Looking back in time: Really, far back…

Astronomy has always been one the most interesting and baffling subjects of all times. From the very first time when someone decided to watch the night sky and observe the different heavenly bodies, human beings have been mystified with this science. As more and more inferences were made, astronomers revolutionized the very basis of human thinking and reasoning. Observations of the sky led the famous astronomers like Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler to give us the structure of the solar system and the planetary bodies that revolve around the sun. The advances in technology give a stamp of approval to these theories. From the invention of the telescope to the highly sophisticated satellites roving Mars, these scientific instruments have enhanced our understanding of our world and the world beyond.

However, the more progress we make the greater is the expanse that opens up in front of us. From a single new discovery comes in a thousand other questions of ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘why’s. The more we know, the more controversial it gets.

Let us talk about the stars for example. The first thing that man must have observed when he looked at the night sky must have the thousands of twinkling dots, filling up the vast sky. That must have surely mystified him. However, thousands of years later, we are still struggling and trying to understand the existence of these stars. You surely know that the light that travels from a star does not reach us immediately. For instance, the light coming to us from the Sun takes 8 minutes to reach us. Therefore, the ray of light striking inside your room had actually started out 8 minutes ago. Similarly, the light coming from a star that is say, 100 light years away, is literally, 100 years old as we see it from the Earth! If you look up and spot that star in the sky you are actually looking at what it was like 100 years ago. That star may have exploded and died but you still see it very much alive! Therefore, you have actually seen something that was present in the past or more appropriately, you’ve seen back in time… 100 years ago!

Astronomers have just recently seen the furthest back in time that is they have gone back 13 billion years. They have measured light from a star that exploded back then, which was close to when our universe was formed. Having seen this light, we have managed to see back almost to the start of all times. This is the closest we have gone back to when The Big Bang happened.

Possibly, in a few years we will get to observe light from some other distant stars that were formed right when the Big Bang happened. Possibly, with light taking so many years to reach us from the distant ends of the universe, we may even see the Big Bang happening… LIVE! Now if that is not baffling, I do not what is!

3 thoughts on “Looking back in time: Really, far back…”

  1. If the light we see from a star is actually from the past, is the light we see form the planets also from the past?

  2. Wouldn’t it be impossible to see the big bang happen though? If the idea is that all of the planets were formed from the aftermath of the big bang, and are spreading outward, wouldn’t the light from the big bang have all ready past us? Light travels faster than the planets, so I would think It would have past us when it happened, because we were in it. I could be completely wrong though.

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