Dark galaxies come to light for the first time
This is the region of the sky around quasar HE0109-3518, the bright circle at the center of this image.
July 11th, 2012
10:56 AM ET

Dark galaxies come to light for the first time

The question of how galaxies form is a hot issue among astronomers. Computer models have helped them make educated guesses about how these groups of stars come to be, but it's been hard to validate these theories.

Now scientists have made a significant stride in confirming part of the story of galaxy formation. They believe they have found several examples of dark galaxies, dense clouds of gas that essentially don't have stars, so they can't be detected with optical telescopes.

"This may be considered the building blocks of galaxies," said Sebastiano Cantalupo, postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz and lead author of the study. "What we believe is that this is an evolutionary phase into the whole history of galaxies."

Basically, a dark galaxy is the middle stage between a diffuse cloud of gas, and a galaxy as we know them, with a lot of stars.

Since dark galaxies are, by their nature, hard to spot, scientists had to use one of the most powerful kinds of "lamps" in the universe: a quasar, which is a bright galaxy center surrounding a supermassive black hole. This quasar would illuminate dense clouds of gas nearby.

Cantalupo and colleagues used the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope to look for ultraviolet light that would come from hydrogen gas experiencing intense radiation. Because the universe is expanding, the wavelength of light gets stretched, so ultraviolet in the distant universe shifts to a bluish shade of visible light when we observe it from Earth.

The dozen potential dark galaxies they discovered are about 11 billion light-years away from Earth. The universe is about 14 billion years old, and looking into deep space is essentially looking back in time because of the time it takes for light to travel. That means the scientists are observing a part of the universe when it was only 3 billion years old - considered "the early universe."

It's possible that these dark galaxies will just hang out without forming stars, but this is unlikely since they haven't been spotted nearer to us, around our own Milky Way, Cantalupo said.

"Some of these clouds might have been caught on their way to forming small galaxies, other might just be filaments flowing along the cosmic web toward forming galaxies," said Joel Primack, professor of physics and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in an e-mail.

The observations jibe with what simulations had predicted, and allow scientists to look further into the details of these results for new insights.

"Understanding how stars either do or don't form out of gas in the universe is crucial to understanding many of the basic questions of modern cosmology," Primack said.

Related: Earth as you've never seen it before

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Filed under: Discoveries • In Space
soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. AV

    Isn't great these scientists can write anything and say it is a theory.

    July 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Brittany

      Isn't it amazing that this is the precise response an individual gives when they cannot comprehend a scientific discovery?

      September 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  2. Sean

    Imagine yourself in a dark void. just you and your thoughts......and a bacon and egg taco.

    July 18, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  3. $tillRun!n1@Ya.Com

    "I know what your thinking...I've been thinking the same thing since i got here...why oh why didint i take the blue pill"

    July 15, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  4. GeorgeBushSr

    will they one day discover it is all alive!?

    July 15, 2012 at 3:37 am |
  5. credulity kills

    Paragraph 6, Line 2 correction. Light sources that are moving away from an observer are actually shifted toward the red end of the spectrum, not the blue.

    July 14, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • seejayjames

      Actually it's correct, it states that the light shifts from ultraviolet towards the blue end of the spectrum. So it's still stretching (going towards the red), because UV is a shorter wavelength than visible blue.

      I can see why you posted this, though-it's worded a bit awkwardly, because we typically compare just the blue and the red ends, not the invisible bands around them.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Brian C

      From U.V. to blue is a red shift.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  6. Guy

    Wow its all THEORY. NO ONE KNOWS 100% maybe not even 2% of what really is going on in the universe. Stop pretending you people do. Just a bunch of arguing things no one knows the answer to.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • USminority

      Please go back to the entertainment section. You have just lowered everyone's IQ

      July 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • BillyBrasky

      So I guess we should just stop looking for the answers.

      July 18, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  7. Daniel

    What if none of this is real? I can't wait to go back to sleep.

    July 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  8. IRAN

    I have to admit, it really amazes me how the general public (especially here in the states) are either miss or not informed on general Physics.

    Not speaking about abstract mathematical derivations, but well established underlying principles. You would be surprised how few (educated!!) people connect the dots between our sun being a star! How all elements with the exception of H and He where all manufactures inside stars (yes, that means all the atoms that make us originate inside a star….actually multiple stars).

    The formation of Galaxies is a complex process, but it has fruitful implications and potential discoveries such as how exotic Dark Matter plays a roll in a Galaxy’s rotational speed with respect to the mass contained within the Galaxy, but try and explain such phenomena to the average Joe, you get a HUGE “?” over their head because all they can ask is, well how is that going to put a dead animal on my plate?

    So my question to you is….seriously, why? Is the big picture not important enough to spend a few hours of your time to understand? As we standing on shoulders of great discoveries/scientists, are we that self absorbed that we cannot spare a minute of our time to Google “Stars”?

    But the Kardashians and world of worcraft, oh ha, you can sit on that shizer for hours?

    July 11, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • jazger

      thats humanity for you. bunch of hairless apes who should never have come down from the tree tops.

      July 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Rutger

      Couldn't agree more with you. Have you ever heard the story from early 2000's when a major blackout effected the Northern states? 911 received numerous calls from scared residents of these "lights in the sky" because they had never even SEEN the stars before. If we're going to begin to educate the public on the formation of galaxies, the basics of physics and really life itself then maybe we should begin with those urban-never-seen-the-stars-before people seeing them for themselves!

      The issue you have with the education system of many of the young individuals is no different than the issues many parents have. The U.S. has pushed so much money into it's defense budget that it's chopped it's education budget. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the pillar and definition of a civilized society built from education? Priorities got mixed up somewheres along the way and until there's someone in office that's willing to do a 180 (good luck considering the vast amounts of uneducated people who believe we're under serious threats to "national security") on that stance. I have a simple solution: let the other countries figure their own sh– out and stop making enemies then you won't need a large defense budget...

      July 12, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
      • Claudio

        The United States Education system is managed and funded almost 100% by the states, not the fedearal government.

        July 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • john

      You people can stress life all you want, in the end, its 6 feet and a handful of roses.

      July 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • USminority

      You are in the wrong place for a comment like that. I'm very interested in this article because I've had long standing questions about the shape of our universe. For example, considering the big bang theory, why is the universe so consistently flat? Galaxies should bloom out in all directions from source of bang but it's not - How can we claim to pinpoint the location of other star systems when gravitational forces affect light. And when the universe was only 3billion years old, was the entire universe still also 2.73 kelvin everywhere mysteriously as it is now?

      But i except to get flamed instead in about 5 minutes

      July 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
      • MOCaseA

        Nice post except one thing... We already know the Universe is not flat. Everywhere we point our telescopes and do Deep Field investigations we see galaxies. Billions of them. That includes up, down, left, right, and every other direction we can think of.

        August 7, 2012 at 5:40 am |
  9. Religion and Science, India

    Galaxies and Universe follow cyclical births and deaths. It is quite consistent with what we see in nature. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_cycle_of_the_universe
    Everything is created from the Shabad (Word). Bible also says "In the Beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God". If science can solve this mystery of the "Word (Shabad)", we would know the origin of creation.
    For now with our limited knowledge, I am interested in "how can we find life in these galaxies?". I believe God would not create a Galaxy without a purpose, he would not just create a bunch of rocks called planets and stars and for what purpose? There is certainly life out there...

    July 11, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • rocco

      I guess Im confused on the concept they talk about, about how they are looking back in time 3 billion years old, early years? when we have to wait for light years looking through a telescope. So its back in time? How is that right?

      July 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
      • BNS-GA

        it's like when someone sends you a picture. They just sent it to you but that is not what they are doing right now while you are looking at the picture. You are seeing what they were doing.

        July 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
      • Think

        Technically speaking it is a form of time travel. It's more accurate to say that we are viewing the galaxy(s) as they were millions/billions of years ago, since that is the newest light from those areas of space has not reached us yet, by all means many of the galaxies/ stars/planets we see in the sky are long gone, and the only way to view them as they are now would be to travel there.

        July 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
      • USminority

        EXAMPLES:
        -It takes 8minutes for our Sun's light to reach us. So when you see the Sun, you are actually seeing the Sun as it was 8 minutes ago.

        -The nearest star system to us is alpha centari. It is 4 lightyears away, therefore when we look at it through a telescope we are seeing alpha centari 4 years ago because that is how long it took the light to get here.

        -Radio waves travel at the speed of light. In 1935 alpha centari received the first radio waves from earth, originated 5 years ago. The first time we were able to broadcast radio waves powerful enough so static remnants could reach alpha centari was Hitler's speech at the Olympics in Germany :(((((( Humanity FAIL

        July 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • BNS-GA

      Maybe the Universe is Gods canvas and there was empty spots that he wanted to fill so that is why there are so many galaxies.

      July 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Thom Patt

      there is have u seen the other life.

      July 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • JA

      How great thou art

      July 12, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  10. Oscar Pitchfork

    Our universe basically has an infinite inside diameter but a finite outside diameter; as you travel (or, as you would travel, but none of us ever will) towards the limits, the actual "space" you travel thru foreshortens continuously, without end. Eventually, you stop moving relative to an outside observer.

    July 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • BNS-GA

      Are you sure?

      July 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Matthew Slee

      What you are talking about is called an Event Horizon.

      July 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • BillyBrasky

      That's an interesting concept.

      July 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  11. pep

    These "black holes' and "dark areas" are collapsed galaxies (not a collapsed star). Eventually they will explode becoming disorganized nebula. They will then coalesce and we begin the process again.

    July 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • BNS-GA

      So that is what Shirley Maclaine meant by reincarnation. I understand now.

      July 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • BillyBrasky

      If Black Holes are Collapsed galaxies why do some, if not all, galaxies have a Black hole at their center? I'm not trolling here I just am interested in the relationship between galaxies and black holes.

      July 18, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
      • Claudio

        Black holes aren't collapsed galaxies, they are formed when a stars mass becomes so large that it collapes in on itself.

        July 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  12. Ramana7

    What about the universe that gets created in your dreams? And the new one the next dream?

    What about the fact that no matter how small into the microcosm we look, or how far and big into the macrocosm, it goes into infinity? Why is that?

    July 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • BNS-GA

      Check out "Garden of your Mind" Mr Rogers Remix it will answer all your questions.

      July 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
      • seejayjames

        That's great! Love the Symphony of Science ones too...definitely worth a look!

        July 14, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  13. BNS-GA

    Maybe God didn't create the Universe, just the heavens and the earth. Maybe God's creator created the Universe. Maybe he blew himself up when he was creating the god particle and the big bang happened when god was created. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it!!!!!!

    July 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • jazger

      or more likely. this "god" person is just a sad attempt by a species, able to understand the idea of infinity.. yet is doomed to live only 70 to 100 years.

      to explain that very contradiction.

      July 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  14. Me

    The bigger question is, what difference does it make?

    July 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Baatsem

      Well said Putz

      July 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  15. yoda

    Thanks guys & gals I needed some laughs today!!!

    July 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  16. hecep

    About time. Somebody finally gathered enough inter-galactic credits to pay the bill.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  17. Jim

    If the universe was created all at once, around 6000 years ago we'd se new objects relatively close to us appear very day and we'd see nothing beyond the range of the age of the universe itself... So, no object farther away that 6,000 light years or so. It would be a very large number of stars discovered every single day.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Richard

      Doesn't quit work that way. The photon you see from stars come from the centre of the star. It takes (for the sun) 10,000 years for these photons to migrate out. So instead of what the sun looked like 9 minutes ago (the light-speed flight time) you see it as it was 10,000 years ago. So the universe obviously is older than 10,000 years for the Creationalists.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
      • TonyInNYC

        That's assuming Jesus didn't build the universe to look old on purpose.

        July 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
      • Joe Rioux

        Richard, that's utterly ridiculous reasoning. The photons we see now were *at the Sun's surface* approximately 8 minutes ago. Yes, these photons ultimately came from the center some 10,000 – 40,000 years ago. But that doesn't change that they were AT the surface 8 minutes ago. And if the Sun blew up, we'd see the change in the surface features, via surface photons, 8 minutes later.

        July 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
      • Joe Rioux

        The point is, Richard, your argument will never disprove the creationist magical hypothesis, because an omnipotent God could create the Universe in any state, including with photons "apparently 10,000 years old, to limited human beings", but in reality, created to appear so 6,000 years ago.

        July 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
      • dena

        so does that means the sun will burn out soon? what about solar storms? are they being seen from the past?

        July 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
      • seejayjames

        @dena: don't worry, by all estimates we have about 4-5 billion years left for our Sun...so...probably enough time for us to either blow ourselves up or travel to new star systems (assuming we can get that far, which may never happen given the extreme distances).

        However, look up "Coronal Mass Ejection" for some truly scary possibilities which could happen any time...yep, knocking out electricity on a massive scale for weeks or months...talk about a natural disaster!

        July 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Putz

      Jim,

      A light year is not a year. It is the distance that it would take light to travel at 186,000miles/second.

      July 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
      • Hot Carl

        Or the distance that light would travel in a year.

        July 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
      • Baatsem

        Does that mean that a light year is (186,000 miles/sec)(60 sec/min)(60min/hour)(24hours/day)(365days/year)?

        July 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  18. Bane

    i've never seen so many know it alls. in one blog.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  19. Lucy in the sky without diamonds

    Nothing like a CNN science article to prove that Americans are as ignorant of science as the test scores indicate.

    July 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      Nothing like an anonymous Internet commenter to remind me that there are people who honestly believe that test scores are trustworthy indicators of knowledge.

      Not that Americans are all science whizzes. But we see that reflected in the national discourse, not in test scores. Perhaps if you'd been trained in the art of critical thinking you'd realize that.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
      • seejayjames

        Thank you...test scores are just a tiny slice. Maybe if we stopped all the pressure on scores, we'd stop teaching to the test so much.

        Besides, the international rankings (PISA) are flawed-we include learning-disabled scores in our aggregate, but most other countries don't. So they're not equal populations.

        All that said, we DO need a LOT MORE scientific understanding in this country!

        July 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  20. StayinAlive

    The Big Bang is still just a theory and a bad one at that. I always like how scientists say how it takes light 10 billion years to reach us, so we are looking back in time. Really?? Did it ever occur to any of them that if you were on a planet 10 billion light years away from Earth looking at us, you would be looking back in time because the the light from our sun would take 10 billion years to get there? The answer scientists give to that is that the entire universe everywhere came into existence in all locations at the same time. So much for one big bang.

    July 11, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Nathan

      Theory: (noun) the best explanation of a phenomenon given a rigorous testing of the evidence at hand.

      Religion: (noun) wishful thinking

      July 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
      • Z

        Nathan short for Nathaniel was a prophet (messenger for the God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob) for King David, in the Bible.

        July 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
      • Johnny 5

        That settles that argument.

        July 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
      • Nathan

        Z –

        Also a name I chose at random to maintain what anonymity I could while posting.

        July 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
      • Caryn

        You are a genius...lmao

        July 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
      • Michael

        Too many people that are not trained in either Critical Thinking or the sciences continue to confuse theory with hypothesis. Anyone that can't wrap their mind around this, consider: Was Pythagoras wrong about right triangles? Do we call it the Pythagoras Hypothesis? NO !! It has been shown, through repeatable experimentation, to be true, therefore it "graduated" to a Full Fledged Theorem (Theory). The exact same argument can, and shold, be made for the Big Bang (the COBE mission proved it true) and Evolution. Just my $0.02 worth ...

        July 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • R. Williams

      Of course they know that. Any spot looking at any other that is billions of light years away would be 'looking back in time', because the light takes that long to get here or there. As for being a theory, so is gravity, but do you spontaneously float away when you disbelieve?

      July 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • HomerSimpson

      You think that they're observing light coming back as reflection from our own sun? And you are criticizing the scientists? haha

      July 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Time Traveller

      If someone 10 billion light years from us were looking at us right now, they wouldn't see anything ... yet. The earth is about 4.5 billion years old, so they would have to wait another 5.5 billion years to see the very begining of it.

      July 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Tester

      Clearly U have not read enough in this subject to make this statement/question. If you did, U would have never asked this question.

      July 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
      • Easy E

        Um, no. the know it all brat is the one who doesn't even understand the theory yet thinks he's outsmarted some of the greatest mathematical minds of al time. When you've basically invented differential and integral calculus on a lark, then you might actually be qualified to come back here and make commentary. As it is, I doubt you could even solve a rudimentary algebra problem let alone discuss matters of relativistic mechanics.

        July 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      well gravity is just a theory so try jumping a building see how well that works out for you

      July 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Joe

      It's extremely clear you don't understand anything about the Big Bang, and lack a basic scientific understanding of the Universe, yet you think you're smarter than the thousands of PH.D's working in this field, and that won't stop you from having an opinion. The entire universe was 'created' al at once – it was simply very small and expanded. Therefore it's completely compatable with the big bang. It's only your own ignorance stopping you from understanding this.

      July 11, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
      • cross

        thank you joe.

        July 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
      • Fritz

        Hi Joe, I kinda get all that 'big bang' stuff. Where I'm stuck at is what is it that 'banged'? And how? And for what reason, if any? Where did hydrogen come from to make the first stars and galaxies? The cosmologists, of whom I have the greatest respect, say the 'Big Bang', as Fred Hoyle put it derisively, "was caused by the 'Singularity". Hmm, the 'singularity'. So what is that? They seem to say that it is a condition of 'infinite energy' beyond the boundary of 'SpaceTime'. Perhaps it's the collision of hyperdimensional 'branes' colliding in hyperspace as stated in 11 dimensional 'M' theory and that our Cosmos is the result of one of many such brane collisions creating 'bubbles' of expanding three dimesional SpaceTime and that the Energy created with it is dissapating in all directions leading to the eventual 'heat death' of the Cosmic spacetime bubble. All mass will eventually be sucked into black holes and they will radiate away into synchrotron (Hawking) radiation and continue expanding into nothingness. The heat death. Some of these scientists claim that is why our Cosmos is finite although unbounded. It is simply a semi-spherical SpaceTime bubble expanding into a higher dimensional hyperspace domain. Does that mean the Cosmos is ovoid in shape and that if I look into the Cosmos I'm actually looking at the back of my head??? So where did all these hyperspace branes come from and what caused them? And what does it mean to a conscious being asking these esoteric questions? Like I said. My mind is stuck in the tar like a wallowing mammoth over this. And it bugs me.

        July 12, 2012 at 6:45 am |
      • jazger

        @fritz – the theories are a bit murky, as the orgin of the Singulatiry is a bit like talking about the orgian of this "God" person.

        It really boils down to – An open or closed universe. what data we have say that the universe seems to be actualy speeding up.

        so the question become – will its speed counter the pull of gravity? if its speed can out pace gravity – the universe died – Heat death, eventualy, the stars burn up all the ready helium/hygrogen and go out. the universe slowly drifts apart untill the stars die and the lights go out. Game over, exit stage left.

        Or.. Is the amount of dark matter and the power of gravity going to win? if so, eventualy, the expanding universe will slow down.. then, slowly begin to reverse. pulling everything, EVERYTHING back toward the "Center" basicly causeing one huge black hole. Everything gets crushed, infinite gravist, all the matter of the universe, gets crushed into a new Singularity.. game over everything dead.

        but.. a singularity exploded before, we believe. so.. the Big Crush seems the most likely optinion and means a very cylic universe

        July 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Chris, Austin

      None of what you said is true.

      If you were on a planet 10 billion light years from Earth, and you were looking at our galaxy, you would be seeing it as it appeared 10 billion years ago. There's nothing impossible about that, and nothing about that which contradicts the idea that when we look 10 billion light years out, we are looking at light that left its point of origin 10 billion years ago, so we are seeing light that was produced 10 billion years ago, and we are seeing the past.

      Also, when you look up into the sky, at the sun, you are looking into the past. About eight and a half minutes into the past, which is roughly how long it takes light to reach Earth from the sun.

      And when you're looking into a mirror, you're looking at someone too dumb to understand this. That doesn't mean it isn't true. It just means you're dumb.

      July 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
      • Free thinking Atheist

        LMFAO! That's Classic!

        July 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
      • CRP2473

        Too Funny!!!

        July 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
      • Daniel

        I think you should write a book. That was funny.

        July 12, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • montyross

      yes they still have the mentality of the dark ages that we are the center of the universe,

      July 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Lokari

      Your inability to comprehend a theory does not mean that the theory is flawed.

      July 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      You do not appear to have the capacity for complex thought that is necessary to understand what scientists *actually* mean when they say that we are "looking back in time." You people really need to learn the difference between "I don't understand this because I don't know enough about it" and "This makes no sense to me so you must be wrong."

      July 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • DRinNC

      The expanding universe does not simply mean that galaxies are moving away from each other, but also that Space itself is stretching. There is not inconsistency in this fact and the BB theory.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Easy E

      You apparently do not understand inertial reference frames whatsoever. First clue: there are no absolute inertial reference frames, only relative ones. Second, if all inertial frames start out form the same location (origin) and then travel radially outward at the same rate, it is immediately obvious how distance can be used to compute the time difference between events in one location and events on the other.

      Please, before you think you've managed to outsmart Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Einstein, etc., just try to educate yourself on the actual theory before you pass judgement. Coming to erroneous conclusions out of blatant ignorance is not proof that that theory is invalid, it just proves your incompetence.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
      • jacen

        Your so full of it.

        July 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • jkflipflop

      This post makes no sense of any sort. Yes, if you happened to be 10 billion light years away, you would see the Earth as it was 10 billion years ago. . . which means it wouldn't be here yet. It would just look like Sol with a thick could of gas around it.

      Kind of like what we're looking at here.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • DJCowboy

      Imagine you're in a canyon and a friend at one end yells at you, obviously you don't hear him the instant it comes out of his mouth, the sound has to carry to reach you. You hear him say something he did in the past (let's say 3 seconds ago). The same works for light. Obviously light is much faster than sound and in space the source of whatever light you're looking at is immensely powerful. So powerful that it can actually reach us but it takes time for that light to reach us, don't think of it as looking in the past, think of it more as a delay of receiving that light from its source.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
      • Fritz

        I've wondered about that 'sound propagation' thing only being possible cuz a medium allows the transmission of energy waves we call 'sound' over distance. Things like metal, water or air can transmit sound waves. Fine. So what about light? Is light really analogous to sound? According to scientists, light, or electromagnetic waves manifest as photons can propagate through 'spacetime as if it were a medium. Now I know early scientists claimed that 'space' consisted of a medium like 'substance' called 'ether'. Then it was decided that, no, 'space' is the absence of energy, or vacuum, and that the 'Bing Bong' ;op.. is simply the violent separation of Space and Energy thus creating Time and binding it to Space to create this 'medium' that light can travel through. And that this 'medium' Spacetime interacting with mass/energy creates the effect we call 'gravity'. Or the warpage of Space/Time in the presence of Mass/Energy as Einstein stated in his general theory. Some scientists liken SpaceTime to a frothy, foamy higher dimensional substance at the quantum level where matter-anti-matter pairs of particles in the presence of energy pop out of virtual space only to annihilate each other in this strange dance of existance at the quantum level. They refer to this as the zero point energy containedwithin the vacuum, or vacuum energy. Scientists also claimed that large explosions like supernovae or colliding black holes can create disturbances, or gravity waves, in this SpaceTime, elastic like medium that propagate across SpaceTime at the speed of light like ripples in a pond. So which is it? Is Space just a huge expanding pile of nothing? Or is it a big huge wad of 'something' that light can propagate through? Personally, I believe there is a deeper mystery here that eludes us. A better understanding of quantum physics could provide some answers but I'm still skeptical. Our problem I think is that there is much more that we don't know and I think it has to do with our consciousness and how it connects with the 'reality' outside our minds. Is it all real apart from our thoughts? Or is it all perception? Totally dependant on our knowledge of it like Heisenberg said? When the tree falls in the forest, does it really make a sound? Is 'sound' just something we hear? Or does sound exist independant of our perception of it? Ultimately,we just don't know. And when I think of us being barely a few lousy million years out of the trees, how could we know? We might be stuck on this one forever. ...which really sucks.

        July 12, 2012 at 9:14 am |
      • jazger

        to my understanding and knowledge. Space is nothing.

        Like the area between GWBs ear. its empty.. useless, unused.,

        biut then again.. its not Really empty is it? intersteller dust, even free atoms of hyrogen and such not.

        best to think of it as Potential space. nothings really in it yet. like a highway through the desert kind of? great for going from point a to point b. but not much to look at inbetween. Sooner or later a gas station might pop up. (a star)

        but thill that happens its just "empty" space.

        which gives a nice little loop hole to break the speed of light you know. its been thought that.. if we can figure out how to move space. (like space its self seems to be expanding..) And becuase space is basicly "nothing" and "nothing" can go faster than light.. a ship, moveing space, rather than trying to move its self threw space.. can go faster than light.

        9oddly enough its rather how the so called 'warp drives' worked in star trek.. some fairly well known physistis and astro-physists.. seem to think its possible. to bad we'll all be dust before they figure it out :(

        July 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • KK Denver

      Our sun is only 5 Billion years old.

      July 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Michael

      If you were on a planet orbiting a star 10 billion light years from here, assuming you had the ability to even see 10B Light Years and were able to even locate the Milky Way, you WOULD NOT find our Solar System, much less this planet because it is but 4.2 billion years old. Don't believe that? Where do you think all of the carbon in your body or the gold that people wear so inconspeciously came from? From the belly of stars!! Our Solor System is a second or third generation system; any earlier and none of would be here because there'd be no carbon or any of the other heavy elements.

      July 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  21. Rob

    cool...

    July 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  22. mz

    ahhh lights are amazing.

    July 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm |

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