back to article Hubble takes furthest peep back into universe's history

The Hubble space telescope has taken its longest look back into the beginnings of the universe and found seven galaxies formed less than 600 million years after the Big Bang, including one that may be the earlest ever seen. The galaxies are in a zone that was formed when the universe was just 4 per cent of its current age and …


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  1. Lars Silver badge

    click to enlarge

    Never works for me, that is, it works but does not make it larger.

    1. 142

      Re: click to enlarge

      click the image once it opens -> your browser is probably shrinking it to fit the window, and you need to zoom in :-)

      My chrome and safari does that (it's so annoying)

  2. Anonymous Coward

    The best science is the best guess.

    In the time line image, just what exactly spawned the area before the "Big Bang"? I'm still highly skeptical on this "Big Bang" theory. When you sit without the answer in hand, anything is possible, but that doesn't mean anything is probable. When you don't have the answer in hand, anything is possible, there for anything is probable. So to me, it's just as probable a bowl of cheese melted and created the universe. I don't believe that, but I can't prove otherwise until I have the answer in hand.

    I'm not degrading the science of this type of research, however I am degrading the human element of it. The element that everything has to have a starting point, which for this matter, that is the "Big Bang". But, it doesn't hurt to try to find the answer to anything, especially when everything you find is still going to remain a mystery for the most part. Plus, you get a bunch of really cool pictures.

    BTW, does anyone know how many people actual signed off on the "Big Bang" theory to implement it as even a probability to be pushed?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: The best science is the best guess.

      The answer is that there probably is no answer to "What came before The Big Bang?", as TheUniverseAsWeKnowIt[tm] (probably) didn't exist yet.

      However, the more we learn about events following The Big Bang, and push back the earliest "views" of the time-line which became "today", the more we might be able to start guessing at "what came before", and start devising experiments to test those guesses.

      Why bother? Scientific exploration is human nature. Your Medieval Ancestor had no concept of iFads, hot-water heaters, clean tap water (or clean anything, for that matter), electricity/"all mod cons", automobiles, bicycles, tinned beer/meat/veg/fruit etc., California (probably, alternatively substitute Rome), radio/TV (much less recorded programing), rifled barrels, rubber tires, breath mints, Corn Flakes, cardboard, standardized screws/bolts/nuts/etc (bricks, wall-studs, sheet rock, need I go on?). They might have had access to a movable-type printing press, but no personal computer/word processor/printer combination. Likewise, eyeglasses but no contacts, much less Laser lens surgery to correct vision. They had knowledge of the compass & astrolabe, but GPS was right-out. Weight-driven clockworks were known, quartz movements unheard of. Need I go on?

      There was a day when people looking at static electricity seriously, from a scientific perspective, were seen as loons. But they weren't loons. They were investigating the smallest bits of the Universe that were available to them. Today, we use what they learned in tunneling electron microscopes (and the like), to observe individual atoms, and in some cases actual electron orbits. And even smaller "building block" particles, through the use of other technology that built on static. The astro-boffins are examining what probably will become the astronomy version of static electricity, allowing us to see even closer to TheBigBang ... and who knows, maybe we'll eventually be able to see a shadow of the other side ... and what wonders will that bring us?

      Me, I'm all for the research ... even though I suspect it'll be my great-grad-kids generation who will live to see the benefits. In "The Human Race", we only win because our ancestors were curious.

    2. Martin

      Re: The best science is the best guess.

      It's not a matter of "Who signed off on the Big Bang Theory". It's a matter of evidence.

      As I understand it (IANAA) there were basically two major theories - Big Bang and Steady State (ie - it's always been there). But the more evidence we get from what happened billions of years ago (which is basically what we're looking at when we look billions of light-years away), the more we realize that the Big Bang is vastly more likely.

      Compare the tectonic plates theory - it wasn't signed off when it was first suggested - it was actually pretty universally scoffed at. So people tried to prove it was nonsense - and to their astonishment, discovered that in fact, it wasn't nonsense. Now the evidence is overwheming - the continents do move and are moving.

      1. Jim Wilkinson

        Re: The best science is the best guess.

        And compounded by some complex issues such as time/space warp. I'm no expert on this, but there are paradoxes aplenty. We see ourselves (object A] as 4 billion light years from the centre, as does another object [B] 4 billion light years away in the opposite direction. But if we look at object [B] it isn't 8 billion light years away. Conclusion - space-time is curved. I suspect there is no actual centre of the universe - we are seeing other stars in a curved space-time as are others in different parts of the universe seeing us in curved space-time.

        Now my brain's starting to hurt :))

    3. kyza

      Re: The best science is the best guess.

      You should probably watch the Horizon show on 'Before The Big Bang' to get a hang on some alternative theories.

      Funnily enough, one of the ideas it looks at does deal with a cheese analogy...

  3. Mike Brown

    I love hubble photos

    I can sit and look at the miraid of galaxies and not get bored. The idea that each speck of light is a galaxy full of millions of stars, and billions of planets and hopefully gizzilions of people. Amazing, truly awesome.

    Plus that sparkly one in the lower right, is rather lovely.

    1. Z-Eden
      Thumb Up

      Re: I love hubble photos

      Well said. For me, oddly, I find it rather comforting. The endless great unknown, so full of mystery. Who knows what's out there and what is happening right now at that galaxy in the lower right, if even it still exists...

  4. NomNomNom

    given that time is running backwards there's no such thing as "before the big bang". Time ends at the big bang (or begins from our perspective). Everything closes to..hmm what do they call it..singularity?

  5. Blitheringeejit

    The Right Stuff

    >Grunsfeld has a special attachment to Hubble, as he was the last human being to touch it

    Spacewalking with no gloves on? Must be a Geordie!

    1. mANgLEr

      Re: The Right Stuff

      His mittens were connected by string up the sleeves.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something not quite right here...

    ... probably me.

    Ignoring, as 'noise', the elapsed time of this earliest observed galaxy from the Big Bang, one can say that we and that galaxy are the same distance apart as light can travel from the Big Bang until now. Assuming for a moment the we and that galaxy are on co-linear but opposite trajectories, then we have to conclude we are both travelling at about the speed of light and have been so separating, on average, since the Big Bang. But, before the Big Bang, we were both stationary relative to each other; so, loosely applying the old Newtonian 'v = u +at' equation ,we either had infinite acceleration at the start (not possible ?) or there have been periods in our past when we were travelling faster than the speed of light (not possible ?).

    It's even worse if we and that galaxy are separating on trajectories which are not co-linear: we would both have to be travelling faster than the speed of light for our separation to approximate light speed.

    Where did I go wrong?

    1. Measurer

      Re: Something not quite right here...

      It's something to do with Einstein's 'frames of reference', and is one of the major reasons why Newtonian physics breaks down at these scales. Regardless of the relative trajectories of two moving objects, the maximum differential speed that can be measured is C (speed of light). Even if the two objects are travelling in opposing directions, both at the speed of light, since the big bang (13.7 bil years), the red shift will indicate that the objects are 13.7 bil light years away from each other.

      Disclaimer: I could be completely wrong about this, or in a different universe, spot on.

    2. Bluewhelk

      Re: Something not quite right here...

      Don't worry, It's kinda non-intuitive.

      It's not that the galaxy itself is moving away from us, it's the universe expanding that is causing the galaxy to become further away due to there being increasingly more 'universe' between us and the distant galaxy over time.

      It gets worse because it is possible to view distant galaxies that are actually moving away from us at (apparent) speeds greater than that of light, the light will have spent years travelling towards us but actually getting further away before reaching a point where it 'overtook' the universes expansion and could carry on to reach us now.

      Despite all this, in that galaxies local bit of the universe the galaxy is moving much slower than the speed of light (if indeed it still exists some 13billion years on!).

      <-- One of these will help you get over thinking about the crazy physics.

      1. Martin

        Re: Something not quite right here...

        Imagine a balloon, with lots of dots drawn on it. Imagine the balloon is inflated. The dots move apart from each other - it's not that one moves away from another.

        The galaxy is a bit like this.

        But don't take the analogy too far - putting a pin into the balloon causes a big bang, but that's not the same at all.

  7. mhenriday

    Ian, you might want to consider rewriting the following passage :

    «The seven earliest galaxies were part of the first wave that "re-ionized" the universe by breaking down the hydrogen to form the other elements found today». The re-ionisation of the universe via the emission of sufficiently energetic electromagnetic radiation to detach the electron from the nucleus in the hydrogen atom could possibly be referred to as «breaking down the hydrogen», even if that is not, perhaps, the most felicitous description possible, but this process has nothing to do with the formation of «the other elements found today», which were produced by fusion processes in the stars (and in supernovae), not by light striking clouds of neutral hydrogen in the early universe....


  8. FozzyBear

    You know

    Viewing pictures like these really makes you think about your place in the universe,

    Theologians will ponder the implications to their religions.

    Scientists will analyse and draw conclusions on the data returned.

    Politicians will call a meeting and debate how they could best spin this to their advantage.

    Libertarians will scream with anger how the money could have been better spent on some social cause.

    And other sections of society will have their views also...

    me I just think its fucking awesome.

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