23 April 2009

Just How Old Are You?

"Using information from a suite of telescopes, astronomers have discovered a mysterious, giant object that existed at a time when the universe was only about 800 million years old. Objects such as this one are dubbed extended Lyman-Alpha blobs; they are huge bodies of gas that may be precursors to galaxies. This blob was named Himiko for a legendary, mysterious Japanese queen. It stretches for 55 thousand light years, a record for that early point in time. That length is comparable to the radius of the Milky Way’s disk.

The researchers are puzzled by the object. Even with superb data from the world’s best telescopes, they are not sure what it is. Because it is one of the most distant objects ever found, its faintness does not allow the researchers to understand its physical origins. It could be ionized gas powered by a super-massive black hole; a primordial galaxy with large gas accretion; a collision of two large young galaxies; super wind from intensive star formation; or a single giant galaxy with a large mass of about 40 billion Suns. Because this mysterious and remarkable object was discovered early in the history of the universe in a Japanese Subaru field, the researchers named the object after the legendary mysterious queen in ancient Japan."
Here's the full article: "Mysterious Space Blob Discovered at Cosmic Dawn." [If I were this mysterious ancient Japanese queen, I would be none too happy to have a giant blob of gas named after me! I'm just sayin'...]

Some people think it's a picture of god which has been pixellated (or otherwise blocked) so as not to scare us. Others just think we need better cameras.

Of course, speaking of god, if you believe the bible is true, this blob can't be 12+ billion years old; the creation itself is only 5769 years old (or thereabouts) and you don't get to believe both—that, by definition and essence, is precisely what a dogma is: all prevaricating aside, it's either all true or none of it is.

Here's my question: The big-bang theory holds that the universe is 13 billion years, give or take. Now, if we take our best telescope cameras and we aim them at a given point in the heavens 'above' (relatively speaking) the plane of the Milky Way galaxy we can see back pretty close to the original cosmic event. But the same is true if we aim them at a point 'below' (that is to say, in the opposite direction) the plane of the galaxy. And, in fact, at any point in any conceivable direction. How, then, does space-time in every direction (imagine a giant sphere with a radius of 13 billion light-years) bend back to a single point of origin? In Euclidean space, we have to posit a sphere with a 26 billion light-year diameter. However, space is not Euclidean, it's curved. I think I understand that part: no matter which direction you look, if you look far enough you'll see the same thing. I just don't know how it works in practice. It's all so vast, I have difficulty imagining a model.

I guess I'll just have to muddle along.

1 comment:

Frances Madeson said...

The relationship between gas and creation is obvious if you’re a woman. My friend S said when giving birth to her daughter G that the agony of childbirth, about which people are usually not terribly specific, was, at least in her case, the result of the most excruciating gas pain way up in her rectum. She wondered if she would survive and along the way felt she might be riven in two. She also explained that it is a myth that anyone who had experienced it could ever really forget the pain; it’s just that the joy does overwhelm it and a bargain is struck with oneself.