Monday, June 11, 2012

Spitzer Infrared Telescope Captures Images Of Very Old, Distant Objects

On bad days, I awaken with the feeling that I am the Universe's oldest object. Apparently that's not so, according to a post by TPM's Carl Franzen, who shows and links some dramatic NASA photos of some very, very old objects.

The Big Bang occurred very close to 13.7 billion years ago (that figure looks more reliable all the time), and the images captured by the Spitzer seem to be of objects at the right distance to be our Universe's oldest... stars? galaxies? Exactly what they are remains to be determined; infrared has its limitations, and the obstacles are formidable. Roughly speaking, an object's distance is a measure of its age in an expanding universe, and these objects are about 13 billion light years away. The filtering required to extract the signal from the noise of nearer, brighter objects must have been a computational tour de force.

Please note that there is increasing evidence of multiple universes that either do not interact or interact only very weakly with our own, and also of other universes nearly identical to our own in which some of the processes of quantum mechanics work themselves out. We will presumably never observe the former... things? places? I am at a loss for words... directly with any sort of telescope, and we may well interact with the latter, our quantum-mechanical doppelgangers, moment to moment. It may or may not make sense to talk about how far away those are. Good popular authors on that subject include David Deutsch, John Gribbin and (on different but related subjects) Lisa Randall, to pick just a few of literally hundreds out there. And believe me, they are "out there"!

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