Thursday, January 31, 2013

Farthest Galaxy Discovered is 13.4 Billion Light Years Away

OK, here's my effort at explaining the conundrum I have been mulling over.

For this, let us first read two articles:


A few thoughts strung together to explain my predicament/ conundrum:

The universe exploded into being 13.7 billion years ago.

400 million yrs later, the entire  universe must have been a far smaller place than it is now - since it has been expanding exponentially since. 
Let me call that point 'K', which was 400 million years after the Big Bang.

The farthest galaxy recently discovered - they call it  MAC0647JD -  was a mere 600 light years wide. It was a dwarf galaxy back then. So let's from this moment call it mini MAC. 

It is expected that since then it may have combined with other galaxies or expanded or whatever to form a larger whole (just as our Milky Way in its journey from ancient history may have done).

Taking the raisin example of the loaf of bread (in the other link I sent), it means our Milky Way galaxy ancestor (in whatever form it was) was pretty close in space to mini-MAC 400 million years after the Big Bang.

In other words, the light of miniMAC reached our ancestral galaxy taking a period of time, as per the distance between them (so - if they were 400 million light years apart, the light of miniMAC reached our ancestral galaxy in another 400 million years - point here is that  the light was as the mini-MAC looked at point K.

What I cannot understand is how can we (same ancestral galaxy now morphed after another 12 plus billion years later) continue to see the same K. It technically means that if there was an eye in our ancestor (billions of years ago), it would have seen the same mini MAC as it was in point K, and the Milky Way now sees the very same K.

 It means that as the Milky Way ancestor has journeyed through the universe, we have continued to see miniMAC the same as in period K over billions of years. Which is ridiculous.

It also means that for all you know, we are also watching miniMAC as it has become a few billion years later, elsewhere in the sky - ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

I was trawling the net trying to resolve this conundrum, when I came upon this Khan Academy site 

- where there is a reply that resonates with the same thought, and I copy it here: 

This is the whole magic of this theory. It is possible (in theory), that an insignificant distant newborn star, some 4.5 billion light years away, is actually our own Sun as it was 4.5 billion years ago when it came to be. We just would not be able to recognize it, because it and everything around it would look different at that area of spacetime.

Then of course the spin off ideas are truly fascinating - for it means there are actually far fewer galaxies in the sky than we think there are. Many are avatars of each other.

This in a nutshell is my conundrum. Illumination, anyone out there??


ashu rao said...

Milky way came into existence only 4.6 billion years ago.
MAC was born of the original Big Bang - 13.7 billion years ago.
(so basically there was no Milky Way around to "see" the young 400 million year old MAC).

The Universe became transparent only after 0.38 million years after the Big Bang.
However the entire universe remained Dark for another 400 million years - since the matter which cooled during the first 0.38 million years was consisting of stable atoms and NIL radiation.

The0.38 million years was followed by 500 million years of re-ionization

ashu rao said...

This is when the " first light" started being emitted from the various congealing galaxies. So, when milky way finally congealed in one of the sections of the universe further away from MAC, (9 billion years later), the light emitted by MAC had already been travelling towards us for 8.6 billion years.
HOWEVER! This light continued chasing the " running away" Milky way for another 4.6 billion years till it finally caught up with us today!
This is why we are now seeing a 13.3 billion year old event today.

Piyul said...

Makes sense.

And also raises more questions, Ashutosh, to me:

Light, as you say, has been emitted ever since MAC congealed 13.3 billion yrs ago.

While there was no Milky Way as such, it did not get created out of a vacuum 4.6B yrs ago, it congealed out of something. So I do understand that 'Milky Way' as an entity did not 'see' MAC (couldn't cause like you say, its light was chasing us with a lag of 8.6B yrs), but the constituents of the Milky Way in whatever form was present 400M yrs after the Big Bang, and unless the universe was expanding faster than the speed of light (which would then mean we can never see any galaxy cause we are always further away than the light to reach us), it means that the ions or atoms or whatever we are made of, have already had access to the light of the MAC.

Am not using the word 'seen' cause that sounds as if we were already congealed into a shape by then, but just that we (our ancestral ions) had already received the light, since the distance was far less, and since MAC was already exuding light.

As an analogy, I see the dust mites in the ray of the sun in my room. They are all receiving the light of the sun whether of not they are in a shape to do so. Tomorrow, if I swallow the dust mite (or it becomes part of any living being such an animal, bird or plant), I will truly 'see' and 'receive' the rays of the sun, but truly speaking, parts of me have been receiving it even earlier.

So, my conundrum continues... Now where am I not getting it??

ashu rao said...

the key is - "The light which started from MAC at absolute time 400 million years continued chasing the "running away" Milky way for another 4.6 billion years till it finally caught up with us today!
This is why we are now seeing a 13.3 billion year old event today."
Which means that we are seeing the "first emmission of light" only after it covered the total distance of 400 million light years + 13.7 billion light years
(= 14.1 billion light years).
For a simple anology - assume that you (+bedbugs) and the sun came into being at he same instant;
The light from the sun takes 8 minutes to reach you.
So for the first 8 minutes of your existince you would be in darkness and then you would see the light. (Pun intended :-) )

ashu rao said...

Piyul, Sorry typo - pls read - "The light which started from MAC at absolute time 400 million years continued chasing the "running away" Milky way (first the gas and later the congealed galaxy), for another 14.1 billion years till it finally caught up with us today!" - as -
"The light which started from MAC at absolute time 400 million years continued chasing the "running away" Milky way for another 4.6 billion years till it finally caught up with us today!

Piyul Mukherjee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Piyul Mukherjee said...

I think you have missed the point of my question Ashutosh! But let me take it from where you leave it:

Let me rephrase (and after this we will take it up on the phone):

By the way, was checking the net and it clearly says that the Milky Way has stars that are older than 12 Billion years old.

In fact wiki speaks of the oldest star as being 13.2 billion years old, in the Milky Way

So, if I use the word 'us' to mean everything in the Milky Way including this oldest star, then the point I was trying to make is that this was very much around almost together - miniMAC is 13.4 B yrs old and us - as in part of the Milky Way - being 13.2 B years old.

So what you are saying is that something merely 200 million years apart (and therefore light should take the time of the speed of light plus the distance to travel in between) - has yet taken nearly 13 billion years to be seen by the other.

It is of course possible but gives an entirely new twist to the time-distance continuum. Especially if we also know that the rate of expansion is quickening.

That the first 8 minutes (or equivalent in the beginning of the universe) was in darkness was never questioned so that to me is a non sequiter. My pondering is about how come something that was 200 to 400 million years apart, took so long to be seen - in multiple billion years. It means that there is another dimension to space-time, and I need to revisit Einsteinian physics, and the special theory of relativity I suppose.

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