Thursday, December 10, 2009

Update to "Mote of Dust in a Sunbeam"

This is an abnormal post, I know, but I wanted to update a previous post. Back in September I quoted Carl Sagan and then presented a brief series of photos to show just how small we are in the grand scheme of the universe. I ended the photo series with the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) image. I noted that this was the deepest into the universe anyone had ever seen. At the time I would have argued that this image was the most important image in astronomical history. Now, however, that has changed. With its new Wide Field Camera 3, the Hubble recently recorded an even deeper image of the universe that required a much shorter exposure time (only 4 days as opposed to 11 for the HUDF). This new camera allows the Hubble to catch light nearer the infrared region of the spectrum. That may not sound like anything special but because of the expansion of the universe light from great distances is "reddened", which means that the wavelength of the light is stretched out as space expands pushing the light towards the infrared region. Since this new camera can detect light nearer the infrared it can catch the light from objects farther away than before. Below is what I call the NEW Ultra Deep Field image from the Hubble:
More amazing discoveries will come when the James Webb Space telescope launches in 2014. Then we will get an even better idea of how small we really are. That is okay though because, as I said in the previous post, God holds all this in His hands and He likes me a whole lot.

By His Grace,

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