back to article Astroboffins EYEBALL 13 BEELLION-year-old galaxy far, far, farthest away from Earth

Scientists reckon they have detected a galaxy that is more than 13 billion years old. It's understood to be the most distant galaxy ever observed by boffins, who revealed their findings in the latest issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters. The 13.2 billion-year-old galaxy has been dubbed EGS8p7. It was tagged as a candidate …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    Lyman-alpha

    I had a look on Widdlypaedia since it is science and more likely to be reasonably non-political,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyman-alpha_line.

    Other than this bit;

    " Lyman-alpha astronomy must therefore ordinarily be carried out by satellite-borne instruments, except for extremely distant sources whose red-shifts allow the hydrogen line to penetrate the atmosphere."

    which confirms the article's premise that the Galaxy is far far away, the Wicki page gave me a headache.

    I thought 13.2 billion years ago was about 5 minutes after the Big Bang? Too soon for a galaxy to form?

    1. John Miles

      Re:I thought 13.2 billion years ago was about 5 minutes after the Big Bang?

      Age of universe is about 13.7/8 Billion years - so about 500/600 million years after "big bang"

    2. CommanderGalaxian

      Re: Lyman-alpha

      Isn't that the whole point, that it is "wow" early?

      1. John Miles

        Re: Isn't that the whole point, that it is "wow" early?

        IIRC there are theories suggesting earliest Galaxies would have formed around 200 million years after big bang

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Trouble is, those galaxies 20 billion light years away won't register on Hubble for a few billion years so there is no real way of knowing how old the universe is. Boffins might guess with limited data but it's still a guess (and conviently keeps them employed for a few more years).

    1. DougS Silver badge

      The differences in the evolution of the galaxies they observe are the clue. If this 13.2 billion ly galaxy looked like the ones close to us, yes we'd have reason to believe that maybe there is a lot of stuff further on.

      This galaxy seems to fit the theories of the evolution of the earliest galaxies - in particular "unusually luminous, may be powered by a population of unusually hot stars" could point to Population III hypergiants.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @DougS

        No it doesn't. When astronomers first started spotting galaxies that far out, they expressed profound surprise, because according to theory they were forming at a time when galaxies should not have been able to form. Now they're finding galaxies wreathed in dust when no such dust should be found, galaxies so old that they formed almost as soon as the universe came into existence and galaxies that display features that should be impossible. Big Bang theory as it currently stands is fundamentally flawed, but they refuse to admit it and just add another pile of metaphorical epicycles to explain the latest set of anomalies.

        1. Esme

          Re: @DougS

          @AC - the Big Bang theory may be fundamentally flawed (indeed, I have ideas about that myself), but simply lambasting those who currently adhere to it doesn't prove anything other than that you clearly don;t understand the concept of doing science. If you are SO sure that the current theory is wrong, then it'd be nice if you'd enlighten us as to what you think is more likely to be correct, and why. Given the data to hand at the point it was created, the Big Bang theory is IMHO, perfectly reasonable. What I don't like about the current model is a combination of the early inflation (unexplained in the current theory AFAIK) and the explanation for at least some of the effects caused by what's labelled 'dark energy' and 'dark matter' - and so I'm concentrating my efforts on seeing if I'm onto something with an idea I've had that is testable by calculating the consequences and seeing whether the results match observation. It's highly unlikely that I'm on to anything genuinely new, being an amateur at astrophysics, but hey, y'never know, and until I've got something that IS testable, all I can say is that 'I don;t like inflation/dark energy/matter' which isn't doing science, it's just whingeing about one's predispositions. I prefer to (try to) do science.

    2. John Miles

      re: those galaxies 20 billion light years away won't register on Hubble

      The observable universe from Earth is sphere of radius about 46 billion light years

      As I understand it, because space is expanding everywhere, if we can't observe it now because of distance we will never be able to observe it (well unless faster than light travel is possible)

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: re: those galaxies 20 billion light years away won't register on Hubble

        @John Miles

        The usual definition of "observable Universe" includes being observable.

        1. John Miles

          Re: The usual definition of "observable Universe" includes being observable.

          @JeffyPoooh

          Yes - however if the universe is static or expanding "slower than the speed of light" then we would expect to see things tomorrow that aren't visible today because the light has only just started reaching us - but because the universe is expanding such that the furthest galaxies we could observe (assuming we had a technology capable of doing so) are moving faster than the speed of light away from us so we won't be able to observe them tomorrow (or ever again) as the photons can't ever reach us - link. Because of this if we travelled to a different galaxy by the time we reached it everything that could have been observed from it we couldn't observe will have fallen off the edge of its observable universe when we arrive. All assuming Faster than Light travel is not possible.

          It's complex and I am not going to pretend I understand it very well.

          1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: The usual definition of "observable Universe" includes being observable.

            @John Miles wrote:

            "The observable universe from Earth is sphere of radius about 46 billion light years."

            Your sentence uses the word 'is', which implies today. Correct number for radius of observable today is about 13.77 billion light years.

            When we're both dead and buried, perhaps about 13.77000005 billion light years.

          2. Joerg

            Re: The usual definition of "observable Universe" includes being observable.

            There is no fixed speed of light. It is just a huge lie.

            Whatever we see is in realtime always.

            Unfortunately it is still like in the Middle Ages and soon after that... pseudo-science lies claimed to be the absolute truth.

            There are people that know the truth and they hide it from the public.

            1. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: The usual definition of "observable Universe" includes being observable.

              So clue us in... I'm guessing it's about 6000 years old?

              1. Martin Budden Bronze badge
                Coat

                Re: The usual definition of "observable Universe" includes being observable.

                There is a gap at the back of my car's engine bay which is not part of the observable universe. I dropped a socket down there several years ago and I've never been able to find it.

                1. Steven Roper

                  Re: The usual definition of "observable Universe" includes being observable.

                  " I dropped a socket down there several years ago and I've never been able to find it."

                  Sounds like your car's warp core might have been designed by Romulans.

                  1. Baskitcaise
                    Coat

                    Re: The usual definition of "observable Universe" includes being observable.

                    Ah the sockethole theory:-

                    "And it was to this planet that unattended sockets would make their way, slipping away quietly through wormholes in space to a world where they knew they could enjoy a uniquely soketoid lifestyle, responding to highly socket-oriented stimuli, and generally leading the socket equivalent of the good life."

                    (Apologies to D. A.)

                    Coat? Nah, just looking for my biro ------->

                2. Measurer

                  Re: The usual definition of "observable Universe" includes being observable.

                  Is my oil filler cap down there as well, frickin black holes!

            2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

              RE: There is no fixed speed of light. It is just a huge lie.

              There is no fixed speed of light. It is just a huge lie.

              Whatever we see is in realtime always.

              Unfortunately it is still like in the Middle Ages and soon after that... pseudo-science lies claimed to be the absolute truth.

              There are people that know the truth and they hide it from the public.

              Dude... whatever you're on... do less of it. A lot less.

      2. jonfr

        Re: re: those galaxies 20 billion light years away won't register on Hubble

        Light can and does travel from none observable parts of the universe all the time to our observable part of the universe. What matters is time.

        More details can be found in this youtube video, https://youtu.be/XBr4GkRnY04

    3. CommanderGalaxian
      Mushroom

      You tell 'em, fuckchops.

    4. Little Mouse

      @Alien Overlord

      Well, the universe is expanding, and we can determine at what rate. We can see exactly how quickly galaxies are, and have been, moving away from us / each other. I'd guess that it's no great leap to extrapolate that information backwards to year zero, and see how long ago that was.

      Genuine science has been used to come up with a value for the current age of the universe. Not guesswork.

    5. Sealand

      "Boffins might guess with limited data but it's still a guess (and conviently keeps them employed for a few more years)"

      And for the next 5 million years boffins will keep guessing, and finally someone will come up with the right answer.

      It *will* be 42.

      And we will realise that all that time we didn't really know the question ...

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      don't feed the trolls

      They are obviously trolling. The people whose religious world views truly feel threatened by the Big Bang and would then spout nonsense for the most part only come on El Reg to cheer the AO/LP human climate change denial articles.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Pint

        Re: don't feed the trolls

        But, but it's so much fun. Personally the whole thing is meaningless. I restrict myself to believing in a personally malignant universe which works well for most any engineer.

        I do have an alternative theory. God's a graduate student and this is its field work. Word's still out on how well the dissertation defense is going.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    "Boffins unearth"

    "Unspace", shurely?

  4. phil dude
    Thumb Up

    space....

    Just remember that every Planck time unit that passes, you exist in a new bit of space.

    The Earth rotates on its axis...

    The Earth orbits the Sun...

    The Sun orbits galactic centre...

    Our galaxy is receding from all other galaxies...

    Add quantum physics to that, and you realise there is much more to be discovered and explained!

    P.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: space....

      Our galaxy is receding from all other galaxies...

      [CITATION NEEDED] -- Me thinks M31 would like to have a word with you... In ~ca. 400,000,000,000 (Short System), Years....

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: space....

      "Our galaxy is receding from all other galaxies..."

      Galactic superclusters are receeding from each other, everything on a smaller scale is converging.

      1. phil dude
        Facepalm

        Re: space....

        Thank you for correcting my sloppy (ahem!) presentation.

        Mea Culpa

        Any word on what is happening to the entropy?

        P.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: space....

          >Any word on what is happening to the entropy?

          Umm increasing as any system does until everything in it is very near absolute zero temperature and then the only changes are due to quantum effects.

  5. Alan Sharkey

    Confused of Rochdale

    So they universe is 13 billion years old (approx). We are seeing light that started 13 billion years ago. But surely 13b years ago we were all together (at the big bang). So, for the light/galaxy to be 13b years away now, 13b years ago we could not have been in the same place (or we would have seen it it then).

    So how old is the universe really?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confused of Rochdale

      Inflation is used to explain why the visible horizon does not encompass all of the universe at the present time: most of it has been ripped away far beyond the lightcone. The "age" of the universe is still the point in time where "nearby stuff" (i.e. a few 10⁹ ly) converges, while making some assumptions about acceleration and decelaration of the "increase in the radius of the universe":

      Details here anyway: Lost Horizons.

      1. LordSlaphead

        Re: Confused of Rochdale

        So all this babble about there not being enough matter in the observable universe, so there must be 'dark matter' - why can't the allegedly missing matter just be in the bit of the universe we can't currently see? If there is a bit/lot of the universe we can't see, it must have something in it, and if it's the same universe as we occupy that something must be matter and energy like we have.

        If you could post the Nobel prize I'd be grateful, I can't be arsed to schlep all the way to Sweden.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Confused of Rochdale

          Because the "dark matter" and more importantly "dark energy" is observed to be inside and just outside of galaxies.

          It's "dark" in that we cannot see it, but we see the results just as we see the leaves blowing in the wind. It took centuries before someone actually "saw" what nitrogen, oxygen and carbon looked like.

          In a similar way, all the galaxies spin at a speed and form in a way that suggests more matter and energy is somewhere in something we have not yet "seen". Though we see the stars and dust clouds spinning and drifting out to these "structures" or attractors. (In either halos of unexplained stars/dust around galaxies, or when tracking other observations).

          It's not outside the universe, it's right here around us... somewhere. :P

          I am not an astrophysicist or astronomer, but the above is how I read and have seen their observations. :)

      2. Joerg

        Re: Confused of Rochdale

        And that is another fairy tale. That is not science. Inflation.. another magic word by so called scientists that come up with their pseudo-science claims. They have no clue what they are talking about but they are getting paid to come up with some silly theories that are just theories based on really nothing.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Confused of Rochdale

          @Joerg

          Maybe this will help you understand.

          http://www.counterbalance.org/cq-guth/evide-frame.html

        2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Confused of Rochdale

          "Joerg the Commentard is into science".

          You tell them, Einstein.

        3. cray74

          Re: Confused of Rochdale

          "And that is another fairy tale. ... are just theories based on really nothing."

          Mmm. Ad hominem fallacies and unsubstantiated theories that look suspiciously like a misunderstanding of light cones and the observable universe. Tasty.

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Confused of Rochdale

      It would have had to have been closer back then.

    3. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Confused of Rochdale

      "So how old is the universe really?". Well we don't know. The wonderful thing about science is that it does not claim to have all the answers. If I claim the universe is 18b old then that is well, science fiction but not science. So if there is somebody who tells you how old the universe is and you believe him, religion has hit you on the head. The word science should be changed to a sentence like "as far as we can understand and prove". The Wiki has this on science:

      "Science[nb 1] is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.[nb 2] In an older and closely related meaning, "science" also refers to this body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and reliably applied. "

      The sad thing is that there are those who think nothing is true in science because science does not have, nor claim to have, all the answers. Some religious people are quite good at it. But there also people for us to enjoy.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb3AFMe2OQY

      "Tide Goes In, Tide Goes Out "

    4. Adam T

      Re: Confused of Rochdale

      "So they universe is 13 billion years old (approx). We are seeing light that started 13 billion years ago. But surely 13b years ago we were all together (at the big bang). So, for the light/galaxy to be 13b years away now, 13b years ago we could not have been in the same place (or we would have seen it it then)."

      13.7b years ago it was all together, as particle mush.

      I've got no head for this level of science, but from what I've been trained to think by TV scientists is that the "bubble" had a very fast expansion phase early on - clearly enough for what must be a lot of galaxies to form within a half dozen billion years at least.

      And I guess it's safe to say, what we think of as small is vast on a cosmic scale.

      But who knows. Maybe what we think of as the birth of the Universe was just a localized event, and the actual (unobservable) universe is actually infinite. Ooo. Think I'll go make some breakfast now...

    5. Esme

      Re: Confused of Rochdale

      You're making assumptions based on your experience of the nice, relatively flat set of dimensions that we experience every day, in this staggeringly tiny section of the universe that we inhabit. In the universe overall, the dimensions are emphatically not nice and flat like that, but curved in ways that make even the best minds boggle, and we have no reason to believe that that hasn't always been the case with the universe. Note that speaking about the universe as a whole and time is an area fraught with difficulty - the English language isn't the best descriptor of the situation.

      Suffice to say that, with the current model for how things kicked off, back at the start the dimensions were universally so warped that most folk have a hard time getting their head around what's believed was happening.

  6. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    Well, it was powered by hot stars...

    After 13 billion years, who knows what's going on there now. Many of those stars are long gone now. Yes, I know it's still relevant science, just crazy to think how long ago and far away that is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, it was powered by hot stars...

      I've found that the span of distance in space and time is reassuring. I don't need an outside authority to explain or justify "why" this all is around me. I just like to lean back and enjoy the art that is "up there."

      That reminds me:" Little girls, like butterflies, need no excuse." - RAH

      Neither does the universe.

  7. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    'Last Thursdayism'

    'Last Thursdayism' by pure definition cannot be disproved.

    Only flaw with it is the ongoing feud with 'Last Wednesdayism'. A feud that's being going on for decades, seemingly.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While the Universe expands

    Religious beliefs, sadly, do not.

    If you really are anti-science, get off the Internet!

  9. Drudgery Leak

    Its not anti-science to question the orthodoxy - but that would be heresy in religion. It may however betray your level of relative ignorance.

    1. NumptyScrub

      Questioning orthodoxy is pro-science (IMHO anyway) as any true scientist will constantly test and refine existing theories, especially where theory and observation are slightly at odds. Much like climate science, if your model predicts warming over 20 years, and you do not observe warming during that time, you should probably refine your model. If your model predicts that you'll see nothing older than 13by, and you see something older than 13by, then you need to revisit the model (or you have an Outside Context Problem).

      In Joerg's case, I value that they are questioning current theories. What's missing is any kind of counter-proposal which fits that data that they are disputing. It's easy claiming that Theory A is wrong, but good science is being able to propose Theory B which fits the observations better.

      Where's "Theory B" Joerg? Where is the masterfully crafted theory that explains all these things which you find lacking in the current orthodoxy?

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