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Astronomer Discovers the Most Distant Stars Ever Observed From Earth

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the eagle-eye dept.

Space 291

Cryolithic writes to tell us The Vancouver Sun is reporting that a University of B.C. astronomer recently used NASA's Hubble telescope to see a cluster of stars one billion light-years from Earth, the farthest stars ever observed from Earth. From the article: "That's interesting, he explains, because given that light travels at a finite speed -- 300,000 km a second -- the light emitted from the star cluster he and Kalirai saw was emitted one billion years ago. That means the cluster as it appeared to them two months ago was the way it looked one billion years ago. In other words, they were looking one billion years back in time."

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Does it count... (0, Redundant)

Jharish (101858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545722)

...when you say 'From Earth' and it's actually from orbit around Earth?

Re:Does it count... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546020)

That's like asking "Is it one billion light years from New York or one billion light years from Chicago?"

Re:Does it count... (-1, Offtopic)

iggy_mon (737886) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546606)

It was a practical joke...

my friend stepped out to fart and some dumb@$$ lit it ;-)

Looking back in time. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17545726)

"In other words, they were looking one billion years back in time."

So, when I look at the sun, I am actually looking back in time 8 minutes?

Deep.

Re:Looking back in time. (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545774)

So, when I look at the sun, I am actually looking back in time 8 minutes?

Yes, and apparently, 8 minutes ago hurts like a motherfucker.

Re:Looking back in time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546442)

That's because 8 minutes ago, Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked you in the face.

Re:Looking back in time. (0)

David Nabbit (924807) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545796)

So, when I look at the sun, I am actually looking back in time 8 minutes?
Yes.

See kids, time travel is possible.

Re:Looking back in time. (4, Funny)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545814)

When you read Slashdot, you are looking back in time approx. 1.7e-9 seconds*, assuming you sit about 50cm from your screen.

* May be more if you're reading a dupe.

Re:Looking back in time. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17545950)

Brought to you by: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=50cm%20/%20c [google.com]

Re:Looking back in time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546158)

...and when you look across the room, you are actually looking several nanoseconds back in time.

Re:Looking back in time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546298)

So if I had a super duper telescope and could send a mirror far enough away, quick enough, I could finally find out what I've been doing all these years... Or figure out how those silly pyramids were made.

Re:Looking back in time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546840)

"So, when I look at the sun, I am actually looking back in time 8 minutes?

Deep."

The sun could explode at this very instant and we would only find out about it 8 minutes from now.

There is no possibility of creating an early warning system so that we could use that 8 minutes to flee Earth. (Except maybe with entangled particles)

Now that's deep.

Billion-year-old alien computer message decoded! (4, Funny)

kale77in (703316) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546886)

From the article:

"Astronomers further said that they had decoded part of a computer signal from the star systems in question, possibly a signal 1,000,000,000 years old! It said, 'Please wait, Java loading.'"

Sounds familiar... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545734)

In galaxy far, far away...

Re:Sounds familiar... (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546100)

More accurate to say:
A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

Close though.

Re:Sounds familiar... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546474)

I had a catastrophic brain fart trying to get my mind wrapped around the idea of a billion light years. Still trying to recover from the idea that Andromeda is a million light years wide [cnn.com] . When you thought the cosmos is a small place, it's getting larger.

What is this light speed thingie? (2, Insightful)

Sadko (980424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545736)

Considering this is /., the article quote seems a bit redundant -Cheers,

it travels as fast as it travels (2, Informative)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545738)

That's interesting, he explains, because given that light travels at a finite speed -- 300,000 km a second

...in a vacuum. When not in a vacuum, light can travel at a fraction of the speed of light.

Re:it travels as fast as it travels (1)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545974)

gosh, to bad there's no vacuum out there, especially in space...

Re:it travels as fast as it travels (1)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546024)

gosh, to bad there's no vacuum out there, especially in space...

For a complete vacuum, it certainly has a lot of stuff in it to look at.

Re:it travels as fast as it travels (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546108)

Damn these science writers for distorting the facts with their gross generalizations!

Re:it travels as fast as it travels (4, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546162)

For a complete vacuum, it certainly has a lot of stuff in it to look at.

      Someone forgot to clean out the filter? My vacuum filter always gets full of gunk after a while...

Re:it travels as fast as it travels (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546060)

So... what is the speed of light in, say, lead? and...

who's got a billion light years long spool of fiber optic cable anyway?

Re:it travels as fast as it travels (2, Funny)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546378)

I always assumed that whatever speed light traveled at was the speed of light.

Re:it travels as fast as it travels (5, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546800)

...in a vacuum. When not in a vacuum, light can travel at a fraction of the speed of light.

Well no, not exactly. When not in a vacuum it takes rest stops which reduce its average speed, but when not taking rest stops it travels at the designated finite speed; because that's the only speed at which light can travel. There was this Maxwell guy who 'splained it.

You know about the pony express? Well, they had posts along the way to change horses. Let's say, for the sake of simplicity, that these posts were 15 miles apart and that the horses traveled at a finite speed of 15 miles per hour. When the horse is moving it is always going 15 miles per hour, but the average speed of the horses over a full day is 13 miles per hour because of the time it takes for the rider to change them on an hourly basis.

Light is like the Pony Express, only without the horses, which wouldn't be like the Pony Express at all, would it? That would just be some guy taking a walk.

Nevermind.

KFG

Re:it travels as fast as it travels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17547000)

I understand that light is absorbed and reemitted by the atoms and that causes the apparent speed to be lower, but why is it that light turns when it enters something like a lens, and why is it that the different frequencies of light get bent more or less causing chromatic abberation? I mean I assume it is because higher frequencies have more energy, but I don't know how that energy goes into making the light turn when it hits the substance.

Re:it travels as fast as it travels (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546920)

...in a vacuum. When not in a vacuum, light can travel at a fraction of the speed of light.

They're in luck. This light travelled through space ... and therefore, a vacuum!!

Oh those wacky astronomers for actually using c correctly. :-P

Cheers

only 1 billion ly? (1)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545764)

I RTFA, but it didn't discuss why 1 billion ly was such a big deal. Don't we look at stars (albeit clustered into galaxies) that are much farther away than that all the time? Is this a record for looking at individual stars?

Re:only 1 billion ly? (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545940)

"I RTFA, but it didn't discuss why 1 billion ly was such a big deal. "

Didnt seem like a big deal to me either. Ok, you can see stuff that is older, but until you quantify what you are seeing, it's not hard news. Now if they find different composition of stars, or different than expected output, then that is news.

Re:only 1 billion ly? (4, Informative)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546002)

Yea the visible universe is some 46 billions light years. They are referring to detecting individual starts a billion light years away whereby normally you would only see a galaxy with non identifiable individuals stars at such a distance.

Re:only 1 billion ly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546448)

The Universe is only about 15 bilions years old... so you cant see a anything 46 billions light years away from Earth.

Re:only 1 billion ly? (2, Insightful)

Ignorant Aardvark (632408) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546562)

Might want to research some physical cosmology ... the universe has expanded faster than the speed of light.

Re:only 1 billion ly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546640)

In your cosmology what is an 'individual start'?

Re:only 1 billion ly? (1)

maird (699535) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546830)

That is something I just don't understand. In simple terms, I believe the universe grew from a point source. If we take your comment at face value (I have no knowledge that permits me not to) then, also in simple terms, 46 billion light years worth of distance are visible (presumably 23 in any direction). If we are looking "back in time" to the time of emission when observing light from a remote source then, if nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, how can the age of the universe be estimated at 13 billion years or so? Surely, no thing in it could be further away from any other thing in it than "age of the universe" light years. To do so would require two objects to have a relative speed exceeding the speed of light I believe. IOW, if the universe is 13 billion years old then how can I see something 23 billion light years away, it's light would have to have been emitted before the universe existed which, in my crude understanding, is meaningless. I suppose I can almost believe the idea that the observable universe cannot exceed the age of the universe light years in any direction. Even that gives me problems but this point has worried me for years, I'd really be interested in an authoritative source.

Re:only 1 billion ly? (2, Informative)

maird (699535) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546958)

I never knew what question to ask before reading this branch of the discussion. Whether or not it is accurate is beyond me but, I think I can feel good about this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expansion_of_the_univ erse [wikipedia.org]

Re:only 1 billion ly? (2, Informative)

somepunk (720296) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546094)

Yeah, the summary is bogus (surprise, surprise). The big news is that this is the furthest cluster of stars yet observed, a confusion not encountered in TFA.

Wait... (3, Funny)

Draconix (653959) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545768)

Ric Romero is submitting articles to Slashdot now?

Light Cone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17545808)

So, isn't there something about light cones not making it a billion years in the past?

paraphrasing Douglas Adams (4, Interesting)

Ubergrendle (531719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545862)

Yet more evidenence that mankind cannot truly comprehend the vastness of space. Travelling 1 billion years at the fastest possible speed known to science doesn't even get us to the edge of the universe.

I remember a highschool experience. A teacher had a record, put it on the table. "Ok, see the hole in the middle? That's the sun. Track 1 is approximately where the earth is located. The outer edge might be pluto's orbit. Heliopause? That's probably in the teacher's parking lot. Ok, so the next closest galaxy is Alpha Centauri, so that is approximately...well, Hamilton." (We were in Toronto, Hamilton is 100km+ away).

Re:paraphrasing Douglas Adams (1)

Neeth (887729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545978)

closest galaxy? You mean the closest star. I wonder where, on your scale, the closest galaxy would be. Maybe the sun?

Re:paraphrasing Douglas Adams (5, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546004)

Travelling 1 billion years at the fastest possible speed known to science doesn't even get us to the edge of the universe.

      Ahh, but the beauty of it is that if you _DID_ travel at or near the speed of light, one billion years would not seem like such a long time at all - certainly doable within a lifetime! So if you asked those photons how old they thought they were, you'd be surprised at the answer... so the photons aren't really that old at all! Confused yet?

Re:paraphrasing Douglas Adams (3, Informative)

vindimy (941049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546220)

Whoever didn't get this, give yourself a hand and read Wiki's Time Dilation [wikipedia.org] topic. Save yourself some embarrassment from typing nonsense questions and arguing.

Re:paraphrasing Douglas Adams (1)

vindimy (941049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546266)

Specifically, from Wiki:

Time dilation would make it possible for passengers in a fast moving vehicle to travel further into the future while aging very little, in that their great speed retards the rate of passage of onboard time. That is, the ship's clock (and according to relativity, any human travelling with it) shows less elapsed time than stationary clocks. For sufficiently high speeds the effect is dramatic. For example, one year of travel might correspond to ten years at home. Indeed, a constant 1 g acceleration would permit humans to circumnavigate the known universe (with a radius of some 13.7 billion light years) in one human lifetime. The space-travellers could return to earth billions of years in the future (provided the Universe hadn't collapsed and our solar system was still around, of course)...

Re:paraphrasing Douglas Adams (1)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546236)

That's a rather humancentric way of looking at it. Do photons really "age"?

Re:paraphrasing Douglas Adams (1)

wanerious (712877) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546506)

Nope. If you travel at the speed of light, then nothing ever happens.

Re:paraphrasing Douglas Adams (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546382)

Ahh, but the beauty of it is that if you _DID_ travel at or near the speed of light, one billion years would not seem like such a long time at all - certainly doable within a lifetime! So if you asked those photons how old they thought they were, you'd be surprised at the answer... so the photons aren't really that old at all! Confused yet?

Not until you got back... Most people feel lost after a few decades, after a few billion years I bet your first two questions would be "Where's earth?" and "Where's the humans?" and I doubt you'd recognize either even if they were right where you left them. Also, massless waves are a wierd bunch, even if they go through glass or water slowing them down to less than c I doubt they age in any meaningful sense.

Re:paraphrasing Douglas Adams (4, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546156)

You kids and your fancy record albums! In my day, it was explained to me that the Sun was the hole in the middle of a gramophone cylinder, and the Earth was the trunk in my room at the orphanage in which I kept my knickerbockers, and the farthest planet Neptune would probably be down by the paper mills where all us kids would look for work. Now get off my lawn!

Re:paraphrasing Douglas Adams (2, Insightful)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546458)

A teacher had a record, put it on the table. "Ok, see the hole in the middle? That's the sun. Track 1 is approximately where the earth is located. The outer edge might be pluto's orbit.
So your teacher used to play his records backwards ? Any cryptic messages come through ?
(hint - track one starts at the outside edge)

Can you say that again? (3, Funny)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545876)

I don't get the whole "back in time" thing. Saying it 3 different ways in a 3 sentence blurb isn't quite enough. Is this, like, before the Great Flood? :-)

Re:Can you say that again? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17547012)

I don't get the whole "back in time" thing. Saying it 3 different ways in a 3 sentence blurb isn't quite enough. Is this, like, before the Great Flood? :-)

Assuming you're not being flippant ..... (in which case I'm being pointlessly pedantic)

Since the light took 1 billion years to reach us, it's, well, "old light" that occured in the past. We're not seeing those objects as they exist today, we're seeing them as they existed 1 billion years ago. Hence, we're looking into the past. We have no idea what they look like today -- they could have all gone nova 500,000,000 years ago. But, we won't know for another 500,000,000 years that it has happened.

And, yeah, way before the great flood. ;-)

Cheers

If only there was a galaxy sized mirror near it... (0, Flamebait)

reklusband (862215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545890)

That'd be great! It'd be awesome because then you could see the earth 2 billions years ago...Wait! it didn't exist because the world's only 6000 years old...But the rest of the universe is older...?

Re:If only there was a galaxy sized mirror near it (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545964)

No you missed the point.

6000 years is about the time anything lasts for.
It just so happens that there are LOTS of things in the universe that were in their ~6000 year window for us to see.
In another 6000 years the entire universe will have changed beyond our imagination.

Re:If only there was a galaxy sized mirror near it (1)

reklusband (862215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546494)

Huh?????????????????????? 6000 years is about the time anything lasts for. What does that even mean??? I was making a joke...course you pretty much illustrated my point!

Re:If only there was a galaxy sized mirror near it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546034)

God only made the EARTH 6000 years ago, not the universe.

Therefore, there is no conflict between reason and faith.

Re:If only there was a galaxy sized mirror near it (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546106)

God only made the EARTH 6000 years ago

      No. It was the Flying Spaghetti Monster, not God. Ask the Midgit, he knows.

Re:If only there was a galaxy sized mirror near it (1)

vindimy (941049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546308)

Is "EARTH 6000" some kind of a new model of Earth? And ours is what, 5000 beta? And I wonder why didn't we notice God making it only years ago.

Re:If only there was a galaxy sized mirror near it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546636)

God must have done the upgrade at night when we were all sleeping.

Re:If only there was a galaxy sized mirror near it (1)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546736)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Genesis say it wasn't just the earth, but the heavens as well? If we take "the heavens" to mean the rest of the galaxy as well, then should they not be the same age?
Either way, you're dismissing all the accumulated knowledge of science in favor of the superstitions of ancient sheep herders who thought that all the animals on earth were within walking distance of Noah's house. The bible contains equal parts fact, history, and pizza.

Re:If only there was a galaxy sized mirror near it (1)

parvenu74 (310712) | more than 7 years ago | (#17547040)

That'd be great! It'd be awesome because then you could see the earth 2 billions years ago...Wait! it didn't exist because the world's only 6000 years old...But the rest of the universe is older...?
Is that comment really flamebait? I'll buy "Offtopic" since this isn't a religious-themed message board.

Here's a question for the "young earth" creationists: the math (triangulation and distance = speed * time) used in this case shows that the universe is at least a billion years old. What is your proof that it isn't? Did God create the stars with "already traveling light" to fill in what would otherwise be a 999,994,000 gap in time and distance?

And to the astronomers (since I'm not one): how many times in astronomical history has a star suddenly appeared in the sky, suggesting that its light just arrived here for the first time? I figure it has probably happened but it's not my field of study so I don't know.

Age (3, Funny)

Dr. Cody (554864) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545928)

In other words, these pictures are one billion years, two months old.

Surprisingly enough (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545938)

A speck of light created a billion years ago looks exactly the same as it does today. Astonishing!

Re:Surprisingly enough (1)

vindimy (941049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546360)

The light has traveled through an unimaginable distance, and you expect it to look the same? Where did you get this silly idea anyway? Were you there 1bln years away and see this light yourself so you have something to compare to? Man, only on Slashdot I can find... Oh wait.

I RTFA and I find really F*ed (0)

denisbergeron (197036) | more than 7 years ago | (#17545972)

1) The article begin with "A University of B.C. astronomer has discovered the farthest cluster of stars ever seen by a human eye " Wait, they don't use they eye, but the Hubble telescope in orbite with a "digicam" on it !

2) And some others lines "That's interesting, he explains, because given that light travels at a finite speed -- 300,000 km a second -- the light emitted from the star cluster he and Kalirai saw was emitted one billion years ago. That means the cluster as it appeared to them two months ago was the way it looked one billion years ago. In other words, they were looking one billion years back in time." No, not one bilion years back in time, but a billion years and two months.

3)More seriouly "It's too early to say what those differences are, Richer said, but he expects there will be several -- colour among them. That's because the older a star gets, the redder it gets, he says. Younger stars are bluer." This is obviouly the colors shift of the duppler effect, and have nothing to do with the age of the star but the speed relativly with us !

Re:I RTFA and I find really F*ed (1)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546148)

3)More seriouly "It's too early to say what those differences are, Richer said, but he expects there will be several -- colour among them. That's because the older a star gets, the redder it gets, he says. Younger stars are bluer." This is obviouly the colors shift of the duppler effect, and have nothing to do with the age of the star but the speed relativly with us !

The raw imagery will indeed be red-shifted. That is, after all, how they know how far away the stars are. Hubble Constant and all that.

Since they know the red shift, they can easily prepare a true representation of the colours. Obviously.

...laura

Re:I RTFA and I find really F*ed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546472)

"3)More seriouly "It's too early to say what those differences are, Richer said, but he expects there will be several -- colour among them. That's because the older a star gets, the redder it gets, he says. Younger stars are bluer." This is obviouly the colors shift of the duppler effect, and have nothing to do with the age of the star but the speed relativly with us !"

Ummm no. He's talking about the life cycle of "Main Sequence" stars. Read an Astronomy book. Don't just make a guess about how "obvious" a statement seems to you.

Re:I RTFA and I find really F*ed (0, Troll)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546790)

1) The article begin with "A University of B.C. astronomer has discovered the farthest cluster of stars ever seen by a human eye " Wait, they don't use they eye, but the Hubble telescope in orbite with a "digicam" on it !

That's a perfectly accurate statement. They claim to have imaged the furthest individual cluster of stars. It is, therefore, the oldest cluster of stars ever seen by the human eye. Granted, it was probably on a computer after being exposed by a CCD, but it's still the furthest cluster we have ever individually observed.

No, not one bilion years back in time, but a billion years and two months.

What part of "the cluster as it appeared to them two months ago" don't you understand? They made the observation two months ago. Therefore, if the light took a billion years to get there, then the light was emitted a billion years ago. Regardless, this is just pointless pedantism.

This is obviouly the colors shift of the duppler effect,

Umm... no. This isn't "obviously" the duppler (sic) effect. Main Sequence stars redden as they age. The theory is that, a billion years ago, stars might be, on average, younger and hotter. So his supposition is that the cluster of stars will be, by and large, younger, bluer stars. Furthermore, the hubble constant is likely known at that distance, meaning the redshift can be largely compensated for before making conclusions regarding age, chemical makeup, and so forth.

Honestly, if you're gonna be a smart ass, the least you could do is research your claims first.

Re:I RTFA and I find really F*ed (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546824)

1) Well, a human eye did see the stars after it went through the Hubble. (Can the Hubble actually "see?") Note, he didn't say "naked human eye."

2) But is that 1 billion years and two months from the Hubble or from British Columbia? Related question, do you get huffy when they say 10 bil years plus 700 mil years equals 18 bil years? Significant figures.

3) ...Yea, that one's fubar.

Re:I RTFA and I find really F*ed (1)

smart.id (264791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17547008)

2) And some others lines "That's interesting, he explains, because given that light travels at a finite speed -- 300,000 km a second -- the light emitted from the star cluster he and Kalirai saw was emitted one billion years ago. That means the cluster as it appeared to them two months ago was the way it looked one billion years ago. In other words, they were looking one billion years back in time." No, not one bilion years back in time, but a billion years and two months.
Is this a sick joke? When you're working on the scale of 10^9 years, .1666 years really doesn't make much of a difference. Not to mention that it's obviously not from 1,000,000,000 years exactly ago, but some number that's pretty damn close. Why get upset about such a stupid detail?

Is that really the farthest? (1)

PurifyYourMind (776223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546080)

I know, the article probably only refers to visible light, but note that we've detected things as far away as 12 billion light years: http://hypertextbook.com/facts/1998/JiYoungLee.sht ml [hypertextbook.com] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quasars [wikipedia.org]

Re:Is that really the farthest? (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546868)

No, they mean the largest individual star cluster. We've imaged galaxies and quasars *much* farther out, but individual clusters of stars? That's much more difficult.

1 billion light years? (1)

snowleopard10101 (964540) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546128)

Sometimes I think they are just pulling those numbers out of their behinds. Is there any solid evidence to prove it? I know they probably use parallax for measurement. But further away the star is from earth less apparent is the shift in position, which means lesser accuracy of determining the distance from earth.

Re:1 billion light years? (1)

greenrom (576281) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546446)

This is a really good question. How do they know the distance? I don't think parallax would work. I would think the difference in angles would be way too small to measure for something 1 billion light years away. Maybe they estimate the distance based on how bright the light is with an assumption about the light output from the star??? Can someone who knows something about astronomy can explain where that 1 billion number comes from?

Re:1 billion light years? (4, Informative)

wanerious (712877) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546682)

For galaxies out to about 100 million light years, we can use a well-known relation between the pulsations of bright stars and their luminosities to get a pretty accurate distance. Beyond that, the simplest measure is the cosmological redshift of the light. If the redshift is, say, 10%, then we use the Hubble relation (speed / Hubble constant = distance), where (speed = redshift * speed of light) to get an estimate. We can then independently calibrate this with Type 1a supernovae, which all go off with roughly the same brightness. This is only really useful for smaller redshifts and distances, since asking for the distance of an object with a significant redshift is sort of ambiguous. Do you mean how far is it "now"? How far away was it when it emitted the radiation? But the above is the simplest answer to your question.

Re:1 billion light years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546616)

they are, in the greatest sense, pulling the numbers out of their arse.

"Stars are so far away that they appear to us to be just pinpoints of light. We cannot see their size or shape. So how can we tell different types of stars apart? For the vast majority of stars, there is only one characteristic feature that we can observe - the color of their light."
Stephen W. Hawking

my rather decent karma got owned hard for posting this exact quote a few months ago, anything i post is automagically -1 now. (and i can only post 2 times per day or something equally as gay, which is why ive not logged in in months)

the truth of the matter is, yes, its mostly a fantasy perpetuated by the self proclaimed clerisy.

Re:1 billion light years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546668)

I know they probably use parallax for measurement.
Parallax only works reliably for objects closer than 300 light-years away.

Re:1 billion light years? (3, Informative)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546870)

Parallax? Dude! Are you crazy? I think there should be a rule on /. Anyone who's going to talk about figures should at least do an order of magnitude calculation on their calculator first. In fact, forget order of magnitude, just order of magnitude of the order of magnitude should be enough to tell you that using parallax to measure the distance of something 10^9 light years away is completely insane. You don't even need a calculator. google [google.com] will tell you the parallax angle we might get from viewing this cluster from opposite sides of the Earth's orbit.

IN OTHER WORDS!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546132)

" the light emitted from the star cluster he and Kalirai saw was emitted one billion years ago. That means the cluster as it appeared to them two months ago was the way it looked one billion years ago. In other words, they were looking one billion years back in time."

Looking back one billion years they were.

Now they only need to wait and look a billion years to see what happens.

I can just see it (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546192)

Astronomer 1: How far away is it?
Astronomer 2: In light years? It's OVER 9000!!!!!

Re:I can just see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546248)

...except when the news is posted in Japan, it'll only be over 8000.

wow. remedial time travel (3, Funny)

searchr (564109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546272)

Oh.my.god. Using those figures, according to my calculations, it takes the light from the sun about eight minutes to reach Earth. That means, we aren't seeing the Sun NOW, we're seeing the sun eight minutes in the PAST. So everything we're seeing, everything with the Sun's light on it, is actually touching the past! I'm.. I'm touching the PAST. Looking through TIME.

these are really good brownies.

factoring spacetime is silly (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546284)

The whole notion of factoring time out of spacetime for special treatement is silly. Other than the fact the metric is a bit odd, thinking in terms of a unified spacetime is much easier. The idea of "sometime else" is just as good as "somwhere else" -- it's the whole fact that the English language is stupidly constructed and people say "some other time" that re-inforces the separation. All you really know as an observer is "local and now" -- i.e. your spacetime point. Claiming the images are very old is non-sensical. What reason do we have to assume there is an underlying universal local clock? Other than it seems to work locally we don't really know anything.
   

1bil lightyears is too far for me to understand (2, Funny)

fuo (941897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546302)

how many football fields is that?

Re:1bil lightyears is too far for me to understand (1)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546574)

About 1.03461597 × 10^23 football fields, assuming a 100 yard field.
Also equal to 4.70279985 × 10^22 furlongs.
Also equal to 6.32396717 × 10^13 Astronomical Units.
Also equal to 9.31154371 × 10^25 hands.

Any other peculiar units of measure you'd like translations into? Google calculator is really good at this stuff.

Re:1bil lightyears is too far for me to understand (2, Funny)

twifosp (532320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546642)

A football field is 300 yards.

There are 1093.6 yards in a kilometer.

There are 3.654 football fields in a kilometer.
A light year is ~ 9,460,730,472,580.80 kilometers.
There are 2,595,267,579,293.56 football fields in a light year.
There are 2.59527E+21 or 2,595,267,579,293,560,000,000 football fields in a billion lightyears.

Other imperial measurments you might find usefull:
Dime widths to the lightyear: 38,448,408.68
Buicks to the lightyear: 48,060,510,849.73
Hamsters to the lightyear: 961,210,216.99
Goldfish to the lightyear: 120,151,277.12
Obese Americans (Average of obese waist size) to the lightyear: 11,053,917,495.44
'Your Momma's so fat' to the lightyear: 6

Re:1bil lightyears is too far for me to understand (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546742)

What type of football do you play?

Re:1bil lightyears is too far for me to understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546692)

1.034616e+025

Re:1bil lightyears is too far for me to understand (1)

krunoce (906444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546732)

If you mean just the playing field (100 yards) then it's approximately 1.03461597 × 10^23 yards.

"^" indicates "to the power of".

So what? (1)

vindimy (941049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546410)

If you read this Wiki article [wikipedia.org] :
The comoving distance from the Earth to the edge of the visible universe is about 46.5 billion light-years in any direction; this is the comoving radius of the visible universe. It is sometimes quoted as a diameter of 92-94 billion light-years.
... You will ask, "So, what's the fuss about 1bln years?" So, what is it?

And conversely... (2, Interesting)

singingjim (957822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546482)

...any alien civ that might be looking for us from that star cluster is looking at the earth 1 billion years ago. Guess they won't be finding us for a while. =\

In other words... (1)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546526)

In other words, they have to say the same thing in 20 different ways to hide the fact that there is no story here.

A correction/explanation (5, Informative)

minuteman (81528) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546594)

As an astronomy graduate student, I would like to offer a correction or an explanation of this statement:

From the article:
"That's because the older a star gets, the redder it gets, he says. Younger stars are bluer."

Kinda true, but the point is something else. A young *cluster* of stars will look blue because brightest stars in a young cluster are blue, massive stars. These blue bright stars burn their fuel (Hydrogen) very fast and have short lives (~100 Million years). When blue bright stars go away, more numerous, but much fainter, red stars start to dominate the color of the cluster. Therefore, as the *cluster* gets older, it gets redder.

Looking back into the past (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546596)

So if we like put up a frickin huge mirror out in the space, would we be able to see our reflections back in time?

[OT] "Seeing" the past via non-light means (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546604)

"That's interesting, he explains, because given that light travels at a finite speed -- 300,000 km a second -- the light emitted from the star cluster he and Kalirai saw was emitted one billion years ago. That means the cluster as it appeared to them two months ago was the way it looked one billion years ago. In other words, they were looking one billion years back in time."

It's even more interesting when you consider other ways that we "see" the past, for example a footprint in the sand. In this "light", everything around us is a reflection of the past, so were "seeing" things as far back as history goes. Some of these things go unnoticed due to them being part of our assumptions about reality itself.

Sharp as a Tack (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546740)

given that light travels at a finite speed -- 300,000 km a second -- the light emitted from the star cluster he and Kalirai saw was emitted one billion years ago. That means the cluster as it appeared to them two months ago was the way it looked one billion years ago. In other words, they were looking one billion years back in time.

Gee, figured this one out huh?

How is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17546902)

'one billion years ago'

"Gee dad - didn't you tell me that the light from the sun is only 8 minutes old? "

Guys is that the only interesting thing in this posting? How about quasars? I recall they were discovered about 40 years ago, but existed nearly 10 billion years ago. And that COBE imaged stuff around 14 billion years old?

Are these individually resovolable in the image? If so, lets here about the cool tech that did that.

News please.

Assuming the Speed of Light is Constant (3, Interesting)

Khomar (529552) | more than 7 years ago | (#17546976)

This article has taken great and repetitive pains to explain something that may in fact not be true. A previous ./ story [slashdot.org] talked about indications that the speed of light may in fact be slowing down. Depending on the rate of change, they could be witnessing events significantly closer to the current time -- especially when we are talking billions of years.

earth? (1)

revelous (1048792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17547044)

[quote]In other words, they were looking one billion years back in time.[/quote] so when do we get to look at earth?
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