Looking At Forever

Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Ellis (Caltech), and the UDF 2012 Team

Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Ellis (Caltech), and the UDF 2012 Team

Christmas has always been a time of wonder for me. As a child I was inspired by the biblical stories of Jesus’ birth and what it meant for mankind. As I grew older and did away with childish things my wonder was taken up by the Cosmos. The Universe is a very wondrous place with no need for deities to make looking up at the sky a profound experience. Looking up at the stars you are actually looking back in time. What you are seeing is not what the stars look like now, at this very moment, but rather you are looking at what the sky’s configuration was when the light began it’s travel  and depending on the star, that can be billions of years. Truly awesome.

Scientist’s best estimate of the age of the Universe is 13.7 billion years. That is a long time. The human species has only been around for a few hundred thousand years and a few million if you count our pre – Homo ancestors. It’s hard to image 1 billion years let alone 14 billion. Now imagine if you could look back that far. That would be truly mind blowing. The image above from the Hubblesite Newscenter shows just that. According to Hubblesite:

This new image of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) 2012 campaign reveals a previously unseen population of seven faraway galaxies, which are observed as they appeared in a period 350 million to 600 million years after the big bang.

Read that sentence over again until you realize it’s significance. The Hubble is peering back to almost the beginning of the Universe 13 billion years ago. The light hitting the camera in the Hubble telescope had been traveling for 13 billion years! Looking at the black behind the 7 galaxies you can almost see forever! The end of seeing (an interesting topic I’ll write about when I next decide to post something on cosmology).

In our media saturated age (read that as too many photographs)  it’s important  to remember that photographs in and of themselves are not wonderous. It’s what you bring to the viewing that makes it a possibly wondrous event. Flip through photos on flickr and you quickly become bored. Pick one photo and contemplate it, bringing all your experience and knowledge of the Universe to that viewing experience and you’ll end up with something as amazing as the edge of forever.

Hope everyone has a truly marvelous and wondrous Christmas and Holiday Season. See you in the New Year.

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