“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away...

In a book entitled "The Positive Philosophy," French philosopher Auguste Comte, writing about the unknowable, said of the stars "we can never learn their internal constitution, nor, in regard to some of them, how heat is absorbed by their atmosphere." Of course, very shortly thereafter, the spectrograph (or spectroscope, spectrometer, or spectrophotometer) was turned to the heavens and the rate at which we learned the inner workings of stars and, soon thereafter, galaxies was truly amazing.

We can now look back about 96% of the way to the beginning of the universe (some 14 billion years ago). How do we look back? It's because light, travelling at 300 million meters per second (186,000 miles per second) takes a finite amount of time to reach us. If we look at something a light year away, we're seeing it as it was a year ago.

Instruments on the Hubble Space Telescope were used to create the image above, now the deepest look into space ever, showing galaxies formed at the very beginning of the star forming phase of the Universe's evolution. You can read about the instruments and methods that allowed us to look at this truly incredible view of our Universe here.

Note: I am currently working at moving my blog from Blogger, with its limitations, to a Wordpress self-hosted site. I'm hoping for a smooth transition with all comments, links, graphics, etc. intact and even search engine continuity. We shall see.

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