evolution, I think of the specific process of mutations and reproduction by which a population changes over time. Unless there's something new about galaxies I've never heard of, I don't understand why the term "evolutionary" is the best word to describe the development of the early universe. (Or anything at astronomical scales that I can think of.)

Re:What is evolutionary about this? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662588)

Evolutio is Latin for "unfolding", and evolvere Italian for "to develop".

Mutation and reproduction has nothing to do with it. What it means is a "gradual, unfolding development".

Re:What is evolutionary about this? (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#30663304)

Darwinian selection is the process by which animal species change over time. That is one example of evolution, a specific example which happens to rely on hereditary characteristics, reproduction, and so forth.

But 'evolution' is a word that simply means change over time. Evolution was used as a term long before Darwin; indeed, it was known that animals evolved before there was any good explanation for how they evolved. The term 'evolution' isn't limited to living creatures any more than the term 'drive' is limited only to cars. It's simply the most common usage of the word. It's probably better to use the term 'natural selection' when you're referring to the evolution of species. Natural selection requires reproduction, for instance, while evolution doesn't.

If they are so old, why do they look so distant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662404)

Shouldn't they be just as close (looking) as other galaxies, if the universe was so much smaller early in its life? I've never understood how this works. Does it have to do with the rate of universal expansion being "faster" than the speed of light?

Re:If they are so old, why do they look so distant (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30663182)

In fact, they are spread out somewhat in appearance because there is no "vanishing point" as you might have in a drawing with a road or rail tracks. The smaller universe of that time has to be spread over the same amount of sky so there is some magnification to make this happen. Try putting different redshifts in here http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/CosmoCalc.html [ucla.edu] and look at how the scale changes (kpc/" is kiloparsecs per arcsecond). You can plot it on some paper and see how it changes.

Re:If they are so old, why do they look so distant (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30663450)

It has to do with the expanding universe, period. Take a balloon and draw a bunch of regularly spaced dots on it with a marker. Now inflate the balloon. The dots all get farther away from each other. Moreover, there is no "center" to the expansion that lies on the surface of the balloon -- no one point can be said to be the center from which all other points move away. In this analogy, the speed of light would be the maximum speed at which the dots could move about on the surface of the balloon -- this is totally unrelated to the expansion of the balloon itself.

Re:If they are so old, why do they look so distant (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30663868)

We're not spots on a balloon, we're currants in an expanding pudding.

Hubble NewsCenter link (2, Informative)

Suddenly_Dead (656421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662632)

The corresponding Hubble NewsCenter article [hubblesite.org] includes more details and more, larger images.

Stupid question (1)

codepigeon (1202896) | more than 4 years ago | (#30662662)

Ok, I admit I don't know a lot about this subject, but if they are seeing this far into the "past", they have to be looking in one direction right? I assume that the Big Bang started at one point. So therefore, there must be one spot in the sky that they are looking at, and thus the "spot" that the universe came into existence.

Is this spot in the sky widely known? Where is it? And assuming the explosion would be spherical, would we ever be able to see galaxies that shot off in the other directions?

Re:Stupid question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30662884)

Imagine a balloon, infinitely compressed such that the entire balloon takes an infinitesimally small amount of space. The surface of this balloon is "space". Now, imagine that the Big Bang causes this balloon to expand. Space gets larger and larger, and two points on the balloon become further and further separated. However, none of these points on the surface of the balloon was the one point at which everything started. In reality, they all were.

(The radius of the balloon, as it expands, can be thought of as the Time dimension, while the surface is a 2D spacial dimension. Thus at time 0, space is infinitesimally small, and as you blow the balloon up, everything gets further and further apart. The actual relation between the two doesn't necessarily hold in real life, but this is just a massive simplification.)

Re:Stupid question (1)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30663216)

if they are seeing this far into the "past", they have to be looking in one direction right? I assume that the Big Bang started at one point.

The sibling post gives a perfectly good analogy to explain this, but you probably already knew it. Another way of putting it that I sometimes find helpful: the Big Bang didn't happen at such-and-such a location, which can be plotted as X, Y, Z coordinates. The Big Bang happened everywhere. It's just that Everywhere was really really really tiny back then.

Re:Stupid question (5, Interesting)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30663724)

Another way to look at it, is that at the instant before the big bang there was no universe, or you could say the universe was infinitely small. After the BB the universe was expanding, but there was still no space outside the universe. Everything we consider "space" is all packed inside the universe, and the universe was a lot smaller then than it is.

The classic analogy is the balloon analogy. Imagine three dimensional space is the two dimensional surface of a balloon with tiny points all over it representing matter. As the balloon expands, all points on the surface move away from each other, and the balloon has gotten larger. However, the center of the balloon is not on the 2d surface, the center of the balloon is in the 3rd dimension. Therefore, relative to the surface there is no center.

Now, bump everything up one dimension and you have our universe. The "surface" is three dimensional space, and it is expanding along the fourth dimension. We have no way of seeing the fourth dimension, just like a 2d creature on the surface of the balloon could do nothing but look forward, backward, left and right we can only do that plus up and down. We would need to add another dimension to our repertoir to view the fourth dimension, but we can't conceptualise beyond the abstract about what that might be. However, we can definitely see that everything in the third dimension is moving away from everything else. Therefore space is expanding, and no matter which way we look everything is moving away. In fact, no matter what vantage point you take in the universe it will always look the same, because the "surface" of the universe is what is expanding.

It's a bit mind numbing to think about, but there is no direction you can look at and figure out "where" the big bang was. There is no "where" in the third dimension, the where is in a dimension that we are not equipped to experience. All we can do is measure its effects in our own dimension.

I like Carl Sagan's explanation of the fourth dimension best, but wikipedia [wikipedia.org] does a good job, if a bit on the technical side.

Re:Stupid question (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#30664238)

I have a followup question to this: Is the universe now, or did it ever, expand at or faster than the speed of light, as space itself expanded? The whole notion of looking 'back in time' to see a galaxy that close to the big bang has me a little bit puzzled. What I mean is, my understanding of this whole idea of 'looking back in time' with a telescope is that light travels at the speed of light, and if we know a galaxy is X billion light-years away from Earth, then we say that the images we see *now* originally left that galaxy X billion years ago (well, ok, there's probably some sort of calculus needed to adjust for the fact that the universe is expanding, and the points in space are getting farther away from each other *even as the light travels between galaxies*).

But, it still seems to me strange that we could 'see' back in time to .6 or .8 Billion years after the big bang, when there has subsequently been 13.2 to 13.4 Billion years. The only way I can conceptually make that work out is if the Universe is expanding at nearly the speed of light. My reasoning is this: at .6 to .8 Billion years after the big bang, the 'diameter' of the Universe would have to have been less-than-or-equal .6 or .8 Billion light years, wouldn't it? That is based upon the presumption that no two bits of matter in the Universe can ever move away from each other at or faster than the speed of light (so, the radius of the Universe would be constrained to expanding at 1/2 C, wouldn't it?). I would think that the *diametric* expansion of the universe would have been something less than the speed of light - maybe like 1/2-2/3 C (so, the radius would have only expanded at something like 1/4 - 1/3 C)? (The only real basis I have for that is simply that I've never heard of anything other than light, and sub-atomic particles, moving at any significant fraction of the speed of light, but I really have no idea here - help me out).

Anyhow, getting back to my point - if the Universe was less than 1 Billion light-years between the farthest points of space *at that time*, how is it possible that it took 13+ Billion years for the light to reach Earth from that time? The mathematics of the situation makes no sense to me. I mean, I *do* get that even as the light travels, the distance it needs to travel to reach us is constantly increasing, but it would seem like the light travels so much faster than anything else, that it wouldn't take that long.

I mean, let's say, for example, that we start at the year 1 Billion ABB (After the Big Bang). Let's say, for example, the Universe was .5 Billion light-years in diameter, and the diameter was increasing at a rate of .5 Bn light years every 1 Bn years (in other words, the diameter is expanding at 1/2 C). Ok, so a bunch of photons leave Galaxy A to travel to Galaxy B which is at the furthest possible point in the Universe. After travelling for .5 Bn years the photons reach the point where Galaxy B *used to be*, but Galaxy B has kept moving, and is now .25 Bn light years farther away than it started. So the photons travel on for another .25 Bn years, but once again Galaxy B has moved on, and is now .125 Bn light years away. As we can see, this progression keeps halving the distance and halving the time travelled by the light. I haven't calculated out the exact time it would take for the light to finally reach Galaxy B, but because of this progression of halving, I think it's going to be somewhere around the year 2 Bn?

So, getting back to my original question, how is it possible that we could ever 'look back' *that far* in time. I could buy that we could look back 5, or maybe even 7 Billion years, but I don't see how it's possible to see back farther than that?

Re:Stupid question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30664686)

Because your initial assumption about the rate of expansion of the universe is incorrect. Not only is it expanding at the speed of light in every direction, so after 13.7 billion years the universe would be 27.4 billion light years across, extra space is also being shoved into it, ala the expanding balloon mentioned above, so in fact it is thought that the universe is significantly bigger than even that, perhaps anything upto 50 billion ly.

But in answer to you initial question, yes they thought that the universe did expand at faster than the speed of light for a tiny fraction of the first second during a period of time known as inflation. Or at least they (scientists) need this to make the equations work. I think this period was before the symmetry breaking of some of the basic forces, but after gravity broke away. The universe expanded to billions of miles within the first second, as opposed to a few hundred thousand.

Re:Stupid question (1)

cntThnkofAname (1572875) | more than 4 years ago | (#30664750)

I have wondered this for SO long, and it would be really interesting to hear a qualified answer. That being said I will take a crack at how I think this may be possible. I think I, and most people, are thinking about the universe wrong. The universe is not some object, everything inside it is, and everything inside the universe abides by the laws of physics. So the universe can expand at what ever rate it wants. I know this brings up the problem of things much be traveling away from each other faster than C, but I had an idea after reading through your question. The overall matter in the universe is finite (we believe) so, because the universe is expanding like BigJeff says (in the 4th dimension), and we think of the 4th dimension as a plane observable by the 5th dimension, and a point observable by the 6th dimension, I would think because the universe is expanding in a higher dimension that it is not actually the "edge of the universe" that is growing and matter filling in the space, but it's the actual space between particles that is expanding. If every particle in the universe moved away from the next by a millimeter in a year, I'm guessing that the universe would seam to expand faster than light without actually breaking any laws. And I would assume from this that gravity is a bit of a limiting factor in keeping particles from moving apart. It's just a thought I had reading your question, and it's nap time now.

Re:Stupid question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30664894)

Two bits of the universe can expand away from each other at faster than the speed of light; this is why we speak of the "observable Universe", which is the Universe up to the light horizon (where light is no longer able to catch up to us).

This time, imagine space as a grid. Point (0,0) is us. Point (0,1) moves away from us at a rate of 1 unit every second. Point (0,2) moves away from (0,1) at the same rate, meaning that it moves away from us at a rate of 2 units every second. And so forth. Every point in space is doing this.

Re:Stupid question (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30664376)

The BB is still happening, the "expansion" of the observable universe (small 'u') is just another way of saying space is still exploding into existance, in otherwords the universe IS the big bang. The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is a shell of expanding "light" that came from very early in the long bang. The CMB encloses our universe.

It's claimed that the CMB shell is a universal frame of reference until recently it had been assumed no such universal frame of reference existed, however it's existance does not violate general releativity as some might claim. It's also claimed the geometry of the observable universe is very close to flat (ie: euclidian). Iff [wikipedia.org] those two claims are true then the BB's blue touch paper (geometric center of the universe) is located at the geometric centere of the CMB light shell. However given general relativity you probably need a "god's eye" view of the universe to find it.

How is this possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30664274)

I am NOT a physisist nor astronomer, but I am currious.

If the light was emmited from these galaxies when the univers was roughly 600 to 800 million years old. Assuming that the substance from the big bang could not move faster than the speed of light. The universe could not have been more than 1.2 to 1.6 billion light years across. I am fairly confused about why this radiant energy didn't pass our relative position in the universe a very long time ago.

So, my question is...

How is it possible that we can still recieve the light from these galaxies?

Re:How is this possible? (1)

dido (9125) | more than 4 years ago | (#30664970)

For more information on these I suggest reading this article [wikipedia.org] . The metric expansion of space is much more complicated.

Basic question (1)

vivek7006 (585218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30664336)

- We know that the universe started expanding from a single point.
- We also know that there are galaxies which are billions of light-years away from us.
- This implies that the universe must have
expanded faster than the speed of light after the big-bang explosion.

I cant wrap my head around that. How is faster than light expansion possible?

Re:Basic question (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30664966)

Why shouldn't it be? Relativity only puts constraints on how fast you can move through space, not how fast space itself can stretch.

Oldest galaxies? (1)

Schnoogs (1087081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30664352)

So you mean like 4000 years old?

Open the archive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30664830)

I'm not certain how accurate the following information is, but I find the suggestion from the following quote on CNN [cnn.com] to be a serious limitation to the project:

"According to Villard, the archive from Hubble contains more than 500,000 pictures that can be accessed by the world's 6,000 astronomers. The data from the Ultra Deep Field have been analyzed by at least five international teams of astronomers, he said."

Why isn't the archive open to everyone? Aren't there more than 6,000 astronomers in the world? Wouldn't it be advantageous to open the archive to fresh eyes and new analysis?

Re:Open the archive (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30666140)

6000 is probably about right. I expect you can get the data from here: http://archive.stsci.edu/ [stsci.edu] Now there are 6001.

Why do astronomers... (1)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30665476)

...speak of these galaxies as if they currently exist? If these galaxies are 11-13 billion light years away, haven't they since morphed into mature galaxies (or even moved even further away from us)?

In any event, all of this is rather fascinating to a non-astronomer. It's truly mind-boggling to be looking at images of an event that happened many billions of years ago...

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