This picture and what it represents gives me goosebumps:
TO A casual observer it could be the psychedelic creation of a mischievous puppy that has dipped its paws in paint. But it may be one of the most extraordinary pictures ever snapped.
It is, scientists said yesterday, the glow from the first things to form in the universe, more than 13 billion years ago. Snapped by NASA’s Spitzer space telescope, the bizarre objects must have existed within a few hundred million years of the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago.
An Australian astrophysicist, Ray Norris, said the NASA team may have found “the holy grail” of astronomy.
What the ancient objects are remains a mystery. One possibility is stars, the first to light up after the dawn of time. They would have been “humungous”, said NASA, “more than 1000 times the mass of our sun”. Or they may be “voracious black holes”. While black holes are invisible, heat emitted by matter plunging into them can be detected.
“Whatever these objects are,” said Alexander Kashlinsky, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, “they are intrinsically incredibly bright and very different from anything in existence today.” The image was made by Spitzer shooting pictures of five areas of the sky. All light from stars and galaxies in the foreground was then removed, leaving only the ancient infrared glow.
Those photons of light in the above picture travelled 13.7 billion years to end up on my little old blog. To someone like me, a scientific dunce but an enthusiast nonetheless, it’s things like this that make me wish I worked harder in school and applied myself more – especially in math. If you’ve ever read Stephen Hawkings A Brief History of Time or Timothy Ferris’ The Whole Shebang, you realize just how extraordinary the universe really is. And judging by this picture, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s out there and what awaits us as we begin in earnest to reach out and touch the face of eternity.