Friday, May 7, 2010

A Word of Explanation

If you are new to my blog and/or haven't visited in the past twenty-four hours, you might be asking yourself, "What is that gorgeous, cock-and-balls shaped image at the top of Jen's page?"  Why, that, dear readers, is LBG-2377, a galaxy proto-cluster some 2.5 billion years older than any other light we've yet detected on this here planet.

More specifically, what you are looking at is light that has tirelessly traveled 11.4 billion light years* to arrive at our cosmologically insignificant watery globe.  In other words, you are traveling back in time to see our universe as it existed some eleven-and-a-half billion years ago - tantalizingly close to its nascency**.  Further, this is a stupendously colossal, highly energetic object you are viewing -- something exponentially larger and inexpressibly more active than our own Milky Way.  Scientist James Bullock, director of the Center for Cosmology at UCI, described it, as follows--

We believe LBG-2377 is a seed that eventually will grow into a massive galaxy cluster. Our finding suggests that this is a monster structure being born in a very bright, catastrophic event with a lot of gas and matter collapsing at once. We are not just seeing one solitary galaxy. We are seeing a bunch of bright galaxies coming together at the dawn of structure formation in the universe.

At the dawn of structure formation in the universe.  When everything we see today in our night sky was only a twinkle in the universe's eye (hee!). Attempt to wrap your mind around these concepts: the tremendous size, energy, distance, and time involved therein.  This is an infinitely enjoyable pastime worthy of my joyously sharing with all of you. 

Om shanti.

*Light travels at a speed of 5,878,630,000,000 miles per year.
**We now estimate the universe's total age at 13.7 billion years.