I have always been a backyard astronomer. Even as a small child, my love for the stars and the cosmic unknown have been a lifelong interest.  I possess a couple of telescopes including a 10” diameter Dobsonian telescope. It looks like a large cannon and it might even embarrass my wife a little when I drag the 65lb beast out in the back yard on a clear night. I even blog about the various deep sky objects I find – though I have not been very active lately.

 

earlycosmosDeep Sky Image – Courtesy of NASA

A couple of years ago a seemingly uninteresting but historic image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope offering a glimpse of what scientists are calling the oldest object so far discovered in the Universe – a young galaxy. Well, let me rephrase that; it was a young galaxy. A pixellated blip on a black background, its light signature is estimated at 13.1 billion years old and its light is just now reaching our eyes.  Scientists estimate that the galaxy was 600 million years old when the light of this object began its journey across the Universe toward us. Its ancient light is just a ghost now. Why? Because even though its light is now reaching us, its birth and death is ancient history. Crazy to fathom huh? Remember, when looking at star light, one is really looking back in time as it takes millions if not billions of years for star light to travel across the Cosmos and reach Earth. Interestingly enough, our planet or even our Milky Way galaxy did not even exist when this distant galaxy was formed. Looking at light signatures of cooling hydrogen gas, astronomers can determine the age of stars based on the heavy metals present in that light signature. Coupled with Red Shift, we can determine how far and how old a specific star or group of stars is. The deeper you look to the edge of the Cosmos, the farther you are looking back in time. Current estimations age the entire Universe at approximately 13.7 billion years old.  Newer images recorded by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite, show a heat map of the cosmos as it appeared only 370,000 years before the Big Bang!

Grand_Universejpg

Artist Image by Gary Tonge

This means that we could be close to taking our first glimpse of the edge of the Universe and the theorized Big Bang! But then what? Is this the birth of God as defined by the Universe – the creation and source of energy? The beginning of time as we know it? Will we finally get a snap shot of the Big Bang as proven through Red Shift, Doppler Effect and the background radiation still present today? What exists beyond the edge of the Universe? Another Universe? A Multi-Verse? Make no mistake; this is the final frontier from a scientific, philosophical, religious and spiritual point of view. Knowing what exists beyond the edge of the Universe might hold the key to EVERYTHING. It may even prove or disapprove the theories that govern theology and all that exists within this amazing Quantum Universe now. Though, maybe such concepts are not meant to be understood. Maybe we are not intelligent enough to fully value and contemplate such musings? Look how dogma rules civilization now; a short-sighted view in a Universe that might be infinite. Are we ready for such discoveries and knowledge? If life’s biggest secrets are unlocked, will we be all-knowing? Well, that sounds kind boring. After all, without dreaming and contemplation, what are we to marvel at? How is one to exist in a world that does not have any unknowns? What would be left to live for and ponder?

Trying to imagine the vastness of the Universe is a bit mind-boggling. Still, I enjoy looking up at the clear night sky; at the glistening stars, knowing I am looking back in time. It makes me feel a part of something much more grand than just our fallible Earth. It is hard not to feel a connection with the bigger picture – that we are indeed a small but conscious and instinctual part of this grand and impressive Responsive Universe.

John C. Bader

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