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NASA Sees Glow of Universe's First Objects

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the first-post dept.

Space 327

Damek writes with news from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which has captured light from what may have been the first glowing objects in the universe, light generated 14 billion years ago. From the article: "'We are pushing our telescopes to the limit and are tantalizingly close to getting a clear picture of the very first collections of objects,' said Dr. Alexander Kashlinsky... 'Whatever these objects are, they are intrinsically incredibly bright and very different from anything in existence today.' Astronomers believe the objects are either the first stars — humongous stars more than 1,000 times the mass of our sun — or voracious black holes that are consuming gas and spilling out tons of energy. If the objects are stars, then the observed clusters might be the first mini-galaxies..."

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Almost there... (4, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306310)

Once the have a telescope that can peer past that glow, they find the number "42" at one of the cosmos and a hitchhiker thumb at the other end.

Re:Almost there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17306430)

Great. Now what was the question again?

Re:Almost there... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306676)

6 x 7

Re:Almost there... (2, Informative)

Bill Currie (487) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306754)

No, the question was 6 times 9. But in base 13.

Re:Almost there... (2, Informative)

duguk (589689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307374)

No, it isn't [google.com] .

Monkeyboi

Re:Almost there... (4, Funny)

The-Ixian (168184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306806)

For some reason I thought there would be a trendy restaurant out there

Re:Almost there... (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306908)

Anything to explain the apparent faster-than-light light in the slashdot writeup (RTFA FIRST- in reality they're looking at stuff only 13.2 billion light years away, not 14 billion- which would indicate light that was older than the universe itself at 13.7 billion years old).

Re:Almost there... (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307198)

Follow the direction of the hitchhiker thumb. If a bunch of Klingons start attacking you, you took the wrong exit.

Please explain (1, Interesting)

Gabrill (556503) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306324)

If it took 14 billion years for the light to reach us, and the universe is 14 billion years old, does that mean that we are on the very edge of the expanding universe? Does that mean that we should be able to "see" the outside edge of it?

Re:Please explain (1)

miyako (632510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306392)

The problem is, you are thinking of the universe as expanding from a center point out, when as I understand it, every point is expanding away uniformly from every other point.
At least, that's the way my non-physicist brain understands it.

Re:Please explain (5, Informative)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306470)

A good way to think of it is to imagine us as living on the skin of a balloon as it is being blown up. You are moving away from every other point uniformly, but you aren't near the "edge".

In more physics-friendly language, there are only two possibilities - either the universe is open or it's closed. If it's open, then it's infinite in all directions and there is no edge (we don't think this is the case, but it's still technically possible). If it's closed, then there simply is no edge because as you travel in any direction you curve around to head back where you came from.

It might also help to realize that while the visible universe may be "only" 14 billion light years or so in radius, the longest dimension of a closed universe could be several times this number due to inflationary expansion. So we may not be seeing everything that's actually out there.

Re:Please explain (1)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306626)

I thought that the state of the art is that the universe is very nearly flat- that it's only when you get next to stars and galaxies that you start to notice curvature. But that on the scale of the large-scale structure of the universe, that it's flat. This would indicate that space extends infinitely in all directions.

Re:Please explain (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306942)

Nah, that's just propaganda from the flat universalists!

----------
Slashdot standards indicate that you can't have a thought that takes less than 20 seconds to type- so I added this sentence.

Re:Please explain (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307058)

space extends infinitely in all directions.

Tell that to the dragons and the space demons that live on the edge of the universe.

Re:Please explain (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306706)

we don't think this is the case

We who? I hope you're not speaking for everyone.

Re:Please explain (1)

Chapps (1037508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306738)

To go further, it's literally impossible to "see" past a certain point. This is because the universe is expanding at such a rate that space itself is expanding faster than the speed of light.

Makes you appreciate how big the universe is. :)

Re:Please explain (2, Informative)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306966)

And before anyone jumps in about this :-) ... The universe can do this without violating known laws of physics because it's not really the boundaries of the universe that is "moving" in the normal sense, see also here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_expansion_of_s pace [wikipedia.org]

Re:Please explain (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307018)

This is because the universe is expanding at such a rate that space itself is expanding faster than the speed of light.

Ok, you see, I've got a problem with that. It's a place I insert God because I simply can't understand it. Matter can't move faster than light. Energy can't move faster than light. So how the hell can space, which is defined by putting matter in it (even if it's only one hydrogen atom per cubic light year) be expanding faster than the speed of light? That makes no sense to me.

When I first read the article summary, I thought we had final proof of this paradox. Then I read the article, and realized that the sumarizer was off in his estimate of how old these objects are by .8 billion years (enough to move them to the correct side of the big bang).

Re:Please explain (3, Insightful)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307136)

Matter can't move faster than light. Energy can't move faster than light. So how the hell can space, which is defined by putting matter in it (even if it's only one hydrogen atom per cubic light year) be expanding faster than the speed of light?
The first two refer to how fast things can move through space. The expansion of space doesn't obey the same laws as the ones governing motion of matter/energy through space.

Think of it as the difference between how fast an ant can crawl across the surface of an expanding balloon, vs. how fast the balloon itself is being inflated. The two speeds are not related to each other, and there can be a limit on the former when there is not on the latter.

Here's the problem though... (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307314)

If one point in space is expanding fast enough ("edge" of space) in relationship to another point (us), and then if the first object was accellerated to close to light speed velocities, away from the second point, wouldn't it appear as if the first object was moving away from the second object faster than the speed of light?

Okay, another way of putting it: if there's a governed "speed limit" on your ant balloon, of 10" per minute, and the ant is travelling out from the center at that speed, while at the same time I'm blowing up the balloon, wouldn't the ant appear to be moving away from all points behind it, faster than 10" per minute?

The thing is, we know the speed of light within space is constant, and under normal circumstances (all that we know, anyway) can't be breached. But that isn't accounting for the displacement due to "expanding space". Is it, then, possible to observe two extremely distant objects as moving away from each other faster than the speed of light?

Re:Please explain (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307194)

Objects themselves are not moving. Rather, the metric defining space is changing. Therefore, it's not bound by the speed of light. Someone above posted a Wikipedia page about it.

Anyway, now you can drop all that "god" nonsense.

Re:Please explain (1)

buttle2000 (1041826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307190)

In more physics-friendly language, there are only two possibilities - either the universe is open or it's closed. If it's open, then it's infinite in all directions and there is no edge (we don't think this is the case, but it's still technically possible). If it's closed, then there simply is no edge because as you travel in any direction you curve around to head back where you came from.

How do you do that, with linux?

Re:Please explain (1)

gaspar ilom (859751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307226)

Y'know, I have a question about that:

Say the universe does "curve" back in on itself. And, suppose further, that it's "soccer ball shaped."

Does that mean we could be able to see *through* one of 20 ("primary"?) facets in the sky -- and see the half-or-so of the facets on the far-end of that adjacent soccer ball?

...like a repeated, mirrored image in a kaleidoscope?

Re:Please explain (2, Interesting)

complete loony (663508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307296)

An article that came up a couple of days ago, suggested that the universe might be shaped like a dodecahedron [slashdot.org] , where each face is "joined" to it's rotated opposite face.

I found this hard to visualise until I realised that dodecahedrons tessellate perfectly in 3D space. So just picture a bunch of glass dodecahedrons stacked together with invisible seams, stretching to infinity, except there's only really 1 of them, and the rest are just reflections.

*If* the universe is closed like this, it *could* be a lot smaller than it looks. We'd only know for sure if we could see a few more Milky Way's (or some other obvious structure) in our vicinity.

Re:Please explain (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306506)

The way I visualise galaxies are like a drain with the plug out.
The universe has lots of holes.

A traveller caught in one hole must work to escape its tide and fight against the current for some of the way.
A boat travelling along the surface must actually travel a further distance to escape than actual relative distance covered.

(the difference in distance travelled and work done gives the red shift).

Re:Please explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17306420)

The universe is expanding, and we're on an arm.

Re:Please explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17306594)

Erm galactic arm rather; not necessarily on the "edge" of the universe. There are several different spatial interpretations of the universe, so the bottom line is we don't really know what the universe looks like and where we fit in (beyond the small, delayed map we can actually see and extrapolate).

Re:Please explain (1)

spyder913 (448266) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306464)

no... we could be seeing very near the 'edge' of the universe or there could be lots more space beyond this distance. We can't tell because anything further hasn't had time for light to get to us yet. This is the edge of the _visible_ universe.

Re:Please explain (1)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306482)

If it took 14 billion years for the light to reach us, and the universe is 14 billion years old, does that mean that we are on the very edge of the expanding universe?
No. There is no edge to the universe. Think of the universe as the surface of an expanding balloon, which has no boundary. The light travels between two points on that expanding surface (which are growing farther apart as the light travels). Light from 14 billion years ago doesn't imply anything about where the original point was (in particular, it's not at "the edge of the universe", or halfway around the balloon, or whatever); it just originated from the farthest points that we can currently see. (There is more space beyond which we can't see, because light from it hasn't reached us yet.)

Re:Please explain (1)

blugu64 (633729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307220)

So what happens when the balloon bursts?

Re:Please explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17307354)

The Big Rip? [space.com]

Re:Please explain (4, Informative)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306520)

Ah; Excellent question.

If you look at the "known universe," it appears that we are in the exact middle, dead center, of the known universe.

When we see the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, [wikipedia.org] we are seeing "the edge" of the visible universe, that we can see.

As you look further and further away from where we are, you see deeper and deeper into the past, until you see back as far as we can, where we see only the cosmic microwave background radiation, uniformly, like a sphere, in all directions.

Most astrophysicists doubt that we are at the exact middle.

The reason we can't see things beyond the visible universe, [wikipedia.org] is simply because light hasn't existed long enough to get to us, from things that exist beyond the edge of our light cone of vision.

Right? If light has only existed for, say, 14.7 billion light years, then you're not going to be seeing something that's 20 billion light years away. Or 100 billion light years away.

It makes sense that, at the very edge of our vision, we see the genesis of the universe, in all directions.

Astrophysicists today do not know how large the universe is, and it may well be infinite, in all directions. Astrophysicists take this idea very seriously, as far as I understand. That said, they also take seriously the idea that it is smaller than the observable universe, and just has a wrap-around effect.

Re:Please explain (2, Interesting)

rudeboy1 (516023) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306718)

OK. Been meaning to have this conversation with someone in the know, but I'll have to make do with slashdotters (I keed, I keed!)
    I understand what you are saying, mostly. But, define this concept of infinite space. To me, anything that exists 3 dimensionally must have physical measurements, and thusly, a point in which it ceases to geographically exist. Saying the universie is infinite seems (respectfully, I'm not trying to troll here) like trying to finish that science paper early so you can go to sleep. Plus, the theory that the universe is expanding, to me, immediately brings to mind that it is going from a smaller size to a larger size, in which case, the previous argument begs more attention. I always try to imagine, or ask myself, what is beyond the universe.
    That's usually about the point I go crosseyed, say to hell with it, and go play video games.

Re:Please explain (2, Informative)

particle_fizax (883569) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306988)

Well, I just walked out of my statistical thermodynamics final and unfortunately, I'm not sure that I can help you out any. I won't claim to be an expert in the field, but the general consensus seems to be that the universe as a system should follow the laws of thermodynamics. That being said, I'm not sure how you handle an real infinite system in regards to any of the thermodynamics laws. I mean, sure I pull spheres from infinity all the time, but really it's just a convenient cheat for us lazy physicists.

Alternatively, I think that it doesn't make much sense to think about space in terms of space. That's kind of like thinking of lollipops in terms of lollipops. I mean, sure, they're delicious. If I tell you about lollipops, you may think, "Mmm, those are delicious." But I don't know that I could say anything useful to you about lollipops strictly in the language of lollipops, whatever that means. Frankly, there's a lot of ways to mess with space (dilation, anyone?), and it doesn't seem as static a thing as I once thought it was. What happens when you stretch out space? Hmmm, more space.

My gut intuition (not that it means much) makes me think that the universe is closed and probably looped back into itself. The main reason is that it seems like a weird concept to have space just "end". If it were shaped like a balloon, for instance, maybe there's a way to avoid some disturbing delta functions of vacuum to nothingness.

Oh yeah, sorry I couldn't help. I'm done rambling now.

Re:Please explain (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307070)

It's infinite in size. If it gets bigger it's still infinite in size.

Just don't think about the fact that if it got bigger it must have been smaller before that.

Makes your head hurt doesn't it ?

Re:Please explain (1)

rudeboy1 (516023) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307246)

Yeah, I feel a migraine coming on. So, it seems to me as though you are using infinite as a term to define "beyond measure". Sort of like "infinitesmal" which is more about too small to measure, versus actually being "infinitely small".
    This is how I respond to your post. Under the above assumption, a billion years ago, the universe was 1(infinity) (as in 1*infinity) and now it's (using a random number) 42(infinity). If the universe is currently (and highly theoritcally) measured as 42(infinity), and you were to blow up a bubble around the universe to make it 43(infinity), where would it be?

Re:Please explain (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307358)

No I mean infinite as in if you pick a direction and travel in it you will never reach the end, while at the same time the distance in between any two points is getting bigger. We can't observe the universe from the outside so there's no way to speculate as to what it would look like.

Re:Please explain (2, Informative)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307274)

This might help you understand what people generally mean. ( I might be totally wrong here, so anyone more knowledgeable feel free to correct me. )

You talk about a thing that exists 3-dimensionally needing to be measured. That's fine for a thing, but space is not a thing. Space sort of *is* the measure of things. If you imagine an x-y-z axis, space *is* that axis. And in the case of infinite space, those axes go on forever. Space is not a thing; it's the, uh, space in which things exist. It's just the distance between things. It's abstract -- not really a thing, but the relationship between things.

Maybe reading some philosophy or metaphysics about 'space' would help you understand, rather than physics that already assume you understand the concept.

Re:Please explain (1)

rudeboy1 (516023) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307342)

I understand what you are trying to say. Space as an intangible object is not a hard idea to grasp. But the universe seems to me as not an extension of space, but as something located in space. So what is beyond the geographical boundary of the universe? More space? What is that called?

Re:Please explain (3, Informative)

Jazzer_Techie (800432) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306924)

Right? If light has only existed for, say, 14.7 billion light years, then you're not going to be seeing something that's 20 billion light years away. Or 100 billion light years away.
You're pretty much right, up to the fact that the universe is not static. Since space itself has been expanding (at varying rates throughout the history of the universe), talking about distance is not as straightforward as it may seem. Cosmologists use many different measures of distance [wikipedia.org] , each telling you something about the object. The "lookback time" is how long the light has been traveling when it gets to you. But during the transit time, the object has moved away from you as the space between expanded, so the object is not really $lookback_time number of light-years away.

Re:Please explain (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306544)

Actually, it means we're in the exact center of it. If the universe is 14 billion years old, then there's a ring of 14-billion-year-old objects around us.

Well, we're not really in the center. The classic two-dimensional analogy is the surface of a balloon. As the balloon expands, everything moves away from everything else. No matter where you are, everything appears to be moving away. Every point gets to think of itself as the "center".

So you have the idea that if we look in one direction and see something 14 billion years old, all we have to do is turn around and we're at the end. In fact, there's another 14 billion light-years in the opposite direction. And bizarrely, that's true everywhere in the universe. No matter where you look you're seeing a ring (actually, a sphere) that used to be fairly small but has now been blown up to a circle with a diameter 28 billion light-years across.

I'm radically oversimplifying some of the geometry, but the analogy holds well enough to answer the question.

Re:Please explain (1)

Ximok (650049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306600)

Not necessarily. Just because we look at the center of the universe and we see 14 Billion Years "back" does not mean we can look the opposite direction and see the currently expanding universe (At least not as it IS-RIGHT-NOW) because however far we are from the edge, we still have to contend with the time it takes light to travel the distance. Pretending for a second we can see the edge of the universe as being 200 light years from here, that would mean that the edge of the universe was in that position 200 years ago. (If I understand my theory of relativity correctly) Am I making any sense with what you are asking? I suppose that if you figured out where the universe's center was, and assuming that the universe is a perfect sphere, then we predict from what we know of the curvature of the universe's edge and how fast it is expanding, the current size (and where the edges really are) of it. But, why would we really care about what is at the outer edges... the juicy stuff is in the middle! Oh, I'm by no means a physicist nor a scientist in any related field. So, I could be full of it,

Re:Please explain (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306692)

Think of an inflatable rubber ball, think of its outer surface. It is of finite area, yet it has no boundaries. As it expands, every point on the surface moves away from every other point. Imagine a 2-dimensional creature living on the surface. Its universe is the surface of the ball, the light that it sees by travels along the curved surface of the ball. It can not see beyond its universe, just as we can not see beyond our 3-dimensional universe.

Now add a dimension to that scenario. We live in a 3-dimensional universe that is curved in on itself. It has finite volume, yet no boundaries. And just like the ball, as it expands every point moves further away from every other point. And because light takes time to travel, the further we look into space, the further back in time we are looking. The furthest back in time we can ever look is the current age of the universe. The light from objects more light-years away than that would not have had time to reach us (Think of the 2D creature trying to see an object that is more than halfway around its ball universe). However, we can see those objects simply by looking in the exact opposite direction in the sky.

Re:Please explain (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306858)

The part that bothers me is if the light took 14 billions years to get here at the speed of light, then how did we get here first ?

Re:Please explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17306964)

The universe is expanding faster than the speed of light. Search google to know (understand) more.

Re:Please explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17307330)

So I guess the ID people are in their own 6000 years old Universe some where in the outer space. ;)

Worlds largest telescope comes on line (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306330)

Focusing on glowing objects...

"Ahhhh, I can see what it says!"

"What is it?"

"Its a sign of some kind!"

"A sign?, what does it say?"

"Look out behind you!"

1000 Times the mass of the Sun? (2, Funny)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306338)

Since when is a star of 1000 times the mass of the Sun a humungous star? The Sun is a pretty small star compared to others...

Re:1000 Times the mass of the Sun? (3, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306416)

Google video has a vivid short movie [google.com] relating the size of planets to the larger stars we know about.

"W CEPHEI" wins this video at 288194 times the size of the earth!

Re:1000 Times the mass of the Sun? (1)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306636)

Actually your calculation is off. VV Cephei [wikipedia.org] is much larger. It's radius is 1.113 * 10^12 m to 1.322 * 10^12 m compared to the Earth's 6.372 * 10^6 m (which will give you a slightly smaller value range than your number). Now assume that both the Earth and VV Cephei are spheres and do a calculation for volume (you can divide VV Cephei's radius by an Earth radius for end units of Earth volumes to make your calculation simpler). The number is a little disturbing.

Re:1000 Times the mass of the Sun? (1)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306814)

Actually now that I've watched the movie again I've noticed that they were just comparing diameters. So it is correct that VV Cephei has a diameter roughly 200,000-300,000 times that of the Earth. As I discussed previously, the volume is a completely different beast. But even with such a large volume it is estimated that it only has a mass roughly 25-100 times that of the Sun. Based on its volume and mass it appears that the mean density of VV Cephei is much less than that of air.

Re:1000 Times the mass of the Sun? (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307032)

Quoth the 'pedia [wikipedia.org] :
One of the most massive stars known is Eta Carinae, with 100 - 150 times as much mass as the Sun;

Re:1000 Times the mass of the Sun? (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307386)

Eta Carinae is the only unquestionably massive star with the mass of 100+ solar masses. It is also suspeted that it nears a theoretical upper limit for the mass of a star to form, as its own radiation becomes so critically strong that it blows apart its own stellar atmosphere and shed a tremendous amount of material into interstellar space (eta Carinae is this near critical phase). In other words, the radiation pressure of a massive star eventually overcome gravitational force, hence leading to a very unstable form of a star when the mass exceeds about 150 or 200 times the Sun's mass. The formation of a 1000-solar-mass star has been theoretically hypothesized, but none seems to be strongly convincing.

In the past, some astronomers thought they found a case for 1000-solar-mass star; but it turned out that, with the Hubble's high resolution imager, the 1000-solar-mass star wasn't a star; it was a bunch of stars in a cluster. Historically speaking, one tends to embarrass himself by claiming a detection of 1000-solar-mass stars.

Re:1000 Times the mass of the Sun? (1)

archen (447353) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307336)

Out of all the movies with vivid stars [vivid.com] , I'd say that one is the most boring by far.

Re:1000 Times the mass of the Sun? (1)

88NoSoup4U88 (721233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306442)

Since when is a star of 1000 times the mass of the Sun a humungous star? The Sun is a pretty small star compared to others...

*holds back urge to make a "Your mom"-joke* ;)

Re:1000 Times the mass of the Sun? (4, Informative)

neurostar (578917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306472)

The Sun is a pretty small star compared to others...

Right, but the 1000 times the mass would be a huge star. The most massive stars known today are on the order of 100 times the mass of our sun. So these might be stars that are ~10x larger than the largest currently observed stars.

Actually, Sol is well above average! (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306540)

It is true that there are stars that are far more massive and brighter than the our sun.

However, while not "special" in any way, Sol is much larger than average, because the vast majority of stars are really small, dim red dwarfs.

Tagging as "oldnews" (4, Funny)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306344)

... 'cause 14 billion years is about as old as news can get. Literally.

Thank you, I'll be here all week, enjoy the sushi!

obviously not a comedian (1)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306436)

As no comedian would ever recommend the sushi. Seriously, club kitchens are about the height of sketchy.

Unless you're some crappy open miccer at Japone in DC. . . then I could see it.

Failing to find a correlation between sushi and comedy clubs, I could have put together you're not a comic because the joke sucked. Too obvious.

Re:obviously not a comedian (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306488)

How exactly do they make vinegar? From sour grapes?

probably (1)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306748)

The post was unmodded when I started the reply.

Sour grapes probably doesn't apply, however, since I've walked the comedy road and found it wanting. That said, I'll be onstage tonight to support a friend's open mic with my tired old material and try to suppress the bile that fills my throat when I hear yet another poorly executed hack-ass premise from a newbie.

But hey, maybe it does apply, as I'm a bitter mofo who's not making millions of dollars telling jokes.

Looks like this is already being refuted (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17306386)

by some more powerful equipment. From New Scientist Space: "Because Hubble's mirror is larger than Spitzer's, it turned up dwarf galaxies too faint for Spitzer to resolve. "Once we remove pixels in the Spitzer images corresponding to the locations of these galaxies, the background infrared light level mostly disappears," Cooray told New Scientist. 'We think, therefore, the infrared light seen in Spitzer images is mostly due to the faint infrared glow from these dwarf galaxies.'" The full article [newscientist.com]

Re:Looks like this is already being refuted (5, Insightful)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307368)

This story is very typical of space stories these days. You get some speculation from some scientists about what they expect that they should be seeing, tenuously based upon some weak observational data. A public release is put together and the news story gains steam because it invokes some concept that tickles the imagination of the public (gigantic black holes and stars, for instance). Then, when better observations come in and suggest that maybe we shouldn't be so sure of our prior speculation, there is little effort to correct the record.

It was interesting to observe that this (probable) garbage made it onto Slashdot, whereas the Stardust mission results (with actual data) did not. It seems that the space news cycle is caught in a competition to make the most outlandish claim possible in order to get the attention of the public these days. Investigating anomalies within the current paradigms has taken a backseat to wild speculation. There's little interest anymore in questioning the early assumptions that got us to this point in the first place:

Our conviction in stellar birth by way of gravitational collapse survives observations of R Corona Australis, which is generating enigmatic x-rays and 100 million degree F temperatures at a very early stage of the supposed collapse (http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2005/arch05/050 304starbirth.htm [thunderbolts.info] ).

Our conviction in our theories about supernovae survived observations of Supernova 1987A (see pictures at http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/0601 24solar3.htm [thunderbolts.info] ), which defied traditional theories about supernovae in nearly every single respect. Even though plasma physics tells us that we can understand the structure we see in those images down to the number of beads in the smaller ring, we continue to ignore those explanations because they involve electricity in space.

Our conviction in the theory of black holes was not dampened at all by the associated problems with generating the observed quasar jet 3C273 (http://www.holoscience.com/news.php?article=9kpgc 4td [holoscience.com] ), which extends 100,000 light years -- even though the lifetime of the X-ray producing particles is only about 100 years.

And then there's the Stardust mission -- which when combined with the results of the Deep Impact mission indicate quite clearly that our early assumptions about comets were quite wrong. Scientists are now apparently trying to invent scenarios for how it could be that comets would contain exotic meteorite particles as well as particles that have clearly been formed under intense heat. Perhaps they should consider that these initial speculations were wrong in the first place. I doubt we'll see any such sanity though. More likely, we'll see additional new speculations to support the earlier unsupported speculations.

There increasingly seems to be far less glory these days in doing the homework that we'll be graded on and far more interest in fantasizing about multi-dimensional space and gigantic black holes.

Sure it's not refraction from nearby stars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17306432)

Would subtracting bright objects really leave a clear sky? FTA:

The analysis first involved carefully removing the light from all foreground stars and galaxies in the five regions of the sky, leaving only the most ancient light. The scientists then studied fluctuations in the intensity of infrared brightness, in the relatively diffuse light.

The press release doesn't go into much detail; but wouldn't interstellar hydrogen refract some small amount of light from nearby sources toward the earth, causing a general pattern of relatively diffuse light in between the foreground stars and galaxies?

Speed of light? (2, Interesting)

NotoriousHood (970422) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306560)

I don't understand how even if we are on opposite sides of this expanding balloon (or whatever other expansion analogy you want to pick) how this can exceed the speed of light. I can't see another way for light from the birth of our universe to reach us only now.

*thinks about it more*

Nope, doesn't make sense to me.

Re:Speed of light? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17306714)

Because light was emitted from everywhere, not just the edge. Just because the light from these stars is the farthest we can see, doesn't mean they are the farthest away. There are still stars even farther but their light hasn't had time to reach us. In a billion years, if people are still around they'll be looking at stars from 15 billion years before their time, and they'll be from the same time as the ones we're seeing now.

Unless expansion is accelerating like some think, you'll always be able to see only as far back as the universe is old, that doesn't make that the edge of the universe, just the edge of what we see.

Re:Speed of light? (1)

Ximok (650049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306740)

Assuming that the universe is not expanding faster than the speed of light, we should always be able to see the center of the universe (assuming there is something to see) Everything past that point will be made visible at a slower rate because it is moving away from us.

Re:Speed of light? (1)

NotoriousHood (970422) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306824)

I'm fine with being able to see something of ever part of the universe if it's expanding slower than the speed of light. What I'm not ok with is being able to see objects at the "dawn of time". Seems to me that one of the following is true:
1) If the universe is expanding slower than the speed of light, we should be able to see all regions of the universe at some earlier point, but doubtfully so close to the beginning of the universe.

2) The expansion of the universe is slowing (from a speed at or above the speed of light) and the objects on the other side of the "balloon" are now becoming visible.

Re:Speed of light? (1)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307280)

Seems to me that one of the following is true:
1) If the universe is expanding slower than the speed of light, we should be able to see all regions of the universe at some earlier point, but doubtfully so close to the beginning of the universe.
That's not true. For instance, if the universe is infinite, we will never be able to see most regions of it at any time, because light won't have reached us.

2) The expansion of the universe is slowing (from a speed at or above the speed of light) and the objects on the other side of the "balloon" are now becoming visible.
If the expansion slows, then more and more of the universe will become visible. But now it's believed that the expansion is accelerating. Either way, however, we can look as far back in time as we want (or rather, as far as we can — to the creation of the cosmic background radiation).

Re:Speed of light? (1)

NotoriousHood (970422) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307352)

"That's not true. For instance, if the universe is infinite, we will never be able to see most regions of it at any time, because light won't have reached us." Not true if the universe is infinite which by the balloon analogy it's not. That's what I was responding to. The universe can expand and slow down. I think what you meant is that the universe is now thought to be accelerating it's expansion. They aren't talking about "background radiation", they are talking about stars. Thanks for replying, but I'm still not getting it.

Re:Speed of light? (2, Insightful)

mgrivich (1015787) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306810)

Space-time itself can expand faster than the speed of light, and did so in the early universe. That is, even though point A and point B used to be very close, and light was going from point A to point B, point A and B keep getting father apart, so the light has further and further to go.

You may say, "But I thought nothing can go faster than the speed of light." However, you'd be wrong. General relativity allows for this effect.

Unfortunately, using this to create a faster than light drive is still not conceivable, because the only way we know to control space-time is with large amounts of mass or energy (and I mean LARGE).

Re:Speed of light? (1)

gaspar ilom (859751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307108)

  1. Imagine that there are a whole bunch of glowing points on the surface of the balloon.
  2. Now imagine that those points change color as they get "older" -- say, when the balloon was small, those points were "white" or "blue" hot.
  3. Finally, imagine that with the balloon at its current size, those points are now all "yellow" or "red" hot.

The thing is, not enough time has elapsed for the current state of every point to be communicated to the point that you're at. That information does not travel instantaneously.

In fact, the expansion of the balloon itself may guarantee that you can *never* know anything about the prior state of a point that is sufficiently far away.

When you look out at the sky at those points that are "far away" -- you are, in a sense, seeing those points as they were on the surface of that balloon when that balloon was much smaller.

('ere...)

Re:Speed of light? (1)

NotoriousHood (970422) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307288)

I understand that we're seeing "old" light. What I don't understand is how we could be seeing light from the beginning of the universe. This would mean that either: The universe is slowing from a speed originally faster than the speed of light so that this light could catch up or The universe is expanding at just under the speed of light so that this light is reaching us just after the current form of the universe was originated What am I missing?

Bullshit (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17306568)

Everyone knows the universe is only 6,000 years old.

IS it 14 billion or 15 billion? (1)

suds (6610) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306590)

How do NASA or anyone know that the light is from 14 billion years? Why not 13.5 or 13 or even 15.7 billion yrs?
What's the error margin in their calculations?
Would be interesting to know.

Re:IS it 14 billion or 15 billion? (2, Informative)

Ximok (650049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306654)

Technically, you could triangulate the origin of the light by using two separate cameras. From that distance calculation you do the math. We know the speed of light (Roughly 300 MegaMeters Per Second), from this we know the distance light travels in one year (A Light Year - Measurement of Distance, not time). So, we could figure out that a source of light is 14 Billion Light Years Away, Which also tells us that the Light originated 14 Billion Years ago.

Re:IS it 14 billion or 15 billion? (1)

Ximok (650049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306696)

I should have answered your question correctly. We assume that our calculation of the speed of light is accurate. So, the real variable is how accurately they triangulate the source of light.

Re:IS it 14 billion or 15 billion? (2, Interesting)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306700)

The error margin is low, based on our ability to accurately determine the wavelength of the radiation in question (I'm pretty sure it's awfully accurate). It was described to me this way (from Trefil's Reading the Mind of God): We are able to recreate in laboratories the conditions in the universe to within 10e-33 seconds of the Big Bang. Therefore, we know the exact temperature of the radiation emitted from the Big Bang. Assuming no other variables which could increase the temperature of the background radiation and knowing the current wavelength of the background radiation around us (it's in the Microwave range), we can tell the light is 14 billion years old by its wavelength. I hope I didn't screw that up :)

mandelbr0t

Re:IS it 14 billion or 15 billion? (1)

Gabrill (556503) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306834)

As I understand it, every element emits a different pattern of colors of light. As light travels, this color turns redder and redder, having to do with energy loss, but the pattern stays the same. The patterns are distinct enough to tell which elements are glowing. So depending on how far away the light is, we just measure how red it has "shifted". Since we assume that the speed of light is constant, and that energy loss over distance is constant, we can determine both the distance traveled and the age of the light. Quick question: is the energy loss prove-able over interstellar distances?

Re:IS it 14 billion or 15 billion? (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306920)

As light travels, this color turns redder and redder, having to do with energy loss,

The doppler effect.

As the object moves away from you the frequency of light emitted appears lower from our point of view becuase each "wave" is coming from further away than the previous one.

Re:IS it 14 billion or 15 billion? (1)

novus ordo (843883) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307266)

Classical example of the Doppler effect is the pitch of a siren on a police car as it moves away from you. The same way the pitch of the siren "shifts" so does the light coming from an object moving in a certain direction from us. That's why we have been able to discover that the universe is expanding. Also it's not only expanding but accelerating its expansion..

Big bang bollocks (1)

CaptainFrankfurt (997212) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307370)

We are able to recreate in laboratories the conditions in the universe to within 10e-33 seconds of the Big Bang.

If this is true, then in the first 10e-33 seconds (or less) the whole matter of the universe expanded from a point size to something approximating its current density (or close enough for the purposes of a laboratory approximation) There's a lot of acceleration involved there!

I'm pretty skeptical of the big bang theory. I find the idea that the universe started as a point quite difficult to rationalise. It would be nicer (i.e. more satisfying) if it were not expanding and there was another explanation for red shift - but I think big bang has been so widely accepted that most scientists are not thinking outside that particular box. Everything that gets observed in the universe these days gets shoe-horned into the big bloody bang. Come on guys... its rubbish, it's on par with god-based explanations. I think we can do better.

Just my opinion.

It's the Electric Universe Dimmer Switch (3, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306770)

Obviously. If you go back far enough in time, of course you'll see the glow from when the dimmer switch is just being turned up. I can't believe we waste perfectly good Science Money on wacky alternative theories, when the EUDS explains this perfectly.

Re:It's the Electric Universe Dimmer Switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17307082)

You jest - but there are lobby groups in DC that attempt to influence governmental science policy by saying we shouldn't be spending tax payers dollars on astronomy when the "good book" explains all we need to know on how the universe was formed in 6 days.

Day glow Universe (2, Funny)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306774)

Cool!

It's probably just the incoming train... (1)

markana (152984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306822)

and we're stuck in this big black tunnel...

Question that this story makes me want to know... (1)

Boap (559344) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306846)

How large was the universe at the big bang? We know that according to Einstein that matter is not supposed travel faster than the speed of light however if that is true then it would mean that the universe was probably greater than 14 billion light years across if we are able to see light that is about 14 billion years old and we suspect that the universe is 14.7 Billion years old currently.

Re:Question that this story makes me want to know. (1)

Ardeaem (625311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307090)

Matter must travel slower than the speed of light, this is true. But space itself can expand.

Re:Question that this story makes me want to know. (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307122)

Not sure I understand what you're asking, but going backwards, I believe scientists would only end up at something like a singularity of the known forces in universe at infinite energy using the common big bang theory. In other words, I don't think we really have much of a clue. :-) Also, below the planck time (~ 5*10^-44 seconds) after the big bang, our modern theories of physics basically fall apart. The planck time is in turn the time it takes for a photon to travel the planck length, the shortest possible length our common modern theories can speak of.

Re:Question that this story makes me want to know. (1)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307174)

How large was the universe at the big bang?
If the universe is finite, then classically speaking it was of zero size at the Big Bang. If it's infinite, then it was infinite at the Big Bang too, but the observable universe was of zero size. If you apply quantum gravity, then it may have had a minimum size, on the order of the Planck length (about 10^-34 meters).

We know that according to Einstein that matter is not supposed travel faster than the speed of light however if that is true then it would mean that the universe was probably greater than 14 billion light years across if we are able to see light that is about 14 billion years old and we suspect that the universe is 14.7 Billion years old currently.
Matter can't travel through space at faster than the speed of light; the universe itself can expand at any rate. The observable universe today is about 100 billion lightyears across, and 13.7 billion years old.

Get the papers here (3, Informative)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306904)

The journal articles that go along with the story:

New Measurements of Cosmic Infrared Background Fluctuations from Early Epochs [arxiv.org]
On the Nature of the Sources of the Cosmic Infrared Background [arxiv.org]

(These were posted in the article, but only under a tiny "More info" link at the bottom that is easy to overlook.)

Really the first? (1)

amigabill (146897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306914)

Is this truely the light from the very first objects in the universe reaching us, or is this observable stuff just reaching us that took place long after the first things appeared, obliterated, and cycled a few times after? How do we know the observable stuff from the true first objects hasn't already reached Earth and passed us by long before we had the ability to detect it?

Re:Really the first? (1)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307056)

Is this truely the light from the very first objects in the universe reaching us, or is this observable stuff just reaching us that took place long after the first things appeared, obliterated, and cycled a few times after?
Well, it's light from the first objects that formed after the Big Bang. What happened before that, if that concept even makes sense, is unknown.

How do we know the observable stuff from the true first objects hasn't already reached Earth and passed us by long before we had the ability to detect it?
Because beyond these first objects, we can see the cosmic background radiation from an even earlier era: the moment at which the hot primordial plasma coalesced into neutral atoms. But even if that weren't the case, we can always look earlier by looking farther — given any time, there is some sufficiently distant location from which the light from the earliest objects is reaching us. (Assuming we can detect it. We can't see further back than the CBR, though, since the universe was opaque to light before then.)

Re:Really the first? (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307102)

It's really hard to see, but there's a little manufactured on date on all of this stuff. Most of these objects have a "born on date" of 0... although a few have 2s and the 3s.

Links to the technical journal articles, summary (2, Informative)

StupendousMan (69768) | more than 7 years ago | (#17306974)

You can read the technical papers on which this press release is based:

http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0612445 [arxiv.org]

http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0612447 [arxiv.org]

The basic idea is that the astronomers used an infrared
space telescope to take very deep images. They then tried
to remove all the obvious sources of light, and examined
the resulting "blank" images very carefully. They claim that
there are very faint sources of infrared radiation which
remain, and that the spatial correlation of these sources
is roughly what one would expect if they were young galaxies
in the very early universe.

There are limited opportunities for other astronomers
to examine the same regions with other telescopes and
at other wavelengths; that could provide evidence that
might support the claim, or weaken it (if, for example,
radio telescopes detect some of these sources and
show that they are ordinary galaxies in the relatively
nearby universe, that would weaken the claim in
the press release).

We can also just wait a decade or so for JWST, a more
powerful infrared space telescope, to observe the same
field.

 

The light is 13 billion years old (1)

PineHall (206441) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307094)

The article says the light is 13 billion years old and the estimated age of the uinverse is 13.7 billion years. 14 billion years is not correct.

Confusing wording? (1)

sinktank (871915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307250)

From TFA:

...wavelengths have been stretched to infrared wavelengths by the growing space-time that causes the Universe's expansion.
should perhaps read:

...wavelengths have been stretched to infrared wavelengths by the growing space-time that results in the Universe's expansion.
It is the expansion of space itself, rather than the proper motion of celestial objects away from each other, that is important. If you change the distance metric used in formulae rather than the distance values, your resulting speed values are not limited by special relativity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_expansion [wikipedia.org]

How does light distance measurement work? (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 7 years ago | (#17307338)

Let's say I can see the light from 2 stars. You tell me that one star is 1000 light years away and the other is 5000 light years away. Given that both are visible from my observation point, how were you able to tell me the distance (in light years) that the light traveled to get here?

I know the speed of light is a constant. I just don't know how you can observe one light source and know how long it took the light to get here unless you already know the distance by some other means.
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