Thursday, January 27, 2011

How Far is Far Away?

NASAs Hubble telescope recently captured an image that really got me thinking. The object is rather unceremoniously called UDFj-39546284.

While this image isn't nearly as exciting as many of the others that the Hubble has offered up...I mean really. Look at it. In the larger scheme of things it is insignificant. In the larger image, I can't even see it. When we zoom in on the image it is just a little fuzzy blob. Not nearly as interesting, for example, as seeing a pale blue dot.

Or maybe it actually is a little more interesting.

This is the most distant object humankind has ever seen in the universe. The light traveled for 13.2 billion years to reach the sensors inside the Hubble Space Telescope. For comparison, in case you didn't know, we only think the universe is 13.7 billion years old. That makes you pretty old, UDFj!

So for formalities sake, it's nice to meet you, UDFj. It took you a long time to get here. I'm glad you did.

So why is this old light important to me? It humbles me. It reminds me that in the larger scheme of things, I'm smaller and even more insignificant than this little blob of old light we call UDFj. This isn't a sad thought for me. This isn't a thought that feels nihilistic. We all are prone to getting lost in our own perspectives and viewpoints. We all are prone, at times, to thinking we know what is true--what is right. From the inside, from our own vantage point, this is important. Our thoughts are valid thoughts. Yet at the same time, from the vantage point of UDFj, our viewpoint is totally insignificant. While our thoughts still are valid thoughts, they are totally lost within the context of the vastness of the universe.

There is a big universe out there. Look up, look down. Look far into the past (hello there, UDFj) or far out into the future. Move back and forth from our own narrow vantage point and into something that is larger than our comprehension allows.

What do you find? What do you see? Can we even begin to understand this large perspective--this larger gestalt?

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Sometimes the grandness of the universe overwhelms me. I've added you to my follow list. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.