Astronomy

Time-frame regarding cosmic expansion and the bound state of the Virgo Cluster

Time-frame regarding cosmic expansion and the bound state of the Virgo Cluster


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Due to accelerating cosmic inflation, other galaxies and galaxy clusters will eventually race toward the Hubble horizon apparently away from us, placing them effectively out of our sphere of influence. Due to Virgocentric flow, nearby galaxies, including our own, may become gravitationally bound to the Virgo Supercluster, resisting cosmic expansion (for at least some time).

My question is, Is there any hypothetical time-frame for when this event happens? That is, in what supposed number of billions or trillions of years will the Virgo Supercluster become the only region within the Hubble sphere with which we may interact with?

Edit: Is such an estimate currently impossible? I know I've read one in the past, I just don't remember it well. Somewhen in the ballpark of a trillion years. All I'm looking for is an educated guess.


I don't know how to calculate but Wikipedia has a page about it:

Timeline of the Universe

The galaxies in the Local Group, the cluster of galaxies which includes the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, are gravitationally bound to each other. It is expected that between 10^11 (100 billion) and 10^12 (1 trillion) years from now, their orbits will decay and the entire Local Group will merge into one large galaxy.[4]

Assuming that dark energy continues to make the universe expand at an accelerating rate, in about 150 billion years all galaxies outside the Local Supercluster will pass behind the cosmological horizon. It will then be impossible for events in the Local Group to affect other galaxies. Similarly it will be impossible for events after 150 billion years, as seen by observers in distant galaxies, to affect events in the Local Group.[3] However, an observer in the Local Supercluster will continue to see distant galaxies, but events they observe will become exponentially more red shifted as the galaxy approaches the horizon until time in the distant galaxy seems to stop. The observer in the Local Supercluster never observes events after 150 billion years in their local time, and eventually all light and background radiation lying outside the local supercluster will appear to blink out as light becomes so redshifted that its wavelength has become longer than the physical diameter of the horizon.

Technically, it will take an infinitely long time for all casual interaction between our local supercluster and this light; however, due to a the redshifting explained above, the light will not necessarily be observed fit an infinite amount of time, and after 150 billion years, no new causal interaction will be observed.

Therefore, after 150 billion years intergalactic transportation and communication beyond the Local Supercluster becomes causally impossible.

This wikipedia data, comes from here, which is used in the text as reference (4)


Cosmology question

The other day, I was watching 'Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking' (Discovery Channel DVD, 2011) and heard something that just didn't click. While explaining the Big Bang, the Narrator said "By the time the Cosmos was 10 minutes old, it was already thousands of light years in diameter." Hmmmm. if nothing travels faster than light, how did the Cosmos get to be so big in such a short timeframe?

#2 JonNPR

Hi Carol. Space itself is expanding, and faster than light WITHIN the universe, whatever size it may be, whenever that might have been. Inflation expanded the universe with incredible speed, twice, if current theories are correct. Hope that helps!

#3 Jim Davis

For a very short period after the Big Bang, space itself enlarged tremendously. Objects in space can't move faster than the speed of light, but that is not a limit on the expansion of space. This continues to this day, and by measurement is actually increasing in rate.

#4 Greyhaven

Just a guess from my college days. Time, space and matter and limits on the speed of light did not exist until after the the Big Bang how long after . who knows.

#5 michael_m

Carol, excellent question. The reason is what is called "Inflation", a very brief time frame that the universe did indeed expand at faster than the speed of light. Many Discovery Channel, Science Channel and others have documentaries on this. The Inflation Theory has a lot of followers and some strong momentum among cosmologists.

You can find a lot of info on this from various sources. Here is a just a quick google from Wikipedea https://en.wikipedia. tion_(cosmology). There are many more.

For me, another good question is what caused Inflation to stop, and then the universe goes back to slower than light speed expansion.

Edited by michael_m, 20 September 2016 - 06:30 PM.

#6 Carol L

Ahhh. that makes a lot of sense - thanks so much for your quick replies, everyone!

Cosmology definitely isn't my forte, but I'm learning - and will definitely watch that section a few more times. I'm guessing they mentioned Inflation somewhere, but it probably flew over my head like a rocket.

#7 charotarguy

#8 Rick Woods

The other day, I was watching 'Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking' (Discovery Channel DVD, 2011) and heard something that just didn't click. While explaining the Big Bang, the Narrator said "By the time the Cosmos was 10 minutes old, it was already thousands of light years in diameter." Hmmmm. if nothing travels faster than light, how did the Cosmos get to be so big in such a short timeframe?

Thanks!

That was a silly thing for the narrator to say, anyway. How is time measured? By the decay rate of radioactive elements that didn't yet exist at that "time"? What would you use to measure time back then?

Or maybe we're just used to these newfangled short minutes, and they were much longer back then.

#9 Jim Davis

The other day, I was watching 'Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking' (Discovery Channel DVD, 2011) and heard something that just didn't click. While explaining the Big Bang, the Narrator said "By the time the Cosmos was 10 minutes old, it was already thousands of light years in diameter." Hmmmm. if nothing travels faster than light, how did the Cosmos get to be so big in such a short timeframe?

Thanks!

That was a silly thing for the narrator to say, anyway. How is time measured? By the decay rate of radioactive elements that didn't yet exist at that "time"? What would you use to measure time back then?

Or maybe we're just used to these newfangled short minutes, and they were much longer back then.

Time is measured the same way then as it is now. It's not. Time is determined by your frame of reference. Muons are created by cosmic rays hitting Earth's atmosphere. Their half-life is so short that they should decay long before they hit the ground. But, due to the fact they are moving near the speed of light, time dilation means that they still exist to hit the surface and penetrate hundreds of meters underground.

The initial state of the universe was closer to the world of sub atomic particles and quantum physics than large scale cosmology today. Time was measured by analyzing what came into existence when determined by how the energy level of the universe decreased and the overall temperature lowered.

#10 JonNPR

The solar system IS in a different place than it was! And in several ways.

-The sun is revolving around the center of the Milky Way galaxy - one revolution can be called a "Great Year".

-The Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy, M31 are moving towards each other and will eventually merge.

-Both galaxies are members of the Local Group of galaxies, and that is moving within the cluster of galaxies that we are members of.

- Our Virgo Cluster is a member of a super cluster, the largest kind of largest physical grouping of which I am aware of and that are strung out three dimensionally in the bubble and void-ish large scale structure of the known universe.

However only the gravitationally bound galaxies, those close enough together to overcome the expansion of the universe itself are NOT speeding away from each other into the truly dark ocean of night. Eventually those bound galaxies will merge, and along with the rest will be increasingly separated by the expansion of the universe and eventually all out of sight of one another.

But no, you don't feel the expansion of the universe regardless of what speed it is currently expanding in our local spacetime frame. Right "now" it isn't ftl although it was early on at the inflationary stages. And Just as you don't feel the speed of the earth turning on its axis while moving at a human scale stupendous speed around the sun, you don't feel it at all. What you DO feel is falling towards the center of the earth. fortunately stopped by the ground or floor under your feet!

#11 PeterR280

When you are accelerting in your car, the far reaches of the Universe are moving towards you much faster than the speed of light.

#12 JohnMurphyRN

When you are accelerting in your car, the far reaches of the Universe are moving towards you much faster than the speed of light.

I think you mean "away from you"

#13 jayhall0315

Also Carol, when you hear scientists speak about the "observable universe", that means that we can see out (and back in time) to objects that are receding away from us at up to the speed of light. That is the "wall" so to speak beyond which we cannot see. And yet, that is not the "edge" of the universe. . there is no edge. Beyond that point, is an infinite universe that is expanding away from us at faster than the speed of light. (and this is because space itself can expand faster than the speed of light) As you will next guess, that means in the distant, distant future, all the other nearby galaxies and objects will expand away from us and we will live in a universe composed of just the Milky Way. Wherever we look on the horizon will be darkness. And eventually heat death. Fortunately this wont happen for many billions of years.

#14 City Kid

Beyond that point, is an infinite universe that is expanding away from us at faster than the speed of light.

When you say infinite do you mean infinite in the practical sense or literally infinite?

#15 jayhall0315

Beyond that point, is an infinite universe that is expanding away from us at faster than the speed of light.

When you say infinite do you mean infinite in the practical sense or literally infinite?

That sounds like a question George Cantor would ask I mean literally infinite. A careful assessment of the energy density and topology of the Universe data from the WMAP satellite show that the Universe is extremely close to being truly flat (from a general relativity perspective). If that is true, then it is likely the Universe is truly infinite in size. And if that is true ( a big if) then for sure the answer to intelligent life in the universe is yes, because there will be infinite other Earths out there. And some of the aliens we are waiting to discover will be us. And since all probabilities can happen in a truly infinite universe, then all manner of craziness that we dream up with our science fiction can be real (like a planet where the dinosaurs ascended to intelligence). And if the Universe is flat, then that has important theological considerations because it negates God (by way of the Tiblurian argument). But I cannot go into that here at CN.

#16 City Kid

I'm glad to see you say that. I've always thought that the only way the universe could be truly flat is for it to be infinite. But I've also wondered if it's actually truly flat. Being extremely close to being flat isn't the same as being flat. I've thought it possible that the universe is so large that it only appears flat because of our small perspective. Take a sphere, make it big enough, and it's surface would appear flat even though it's not.

#17 JonNPR

The radius of the sphere observed by the WMAP satellite is about 13.8 billion light years. That is, the microwave background observed by the satellite, is about 27.6 billion light years in diameter. However that was then - in the 13.8 billion years since then, all that "data", each blip of which iirc representing what became superclusters of galaxies, sailed away with the expansion of the universe, after emitting the light we have picked up. Any one of those spots on that WMAP image is estimated to now be roughly 46 billion light hears away, making the sphere of the observable universe about 92 billion light years across.

That is not the edge of the entire universe though, as was mentioned above. But light beyond that boundary we experience today WILL be seen in the future. That's because there hasn't been enough time elapsed since the Big Bang for light just beyond that observable limit to reach us yet (not because objects there are traveling away faster than light). So future "we" will see a larger universe. However there ARE far reaches beyond are understood to be traveling faster than light because of Hubble's Law and the , and whose light will therefore never reach us.

i should add a caveat about all those newly potentially observable galaxies. Because of the expansion, their light will be so redshifted that they essentially will "disappear".

And an even bigger caveat- all this is extremely simplified. The math it is summarized from is far more subtle, deals with calculations that distinguish between proper distances such as we presumably are using and co-moving distances between objects, that do not allow for the expansion. the relationship between those two, and so on into the night!

Likewise with the shape and size of the entire universe - there are a variety of estimates based on a number of assumptions. Those estimates range from the monstrous, to the only staggering. And that doesn't include the version that holds that the universe is perfectly "flat" and therefore infinite (although that leads to a variety of additional issues).

In practice, the reason even cosmologists often refer to the observable universe as The Universe is that the farther reaches beyond are causally disconnected. Those speeding away faster than light speed can never affect our observable universe. Even if there be galaxies out there made of unicorns :-)


Time-frame regarding cosmic expansion and the bound state of the Virgo Cluster - Astronomy

Understanding By Design Unit Template

Intro to Physical Science Class

Matt Tanner, Kyler Barker, Alan Cobb

Identify Desired Results (Stage 1)

Big Bang- Science Fiction Story Standads

  • CONTENT STANDARD A: (Science as Inquiry)
  • CONTENT STANDARD B: (Physical Science
  • CONTENT STANDARD D: (Earth & Space Science)
  • Analyze and interpret data regarding the history of the universe using direct and indirect evidence
  • Billions of galaxies, each of which is a gravitationally bound cluster of billions of stars, now form most of the visible mass in the universe.
  • Science often advances with the introduction of new technologies. Solving technological problems often results in new scientific knowledge. New technologies often extend the current levels of scientific understanding and introduce new areas of research.
  • 2.9 (Evolution)
  • 3.1 (History of the universe, solar system and Earth can be inferred from evidence left from past events)
  • 3.2 (Earth interacts with various extraterrestrial forces and energies)
  • CONTENT STANDARD A: (Science as Inquiry)
  • CONTENT STANDARD B: (Physical Science)
  • CONTENT STANDARD D: (Earth & Space Science)
  • 1.1 Physical Science (Newton’s Laws of Gravitation and Motion)
  • 1.3 Physical Science (Conservation of Energy)
  • 3.1 Earth Systems (History of the Universe)
  • 3.2 Earth Systems (Earths interaction w/ Solar System)

Overarching Understanding

The Universe is very old and vast. The Universe as well as our solar system is dynamic and always changing. This change is perhaps most noticeable on Earth.

  • What criteria are used to define a planet?
  • How does Earth compare and contrast to other planets?

Related Misconceptions

Anticipated Misconceptions for the Big Bang

· The universe expanded from a point into a pre-existing space, and that it therefore is a spherical object with an outer boundary. Analogy with spots painted on a balloon, or paperclip on a rubber band, which is then stretched.

· Big bang theory is an attempt to explain the creation of the universe. Big Bang is a model for how the universe evolved since it came into existence, but before a "certain" point in time (where the laws of physics as we understand them don't apply), the theory is silent. The big bang theory says nothing about what existed before the big bang, or even whether there WAS a time before the big bang.

· The Big Bang was an explosion.” Using the term "explosion" to describe the Big Bang isn't really appropriate. Doing so implies that

a. The universe expanded from central point

b. Matter exploded into a preexisting space-time

c. The expansion of the universe and matter was uneven.

All of the above are wrong. The Big Bang (including Inflation) was a metric expansion of space, which means space expanded equally in all directions everywhere. That is the key point to realize when saying that the Big Bang wasn't an explosion.

· The Solar System is very crowded.

· The Solar System contains only the Sun, Moon, and planets .

· Moons are smaller then planets

· Big planets are more dense then small planets

· Planets are close together or are large compared with the distances between them.

· The planets are always arranged in a straight line away from the Sun.

· Planetary orbits are circular.

  • Compare the size of major objects in the solar system
  • Recall major events throughout earth’s history
  • Describe the age of the earth and how we determine the age of objects.
  • Identify the different types of stars
  • Describe the life cycle of a star and how it forms and dies
  • Explain how stars can go supernova or create a black hole
  • Identify different parts of the telescope
  • Describe how light refraction and light reflection work inside the telescope
  • Explain how light travels from different stars and can be seen by telescopes
  • Order planets based on different criteria
  • Evaluate the vast distances of space on a smaller scale

Assessment Evidence (Stage 2)

Performance Task Description

To evaluate materials characteristics of planets.

Students will be debating the classification of "pandora" as a planet

  • CONTENT STANDARD A: (Science as Inquiry)
  • CONTENT STANDARD B: (Physical Science)
  • CONTENT STANDARD D: (Earth & Space Science)
  • 1.1 Physical Science (Newton’s Laws of Gravitation and Motion)
  • 1.3 Physical Science (Conservation of Energy)
  • 3.1 Earth Systems (History of the Universe)
  • 3.2 Earth Systems (Earths interaction w/ Solar System)
  • Final Unit Assessment
  • Formative non formal assignments
  • Formal Formative quiz

Learning Plan (Stage 3)

Where are your students headed? Where have they been? How will you make sure the students know where they are going?

We will begin by discussing the big bang as the prevailing theory for the start of the universe. This will also require some information on the nature of science. We will end with a research project and debate to decide whether a fictional object should be classified as a planet.

How will you hook students at the beginning of the unit?

We will be hooking students by popping a balloon and having them write a paper using the R.A.F.T model describing what the balloon represented.

What events will help students experience and explore the big idea and questions in the unit? How will you equip them with needed skills and knowledge?

Interactive websites and a big class debate will help them understand the big ideas. We would have been working on technology skills throughout the semester to assist them with their research.

How will you cause students to reflect and rethink? How will you guide them in rehearsing, revising, and refining their work?

A student run debate will ensure that all the students are reflecting on what they learned. Any student who doesn't know their information or hasn't reflected on it will struggle to form a well reasoned argument. We would encourage students to come to us to ask the validity of an argument or with any help they might need finding valuable sources.

How will you help students to exhibit and self-evaluate their growing skills, knowledge, and understanding throughout the unit?

Multiple formative assessments will let students know what they are learning and what they need to go back and study some more. Many of the lessons are student led for a portion and this will encourage self reflection from the students as well.

How will you tailor and otherwise personalize the learning plan to optimize the engagement and effectiveness of ALL students, without compromising the goals of the unit?

This unit plan can be customized in many ways. The worksheets can be created for different learning levels and additional time may be granted for assessments. For the debate some students who have missed class time can be timers for the debate.

How will you organize and sequence the learning activities to optimize the engagement and achievement of ALL students?

We are organizing the unit in an Out to In model. That is to say we start with the whole universe in the big bang, and scale down until we are looking just at earth. The abstract nature of the big bang will help to engage all of the students.


When Did The Universe Become Transparent To Light?

A young, star-forming region found within our own Milky Way. Note how the material around the stars . [+] gets ionized, and over time becomes transparent to all forms of light. Until that happens, however, the surrounding gas absorbs the radiation, emitting light of its own of a variety of wavelengths. In the early Universe, it takes hundreds of millions of years for the Universe to fully become transparent to light.

NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration Acknowledgment: R. O’Connell (University of Virginia) and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee

If you want to see what's out there in the Universe, you first have to be able to see. We take for granted, today, that the Universe is transparent to light, and that the light from distant objects can travel unimpeded through space before reaching our eyes. But it wasn't always this way.

In fact, there are two ways that the Universe can stop light from propagating in a straight line. One is to fill the Universe with free, unbound electrons. The light will then scatter with the electrons, bouncing off in a randomly-determined direction. The other is to fill the Universe with neutral atoms that can clump and cluster together. The light will then be blocked by this matter, the same way that most solid objects are opaque to light. Our actual Universe does both of these, and won't become transparent until both obstacles are overcome.

Neutral atoms were formed just a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang. The very first stars . [+] began ionizing those atoms once again, but it took hundreds of millions of years of forming stars and galaxies until this process, known as reionization, was completed.

THE HYDROGEN EPOCH OF REIONIZATION ARRAY (HERA)

In the earliest stages of the Universe, the atoms that make up everything we know of weren't bound together in neutral configurations, but rather were ionized: in the state of a plasma. When light travels through a dense-enough plasma, it will scatter off of the electrons, being absorbed and re-emitted in a variety of unpredictable directions. So long as there are enough free electrons, the photons streaming through the Universe will continue to be kicked around at random.

There's a competing process occurring, however, even during these early stages. This plasma is made of electrons and atomic nuclei, and it's energetically favorable for them to bind together. Occasionally, even at these early times, they do exactly that, with only the input from a sufficiently energetic photon capable of splitting them apart once again.

As the fabric of the Universe expands, the wavelengths of any radiation present get stretched as . [+] well. This causes the Universe to become less energetic, and makes many high-energy processes that occur spontaneously at early times impossible at later, cooler epochs. It requires hundreds of thousands of years for the Universe to cool enough so that neutral atoms can form.

E. Siegel / Beyond The Galaxy

As the Universe expands, however, it not only gets less dense, but the particles within it get less energetic. Because the fabric of space itself is what's expanding, it affects every photon traveling through that space. Because a photon's energy is determined by its wavelength, then as that wavelength gets stretched, the photon gets shifted — redshifted — to lower energies.

It's only a matter of time, then, until all the photons in the Universe drop below a critical energy threshold: the energy required to knock an electron off of the individual atoms that exist in the early Universe. It takes hundreds of thousands of years after the Big Bang for photons to lose enough energy to make the formation of neutral atoms even possible.

At early times (left), photons scatter off of electrons and are high-enough in energy to knock any . [+] atoms back into an ionized state. Once the Universe cools enough, and is devoid of such high-energy photons (right), they cannot interact with the neutral atoms. Instead, they simply free-stream through space indefinitely, since they have the wrong wavelength to excite these atoms to a higher energy level.

E. Siegel / Beyond the Galaxy

Many cosmic events happen during this time: the earliest unstable isotopes radioactively decay matter becomes more energetically important than radiation gravitation begins pulling matter into clumps as the seeds of structure start growing. As the photons become more and more redshifted, another barrier to neutral atoms appears: the photons emitted when electrons bind to protons for the first time. Every time an electron successfully binds with an atomic nucleus, it does two things:

  1. It emits an ultraviolet photon, because atomic transitions always cascade down in energy levels in a predictable fashion.
  2. It gets bombarded by other particles, including the billion-or-so photons that exist for every electron in the Universe.

Every time you form a stable, neutral atom, it emits an ultraviolet photon. Those photons then continue on, in a straight line, until they encounter another neutral atom, which they then ionize.

When free electrons recombine with hydrogen nuclei, the electrons cascade down the energy levels, . [+] emitting photons as they go. In order for stable, neutral atoms to form in the early Universe, they have to reach the ground state without producing an ultraviolet photon that could potentially ionize another identical atom.

Brighterorange & Enoch Lau/Wikimdia Commons

There's no net addition of neutral atoms through this mechanism, and hence the Universe cannot become transparent to light through this pathway alone. There's another effect that comes in, instead, that dominates. It's extremely rare, but given all the atoms in the Universe and the more-than-100,000 years it takes for atoms to finally and stably become neutral, it's an incredible and intricate part of the story.

Most times, in a hydrogen atom, when you have an electron occupying the first excited state, it simply drops down to the lowest-energy state, emitting an ultraviolet photon of a specific energy: a Lyman alpha photon. But about 1 time in 100 million transitions, the drop-down will occur through a different path, instead emitting two lower-energy photons. This is known as a two-photon decay or transition, and is what is primarily responsible for the Universe becoming neutral.

When you transition from an "s" orbital to a lower-energy "s" orbital, you can on rare occasion do . [+] it through the emission of two photons of equal energy. This two-photon transition occurs even between the 2s (first excited) state and the 1s (ground) state, about one time out of every 100 million transitions.

R. Roy et al., Optics Express 25(7):7960 · April 2017

When you emit a single photon, it almost always collides with another hydrogen atom, exciting it and eventually leading to its reionization. But when you emit two photons, it's extraordinarily unlikely that both will hit an atom at the same time, meaning that you net one additional neutral atom.

This two-photon transition, rare though it is, is the process by which neutral atoms first form. It takes us from a hot, plasma-filled Universe to an almost-equally-hot Universe filled with 100% neutral atoms. Although we say that the Universe formed these atoms 380,000 years after the Big Bang, this was actually a slow, gradual process that took about 100,000 years on either side of that figure to complete. Once the atoms are neutral, there is nothing left for the Big Bang's light to scatter off of. This is the origin of the CMB: the Cosmic Microwave Background.

A Universe where electrons and protons are free and collide with photons transitions to a neutral . [+] one that's transparent to photons as the Universe expands and cools. Shown here is the ionized plasma (L) before the CMB is emitted, followed by the transition to a neutral Universe (R) that’s transparent to photons. The scattering between electrons and electrons, as well as electrons and photons, can be well-described by the Dirac equation, but photon-photon interactions, which occur in reality, are not.

This marks the first time that the Universe becomes transparent to light. The leftover photons from the Big Bang, now long in wavelength and low in energy, can finally travel freely through the Universe. With the free electrons gone — bound up into stable, neutral atoms — the photons have nothing to stop them or slow them down.

But the neutral atoms are now everywhere, and they serve an insidious purpose. While they may make the Universe transparent to these low-energy photons, these atoms will clump together into molecular clouds, dust, and collections of gas. Neutral atoms in these configurations might be transparent to low-energy light, but the higher-energy light, like that emitted by stars, gets absorbed by them.

An illustration of the first stars turning on in the Universe. Without metals to cool down the . [+] stars, only the largest clumps within a large-mass cloud can become stars. Until enough time has passed for gravity to affect larger scales, only the small-scales can form structure early on, and the stars themselves will see their light unable to penetrate very far through the opaque Universe.

When all of the atoms in the Universe are now neutral, they do an amazingly good job of blocking starlight. The same long-awaited configuration that we required to make the Universe transparent now makes it opaque again to photons of a different wavelength: the ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared light produced by stars.

In order to make the Universe transparent to this other type of light, we'll need to ionize them all again. This means that we need enough high-energy light to kick the electrons off of the atoms they're bound to, which requires an intense source of ultraviolet emission.

In other words, the Universe needs to form enough stars to successfully reionize the atoms within it, rendering the tenuous, low-density intergalactic medium transparent to starlight.

This four-panel view shows the Milky Way's central region in four different wavelengths of light, . [+] with the longer (submillimeter) wavelengths at top, going through the far-and-near infrared (2nd and 3rd) and ending in a visible-light view of the Milky Way. Note that the dust lanes and foreground stars obscure the center in visible light, but not so much in the infrared.

ESO/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/VVV Survey/ESA/Planck/D. Minniti/S. Guisard Acknowledgement: Ignacio Toledo, Martin Kornmesser

We see this even in our own galaxy: the galactic center cannot be seen in visible light. The galactic plane is rich in neutral dust and gas, which is extremely successful at blocking the higher-energy ultraviolet and visible light, but infrared light goes clear through. This explains why the cosmic microwave background won't get absorbed by neutral atoms, but starlight will.

Thankfully, the stars that we form can be massive and hot, where the most massive ones are much more luminous and hotter than even our Sun. Early stars can be tens, hundreds, or even a thousand times as massive as our own Sun, meaning they can reach surface temperatures of tens of thousands of degrees and brightnesses that are millions of times as luminous as our Sun. These behemoths are the biggest threat to the neutral atoms spread throughout the Universe.

The first stars in the Universe will be surrounded by neutral atoms of (mostly) hydrogen gas, which . [+] absorbs the starlight. The hydrogen makes the Universe opaque to visible, ultraviolet, and a large fraction of infrared light, but long wavelength light, such as radio-light, can transmit unimpeded.

Nicole Rager Fuller / National Science Foundation

What we need to happen is for enough stars to form that they can flood the Universe with a sufficient number of ultraviolet photons. If they can ionize enough of this neutral matter filling the intergalactic medium, they can clear a path in all directions for starlight to travel unimpeded. Moreover, it has to occur in sufficient amounts that the ionized protons and electrons can't get back together again. There is no room for Ross-and-Rachel style shenanigans in the effort to reionize the Universe.

The first stars make a small dent in this, but the earliest star clusters are small and short-lived. For the first few hundred million years of our Universe, all the stars that form can barely make a dent in how much of the matter in the Universe remains neutral. But that begins to change when star clusters merge together, forming the first galaxies .

An illustration of CR7, the first galaxy detected that was thought to house Population III stars: . [+] the first stars ever formed in the Universe. JWST will reveal actual images of this galaxy and others like it, and will be able to make measurements of these objects even where reionization has not yet completed.

As large clumps of gas, stars, and other matter merge together, they trigger a tremendous burst of star formation, lighting up the Universe as never before. As time goes on, a slew of phenomena take place all at once:

  • the regions with the largest collections of matter attract even more early stars and star clusters towards them,
  • the regions that haven't yet formed stars can begin to,
  • and the regions where the first galaxies are made attract other young galaxies,

all of which serves to increase the overall star formation rate.

If we were to map out the Universe at this time, what we'd see is that the star formation rate increases at a relatively constant rate for the first few billion years of the Universe's existence. In some favorable regions, enough of the matter gets ionized early enough that we can see through the Universe before most regions are reionized in others, it may take as long as two or three billion years for the last neutral matter to be blown away.

If you were to map out the Universe's neutral matter from the start of the Big Bang, you would find that it starts to transition to ionized matter in clumps, but you'd also find that it took hundreds of millions of years to mostly disappear. It does so unevenly, and preferentially along the locations of the densest parts of the cosmic web.

Schematic diagram of the Universe's history, highlighting reionization. Before stars or galaxies . [+] formed, the Universe was full of light-blocking, neutral atoms. While most of the Universe doesn't become reionized until 550 million years afterwards, some regions will achieve full reionization earlier and others won't achieve it until later. The first major waves of reionization begin happening at around 250 million years of age, while a few fortunate stars may form just 50-to-100 million years after the Big Bang. With the right tools, like the James Webb Space Telescope, we may begin to reveal the earliest galaxies.

S. G. Djorgovski et al., Caltech Digital Media Center

On average, it takes 550 million years from the inception of the Big Bang for the Universe to become reionized and transparent to starlight. We see this from observing ultra-distant quasars, which continue to display the absorption features that only neutral, intervening matter causes. But reionization doesn't happen everywhere at once it reaches completion at different times in different directions and at different locations. The Universe is uneven, and so are the stars and galaxies and clumps of matter that form within it.

The Universe became transparent to the light left over from the Big Bang when it was roughly 380,000 years old, and remained transparent to long-wavelength light thereafter. But it was only when the Universe reached about half a billion years of age that it became fully transparent to starlight, with some locations experiencing transparency earlier and others experiencing it later.

To probe beyond these limits requires a telescope that goes to longer and longer wavelengths. With any luck, the James Webb Space Telescope will finally open our eyes to the Universe as it was during this in-between era, where it's transparent to the Big Bang's glow but not to starlight. When it opens its eyes on the Universe, we may finally learn just how the Universe grew up during these poorly-understood dark ages.


Something is Lurking in the Heart of Quasar 3C 279

One year ago, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration published the first image of a black hole in the nearby radio galaxy M 87. Now the collaboration has extracted new information from the EHT data on the distant quasar Quasar An apparently small (at least to observers on Earth) yet immensely powerful cosmic object. Some quasars (quasi-stellar objects, or QSOs) are strong radio sources. Radio-emitting quasars were the first to be discovered. These are some of the most distant objects in the Universe, and are believed to be fueled by supermassive black holes residing in ancient galaxies. 3C 279: they observed the finest detail ever seen in a jet produced by a supermassive black hole. New analyses, led by Jae-Young Kim from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, enabled the collaboration to trace the jet back to its launch point, close to where violently variable radiation from across the electromagnetic spectrum arises.

The results are published in the coming issue of “Astronomy & Astrophysics”, April 2020.

The EHT collaboration continues extracting information from the groundbreaking data collected in its global campaign in April 2017. One target of the observations was a galaxy 5 billion light-years away in the constellation Virgo that scientists classify as a quasar because an ultra-luminous source of energy at its center shines and flickers as gas falls into a giant black hole. The target, 3C 279, contains a black hole about one billion times more massive than our Sun. Twin fire-hose-like jets of plasma erupt from the black hole and disk system at velocities close to the speed of light: a consequence of the enormous forces unleashed as matter descends into the black hole’s immense gravity.

To capture the new image, the EHT uses a technique called very long baseline interferometry (VLBI), which synchronizes and links radio dishes around the world. By combining this network to form one huge virtual Earth-size telescope, the EHT is able to resolve objects as small as 20 micro-arcseconds on the sky — the equivalent of someone on Earth identifying an orange on the Moon. Data recorded at all the EHT sites around the world is transported to special supercomputers at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn and at MIT’s Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts, where they are combined. The combined data set is then carefully calibrated and analyzed by a team of experts, which then enables EHT scientists to produce images with the finest detail possible from the surface of the Earth.

The newly analyzed data show that the normally straight jet has an unexpected twisted shape at its base. Jae-Young Kim, lead author of the paper, is enthusiastic and at the same time puzzled: “We knew that every time you open a new window to the universe you can find something new. Here, where we expected to find the region where the jet forms by going to the sharpest image possible, we find a kind of perpendicular structure. This is like finding a very different shape by opening the smallest matryoshka doll.”

“The results are very surprising,” said Kazunori Akiyama, a Jansky Fellow of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) at MIT Haystack who developed imaging techniques for the EHT to create the first images of the black hole in M87, and which were also used to create the images of quasar 3C 279. “When we observed the quasar for four days within one week, we assumed that we would not see these dynamical changes because the source is so far away (100 times further from Earth than M87). But the EHT observations were so sharp that for the first time we could see tiny changes in motions of the jets within this time frame.”

3C 279 has a very active nucleus that can be observed across all wavelengths. The jet in the nucleus has already been monitored for over two decades with the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) An array of 10, 25 meter radio telescopes that stretches 8000km (5,000 miles) across North America. . Astronomers Alan Marscher and Svetlana Jorstad of Boston University lead a project called VLBA-BU-BLAZAR, to relate outbursts of gamma-rays and X-rays to changes in the jet seen in VLBA images at a wavelength of 7 millimeters.

The VLBA images reveal that 3C 279 shoots “blobs” of high-energy particles and magnetic fields down a jet at velocities up to 99.96% of the speed of light. “Surprisingly, the speeds vary over time, as does the direction that the blobs move when they first appear,” said Marscher. “This implies that the jets are propelled in a complex way from a jet launching region about 0.4 light-years across, which can be explored by shorter wavelength observations with the Event Horizon Telescope. The EHT observations have the potential to see how the blobs form and accelerate as they move farther from the black hole into the jet seen in the VLBA images.”

Avery Broderick, an astrophysicist working at the Perimeter Institute and University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, said: “For 3C 279, the combination of the transformative resolution of the EHT and new computational tools for interpreting its data have proved revelatory. What was a single radio ‘core’ is now resolved into two independent complexes. And they move – even on scales as small as light-months, the jet in 3C 279 is speeding toward us at more than 99.5% of light speed!”

Because of this rapid motion, the jet in 3C 279 appears to move at about 20 times the speed of light. “This extraordinary optical illusion arises because the material is racing toward us, chasing down the very light it is emitting and making it appear to be moving faster than it is,” clarifies Dom Pesce, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA). The unexpected geometry suggests the presence of traveling shocks or instabilities in a bent, rotating jet, which might also explain emission at high energies such as gamma-rays.

“This result is a dream come true for anyone studying how jets are launched,” says Violette Impellizzeri, lead astronomer for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and its international partners (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ), ALMA is among the most complex and powerful astronomical observatories on Earth or in space. The telescope is an array of 66 high-precision dish antennas in northern Chile. VLBI observations. “I am particularly thrilled to have been supporting these observations. I did my PhD with this group and we were already working hard on resolving the jet foot point already 15 years ago. With the help of ALMA and all others telescopes in the array, the EHT is really getting there!”

The EHT array is always improving, explains Shep Doeleman, EHT Founding Director. “These new quasar results demonstrate that the unique EHT capabilities can address a wide range of science questions, which will only grow as we continue to add new telescopes to the array. Our team is now working on a next-generation EHT array that will greatly sharpen the focus on black holes and allow us to make the first black hole movies.”

The telescopes contributing to this result were ALMA, Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX), the IRAM 30-meter telescope, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the Large Millimeter Telescope, the Submillimeter Array, the Submillimeter Telescope, and the South Pole Telescope.

J.Y. Kim, T.P. Krichbaum, A.E. Broderick, et al.: Event Horizon Telescope imaging of the archetypal blazar 3C 279 at an extreme 20 microarcsecond resolution, in: Astronomy & Astrophysics, April 2020. https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202037493

Media contact

Iris Nijman
NRAO News and Public Information Manager
[email protected]

Background Information

The international collaboration announced the first-ever image of a black hole at the heart of the radio galaxy Messier 87 on April 10, 2019 by creating a virtual Earth-sized telescope. Supported by considerable international investment, the EHT links existing telescopes using novel systems — creating a new instrument with the highest angular resolving power that has yet been achieved.

The individual telescopes involved in the EHT collaboration are: the Atacama Large Millimetre Telescope (ALMA), the Atacama Pathfinder EXplorer (APEX), the Greenland Telescope (since 2018), the IRAM 30-meter Telescope, the IRAM NOEMA Observatory (expected 2021), the Kitt Peak Telescope (expected 2021), the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT), the Submillimeter Array (SMA), the Submillimeter Telescope (SMT), and the South Pole Telescope (SPT).

The VLBA-BU-BLAZAR project has been supported by the National Science Foundation and NASA’s Fermi guest investigator program.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI).

ALMA construction and operations are led by ESO on behalf of its Member States by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), on behalf of North America and by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of East Asia. The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.


Can it be ruled out that only our galaxy exists in real time, i.e. right now?

Can it be ruled out that only our galaxy exists in real time, i.e. right now? To ask it another way, is it possible that all the other galaxies we see up in the sky today do not exist any more, and that our galaxy is the only galaxy still existing?

Edited by petrus45, 10 April 2021 - 10:43 AM.

#2 bobzeq25

Ruled out? I guess not, some ultimate being from another dimension might have come along and obliterated all the others.

We don't understand everything about the universe (even with the small u <smile> ). We do have a decent grasp of how galaxies evolve, and how the light we see from long ago relates to the status of other galaxies now.

#3 Dynan

It takes a really long time to create a galaxy, like weeks and weeks. I don't think they'll disappear instantly.

#4 pathint

Edited by pathint, 10 April 2021 - 11:09 AM.

#5 petrus45

It takes a really long time to create a galaxy, like weeks and weeks. I don't think they'll disappear instantly.

It takes a really long time to create a galaxy, like weeks and weeks. I don't think they'll disappear instantly.

Oh dear, I certainly wasn't suggesting anything simply disappearing, at least not instantaneously. Some galaxies have been measured at 13.4 billion light years away. The age of the entire universe is estimated at 13.8 billion years old. It seems quite unlikely that such a galaxy or any of its stars still exist in the form in which we are observing them now. To reduce that proposition to the absurd, you will need to account for 13.4 billion years minus the several weeks you had referenced.

#6 spacemunkee

I would have to say they are just not in the same state as we see now, but probably not drastically different. With the distances involved, might not our own galaxy be a bit different in the far reaches at present compared to what we see?

Off topic, seeing your location in my area, but confused? Which is it, do you live on the river? Bet thats difficult to track objects!

#7 Waddensky

Although the light from other galaxies we see travelled millions of years to get here, it's not likely that they all disappeared in the meantime. I am not aware of a mechanism that could alter all galaxies except ours in such a short time frame. It would be incredibly, incredibly, incredibly unlikely too.

But to answer your question, can it be ruled out? I guess not, because all information we have from other galaxies is millions of years old.

#8 petrus45

“Right now” is not a well-defined global concept in general relativity. In other words, simultaneity is meaningless beyond a small local patch in the universe.

This is another concept that supports that there is tremendous uncertainty as to whether we can say that the DSOs we are observing in the sky are all there - or any of them are there - "right now". As you point out, per general relativity, time is stretchy and is heavily influenced by the existence of large masses.

#9 Mitrovarr

Can it be ruled out that only our galaxy exists in real time, i.e. right now? To ask it another way, is it possible that all the other galaxies we see up in the sky today do not exist any more, and that our galaxy is the only galaxy still existing?

Nothing exists in 'real time' as you say it. Everything you see has some light travel time. If the sun exploded right this second, you'd not know for several minutes. That's not at all different conceptually than the idea that something mysteriously happened to Andromeda since the light you see left it, it's just a different scale.

That being said, we know that the galaxies in the sky still exist (although surely they have changed somewhat since the light left them we see now) for the same reason we know anything else still exists because we inferred its existence through reliable means, and according to all of our knowledge of how the universe works it wouldn't make any sense for it not to still be there.

#10 StarBurger

Asimov's Sci-Fi short, "The Nine Billion Names of God" (1953) is an apropos treatment of the concept.

There is no reason we can say it could never happen. The fundamental physical constants could suddenly change instantaneously. Luckily they seem to have gone unchanged for 13.8 billion years (although one has to consider what inflation was all about) !

Who knows what the Universe may decide to do tomorrow?

#11 petrus45

Nothing exists in 'real time' as you say it. Everything you see has some light travel time. If the sun exploded right this second, you'd not know for several minutes. That's not at all different conceptually than the idea that something mysteriously happened to Andromeda since the light you see left it, it's just a different scale.

That being said, we know that the galaxies in the sky still exist (although surely they have changed somewhat since the light left them we see now) for the same reason we know anything else still exists because we inferred its existence through reliable means, and according to all of our knowledge of how the universe works it wouldn't make any sense for it not to still be there.

I can see how the concept could get absurd on a very small time and space scale, such as doubting the existence of the sun for the next several minutes. Or doubting the existence of your dinner companion in the time it takes for their voice to travel across the table. However, the uncertainty becomes significant on a cosmological level, where the spans of time and space far exceed the entirety of human experience. 13 billion light years + bears no comparison to the relatively short distance to the sun.

#12 Dynan

Oh dear, I certainly wasn't suggesting anything simply disappearing, at least not instantaneously. Some galaxies have been measured at 13.4 billion light years away. The age of the entire universe is estimated at 13.8 billion years old. It seems quite unlikely that such a galaxy or any of its stars still exist in the form in which we are observing them now. To reduce that proposition to the absurd, you will need to account for 13.4 billion years minus the several weeks you had referenced.

I believe there are galaxies that are so far away, and accelerating to speeds faster than c, that we will never have the opportunity to see them. Expansion is the only thing that can physically violate the cosmic speed limit, and it's being powered by dark energy, which, like Rosanne Rosanadana sez, "We don't know WHAT it is. "

Edited by Dynan, 10 April 2021 - 01:13 PM.

#13 Mitrovarr

I can see how the concept could get absurd on a very small time and space scale, such as doubting the existence of the sun for the next several minutes. Or doubting the existence of your dinner companion in the time it takes for their voice to travel across the table. However, the uncertainty becomes significant on a cosmological level, where the spans of time and space far exceed the entirety of human experience. 13 billion light years + bears no comparison to the relatively short distance to the sun.

Where does it become absurd, though? The four light years to Alpha Centauri? The tens of thousands to a distant globular cluster? A couple of million to Andromeda? A hundred million to a nearby galaxy cluster? Three billion to a relatively nearby Quasar? 8 billion to a Hubble UDF galaxy? The CMB?

It's the same idea all the way down!

#14 BillP

Can it be ruled out that only our galaxy exists in real time, i.e. right now? To ask it another way, is it possible that all the other galaxies we see up in the sky today do not exist any more, and that our galaxy is the only galaxy still existing?

I would say it is not probable, but it cannot be ruled out because we only have direct "provable" knowledge that they existed in the past. I would imagine that some may be no longer as we see them, and perhaps some gone. We've only been peering up into this vastness for about 500 years. Would be ludicrous to suggest that we've seen all the events possible within an infinite universe in that small time. Sure there are lots of unusual thing happening in the space we can see, and who knows what is happening in the space we cannot see (i.e., beyond the current visible universe to us). Even with stuff that is close by as who knows how many unidentified rogue black holes there are wondering around in the Milky Way! Whose to say that it would be impossible for one to have drastically altered a close and familiar star system or DSO within our own galaxy? One just never knows since we do not have a complete picture of even our own solar system let alone the galaxy. FWIW, the closest black hole discovered is only 1000 LY distant (HR 6819). so the very near local neighborhood on the edge of the Orion Spur Arm with us!

Edited by BillP, 10 April 2021 - 09:55 PM.

#15 petrus45

Where does it become absurd, though? The four light years to Alpha Centauri? The tens of thousands to a distant globular cluster? A couple of million to Andromeda? A hundred million to a nearby galaxy cluster? Three billion to a relatively nearby Quasar? 8 billion to a Hubble UDF galaxy? The CMB?

It's the same idea all the way down!

I would concede that the uncertainty does not seem significant within the scope of recorded human history of astronomical observation, i.e. about 5,000 years max. 5,000 ly would grab most of the visible stars and clusters in the sky, but not other galaxies. At the closest next galaxy, at 2M ly and further, the uncertainty becomes more significant. The universe is expanding, the expansion is accelerating, and perceived time slows around large masses (like our solar system). These combined factors suggest that things outside our immediate vicinity (again let's use 5000 ly) may well be "aging" at a relatively faster rate, and at a much greater acceleration, than we are observing.

The greater temptation seems to be the anthropocentric assumption, looking up at the sky, that everything is all there at the same time. We know that is not the case. But it seems like a similar incorrect assumption that everything up there is aging and evolving the same way, irrespective of its relative distance from our observation.

#16 Tony Flanders

Oh dear, I certainly wasn't suggesting anything simply disappearing, at least not instantaneously. Some galaxies have been measured at 13.4 billion light years away. The age of the entire universe is estimated at 13.8 billion years old. It seems quite unlikely that such a galaxy or any of its stars still exist in the form in which we are observing them now.

Oh, sure, if you phrase it that way, of course you're right. Thirteen billion years is quite a long time for a galaxy. It's quite certain that those hyper-distant galaxies have now evolved into something very different from what we can see via 13-billion-year-old light. We get a clear clue of this by statistical sampling the ratio of quasars to other galaxies was much higher 5 billion years ago than it is now. Quite possibly our own Milky Way was once a quasar, but those days are long gone.

We don't really know how galaxies evolve in detail, but it is clear that there are many irreversible processes going on, including the depletion of the interstellar gas from which new stars are formed. It's quite possible that a 13-billion-year-old galaxy would have stopped star formation entirely, in which case it would be very hard to observe. All you could see would be the feeble light of ancient red dwarfs, plus residual infrared glow and gravitational effects on light from more distant sources.

And of course galaxies are frequently ripped up and consumed by other galaxies. It's likely that most of the galaxies ever in existence have suffered that fate by now.

But when you're talking about the kind of galaxies that amateurs observe, typically less than 100 million light-years away, the amount of time it takes their light to reach us is very short by galaxy-lifetime standards. Most of those galaxies are likely still quite similar now to what we can see from the light that has spent all that time traveling to reach us.


Energy-Efficient Sensor Networks

13.3.6 Underwater Energy-Efficient Protocols

This section reviews some of the energy-efficient routing protocols for underwater sensor networks.

Vector-Based Forwarding: This protocol [13] is an energy efficient and robust algorithm. A routing forwarding vector is defined between the source and the destination. A forwarding region is defined around the routing vector that consists of a predefined radius. Only a set of nodes that are in forwarding region takes part in routing. An intermediate node will be the candidate for the next relay node if the distance between itself and the routing vector is less as compared to the other nodes.

Cluster-Based Protocol: The energy-efficient cluster-based [40] protocol utilizes the direction (up–down transmission) characteristic of an underwater environment and has been shown to be a better performer in terms of whole network operation. It forms clusters that are direction dependent. The cluster-head is chosen in the direction of transmission only. The cluster-head collects the data from its cluster member and sends the collected data to the sink via other cluster-heads on the way.

Distributed Underwater Clustering Scheme (DUCS): The DUCS protocol is an energy-efficient and GPS-free routing protocol. Clusters are formed inside the network and a cluster-head is chosen. The cluster-head collects the data from its cluster’s members in a single hop. Multihop routing is used to transmit the data to the sink from the cluster-head [41, 42] . The cluster-head a data aggregation technique to remove the redundant data from the collected information. This algorithm uses a TDMA/CDMA schedule to communicate with cluster members and to improve communication as well. It also uses a continuous adjusted timer along with guard time values to prevent data loss.

Reference [43] deals with energy-efficient routing schemes and the paper presents different energy-efficient routing methods. It compares various protocols including new ones. The authors consider all the major parameters that characterize underwater communications such as attenuation, absorption, propagation delay, bandwidth-distance, power-distance relationships, and modem energy consumption profiles. In the developed schemes, the next neighbor is chosen in such a way that the relay length between two nodes could be nearer to the optimum. Energy efficiency is achieved by choosing the next relay node based on the local positioning algorithm.

In Reference [44] , the authors present a scheme to reduce energy consumption and delay for underwater communications. The communication architecture is based on a tree structure. Underwater sensors and the underwater sink make the branches of the tree. Underwater sensors are connected to the underwater sink. A routing protocol based on the tree structure needs to use the data aggregation technique in order to reduce energy consumption. The proposed routing protocol uses an energy-aware data aggregation method to create an energy-efficient and delay-decreasing protocol. It reconfigures the aggregation tree via a dynamic pruning and grafting function to find an optimum path from the source node to the sink node.

The authors in [45] introduce the E-PULRP (Energy optimized Path Unaware Layered Routing Protocol) for dense underwater 3D sensor networks. In this work an uplink transmission is considered. Underwater sensor nodes collect and send the information to the stationary sink node. E-PURLP consists of two phases: a layering phase and a communication phase. In the first phase a layering structure is developed around the sink node, which is a set of concentric spheres. The radii of the concentric spheres as well as the transmission energy of the nodes in each layer are chosen considering the probability of successful packet transmissions and minimum overall energy expenditure. In the second phase an intermediate relay node is selected and an on-the-fly routing algorithm is used for packet delivery from the source node to sink node across the identified relay nodes.


Forever and Infinity

I f humans are to venture out from Earth and colonize the cosmos, we need a space-travel revolution—and that is putting it mildly. The distances involved are simply impossible to even begin to bridge using present transportation technology.

Earth isn’t quite 8,000 miles wide. The sun is 864,300 miles wide—and it is 93 million miles away. If the sun were an 8-inch bowling ball, the Earth would be a peppercorn 26 yards away. Pluto would be the head of a pin over half a mile away.

In a spacecraft, man can only go as far as the moon humans cannot store vitamin D long enough to get to Mars. We are simply too finite, and our solar system too vast. Its voluminous depths contain pinpoint planets and deep, drastic distances. Set a random heading, hit light speed, and you’ll still rarely encounter a particle of matter at all. This is especially true after you leave our solar system.

Make an even smaller scale model—where the 93 million miles between Earth and the sun is just under a quarter of an inch. At that scale, the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars would fit on a dime. Neptune, the outermost large planet in our solar system, would have an orbit 14 inches across. Keep in mind, the Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in 1977, traveled 12 years before it passed Neptune.

On this model, the next nearest star would be located one mile away. That star is called Proxima Centauri, Proxima meaning “close” (by astronomical standards). It would take Voyager more than 60,000 years to fly there. That’s 10 times longer than the entire history of man. Even traveling at light speed—670 million miles an hour—the journey would take more than four years and two months.

Yet reaching Proxima Centauri doesn’t even get us out of our celestial front door. Our sun and Proxima Centauri are just two of over 200 billion stars in our galaxy. To grasp the size of the universe beyond our sun, we have to try first to wrap our minds around just how immense the Milky Way truly is.

Our Galactic Neighborhood

Stretching out in great glowing swaths from the Milky Way’s bright, hot, bulbous pinwheel center are spinning trailing arms, sparkling with stars of all types and stages, many of them forming the cores of other solar systems.

On our scale model, traveling to the center of our galaxy would require a trip of 6,000 miles—the distance from Los Angeles to London. At the speed of light, the trip would take you 26,000 years.

The entire galaxy would be 12½ Earths wide. Try to comprehend it—and remember, within that vastness, our sun and its four closest planets fit on a dime.

To fly from one edge of our galaxy to the other at light speed non-stop would take you 100,000 years. It would take the 35,000-mph Voyager more than 660 million years.

Still, with respect to the universe, we’re still in our front yard. The Milky Way, with its billions of stars and trillions of planets, is just one of billions of other galaxies discovered so far. And it is just above average in size. Some galaxies are far bigger. Can you wrap your mind around that? A 200-billion-star galaxy is just run-of-the-mill.

Now let’s use a different scale. Picture the Milky Way as a softball. Our solar system is now more like a molecule. Move 15 and 17 inches away to the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two of our closest neighboring galaxies. Now move 15 feet away to our nearest large galaxy—Andromeda. Astronomers think Andromeda contains 1 trillion stars. On this scale, it would be about the size of a beach ball.

Andromeda is considered to be in our neighborhood, yet is over 2 million light years away!

The closest cluster of galaxies is the Virgo cluster. Virgo has over 1,000 galaxies. By our scale, we would find this super cluster 150 feet away from our softball.

Thankfully, the properties and laws of light enable us to see places we could never go. Scientists can see far, far beyond Virgo and its hundreds of trillions of stars, its thousands of trillions of planets and its virtually innumerable moons, comets and asteroids. They have uncovered, for example, the existence of the Great Wall—a huge conglomeration of galaxies that stretches across the universe for 500 million light years. This wall is also 200 million light years wide and 15 million light years thick. Wow! A wall of galaxies that would take 500 million years to travel from one end to the other—if we could move 186,000 miles per second.

If you were to carry the softball to the edge of the visible universe, you would have to walk for 31 miles! Remember: As you walk that road, every 3.8 inches (the diameter of a softball), you are covering the distance light travels in 100,000 years.

And that is just the edge of the known universe. Astronomers have no idea how much more is beyond.

Jeremiah 31:37 and other scriptures imply that the heavens cannot be measured. So perhaps we should take scientists’ estimates of the size and age of the universe with a grain of salt.

Nevertheless, the incomprehensible vastness of the universe fills us with awe as we say, like King David before us, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

The Father of Lights

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

The “lights” to which James refers are those of the universe. God is the Father of that vast material creation. He created all those lights—every bit of everything we see in those Hubble pictures, so dazzling in their brilliance—through Jesus Christ (e.g. Ephesians 3:9 Colossians 1:16).

The expression “with whom” in James 1:17 should read “in whom.” In God is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” This is referring to our Father’s perfect character. He cannot sin. There isn’t even a speck of a shadow of evil in His nature. God is 100 percent love (1 John 4:8, 16). His love toward us is perfect and absolute. Everything He does is for our ultimate good. His goal is for us to become perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). He is totally focused on giving to us and opening up a wonderful future for all mankind.

Every good and perfect gift comes from that illustrious God. Look at what He created! Clearly, He has all kinds of gifts to give!

Hebrews 2:8 talks about God giving us the whole universe. When the Apostle Paul wrote that, before modern telescopes, people could not see very much in the night sky. Their view of the heavens, impressive as it was, was quite limited.

The penetrating views of the cosmos given to us by the Hubble telescope help us understand more deeply how meaningful and inspiring Hebrews 2:8 really is! We have a much more complete understanding of just what is out there. And God says, Im going to give it all to YOU! Nothing will be withheld!

But how is that possible? The very nature of human beings, with our physical limitations, prevents us from even being able to reach most places in the depths of space, let alone populate them.

Remember the expression in Isaiah 51:16: God is going to “plant the heavens.” That implies a seeding with life.

We can only see how this would be possible when we understand the “mystery” revealed in Scripture: that God is actually recreating Himself in man. He is transforming human beings into spirit-composed God beings .

God Himself is not bound by the limitations imposed by the laws of physics. He “inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). The vastness of the cosmos and the limits of time impose absolutely no constraints on Him whatsoever, as evidenced by His having named every star and His sustaining the universe with His power.

Those physical constraints will no longer bind us, either, once we “bear the image of the heavenly” and “put on incorruption” and “put on immortality”! (1 Corinthians 15:49, 53).

Thus, God will be able to plant the heavens—seed the cosmos with life—using human beings who have been transformed into Spirit-born members of His Family .

Try to wrap your mind around that future. God wants to continue to extend His building program forever. He wants to make the entire universe exquisite—beautiful beyond what our imaginations can conceive!

The Bible says God left nothing not put under man. He is going to give it all to mankind! That means everything we can see—all the Hubble telescope has photographed and a lot more. God is going to just give it to man. Of course, as Hebrews 2:8 tells us, God also says, “ not yet .” There is something we have to learn and understand before God can let us inherit the universe (inset, “Why Not Yet?”, page 45). And there are many, many people today that God hasn’t reached yet however, the Bible explicitly describes a time in the near future, in His own time frame, when He will reach them, and teach them (request a free copy of The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like).

Can you even begin to imagine how much real estate is out there? If someone were to tell you he had 100,000 acres of prime real estate and he was going to give it to you, you would probably faint. But 100,000 acres is a mere postage stamp compared to what God is offering.

Hebrews 2:8 ought to set our imaginations ablaze! Soon it will set the imagination of the whole world on fire, when all people will begin to realize that God is offering them the whole sparkling universe. Then they will begin to see the size of the cosmos, and their hope will grow and expand—just like that universe.

Infinite Increase

God simply wouldn’t have made the universe so great, so expansive, if He didn’t have astronomical plans for expanding His Family. Note this electrifying prophecy: “Of the increase of his [God’s] government and peace there shall be NO END, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:7).

There will be no end to the expansion of the government and peace of God. It will flow out from the Earth to the whole universe and never end!

What does that mean? The implications are tremendous.

First, doesn’t that imply there is endless space out there? Perhaps the Creator is in the process of making an endless universe. Perhaps He already has. Only God knows for certain. But we do know that He has something in mind for us that goes on forever!

But how could there be “no end” to the increase of God’s government and peace? Spirit beings do not reproduce in the way human beings do. Angels cannot have children. And God can only have real sons through the process we are undergoing now: living life as a human being and choosing God’s way through the exercise of free will, before being given the gift of eternal life and being born into His Family.

Consider: Would there ever come a point in the future when all human beings will be gone, either burned to ash or converted into spirit? If so, wouldn’t that mean an end to the expansion of God’s government? How could God’s government continually expand if there were a constant, finite number of God Family beings?

Consider further: God also says that there will be no end to the increase of His peace. You don’t need to bring peace to empty planets. Nor do you need to bring peace to a Family of perfectly righteous God beings.

An endless increase in God’s government and peace seems to require the existence of a race of beings made in God’s image and likeness that can reproduce and populate the way human beings do.

Though the Bible doesn’t specifically reveal it, it appears God might populate the universe—including a number of the untold quadrillions or quintillions of planets it contains—with more human beings! People who are made in the image and likeness of God—people who have the potential to be born into the God Family!

Obviously there would have to be direct supernatural intervention to transport or create such beings in areas of space so remotely distant from our home here on Earth. That is hardly impossible, considering God did it once before.

The idea of using humans to seed the vast universe with life almost sounds unbelievable. Yet consider: Why would God have created such an enormous, empty physical universe and physical matter if there will not be more physical beings? Some people estimate that, throughout its history, Earth has been home to some 110 billion humans—yet that’s not even one person for each galaxy.

All Men

The Apostle Paul seemed to be thinking along these lines when he said that he wanted “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9). The word fellowship really should be translated dispensation. This “mystery” is the truth that God is re-creating Himself in mankind in order to expand His eternal Family. God wants this truth dispensed to all men . Even more, this verse says all men need to take on that desire to dispense that wonderful truth even further! If all men are dispensing God’s wonderful truth, who are they dispensing it to ? (For more explanation of this truth, request our free booklet The God Family Vision.)

“Ephesians 3:9 says that all men must see that the mystery of God needs to be declared,” Gerald Flurry wrote in his booklet Prophesy Again. “ Think about that statement . God will give all the people of this world a vision like they have never, ever seen before! Perhaps He wants to show them that they are going to have to get that mystery out to the universe—and perhaps to other men and women that God will create on other planets. Ephesians 3:9 certainly does allow for that. Is God’s mystery going to be dispensed on and on and on—where men elsewhere in the universe will have this mystery revealed to them after they go through some experience like we have on Earth? I don’t know exactly what God has in mind. But the word dispensation has mind-staggering implications ! The mystery must be dispensed, or declared, to every son who enters God’s Family.” (Request a free copy of Prophesy Again.)

It’s possible the whole purpose of God’s plan for humans—“Operation Earth”—is not only to create an immediate Family of God. Maybe it is also designed so God can use mankind to spread an even greater, never-ending, always growing, God Family throughout the whole universe—to perhaps trillions of galaxies.

God’s family government will be established on the whole Earth—and from there eventually transferred throughout the universe. Operation Venus and Operation Mars could be the beginnings of the most amazing and wonderful plan ever: an infinite cycle of births into the Family of God!

Universe Headquarters

The last glimpses the Bible gives us into the future are absolutely spectacular.

There is coming a time when our beloved planet will be purified with fire. “[T]he elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). All the incorrigibly wicked who refused to submit to God’s law will be completely consumed—reduced to ash—in this “lake of fire” (Malachi 4:1, 3 Revelation 20:13-15). The Earth as we know it today will be passed away (Revelation 21:1).

At that point, something extraordinary and breathtaking will occur. A new Earth and a new heaven will take the place of this present Earth.

God the Father will descend to make this new Earth His home (verses 2-3). This will become His seat of government over the entire cosmos. Universe headquarters.

God’s headquarters city, new Jerusalem, will be a cube or perhaps a pyramid of something like 1,500 miles square at the base—and 1,500 miles high! (verse 16). This is a city utterly unlike anything that exists on our planet today.

That spirit-composed city will have “no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God [the Father] did lighten it, and the Lamb [Jesus Christ] is the light thereof” (verse 23). Science tells us that if our sun fulfilled its normal lifespan as a star, it would get hotter and hotter until boiling away our oceans and incinerating life eventually it would become a red giant—growing so enormously large and hot as to roast the Earth completely if not actually envelop it—before flaming out. But this scripture tells us that we need not fear such fatalistic scenarios. God will ensure that nothing ever disturbs His eternal headquarters dwellingplace.

In this remarkable city, we see total union between these two God Family members and those human beings who have been born into that Family: “[T]he throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it and his servants shall serve him” (Revelation 22:3). From that place, God will direct His Family in an expanding array of beautification and population projects throughout the universe.

All around us, throughout the cosmos, are places made to be governed, to be nourished and to abound with life! Those shining cosmic places are groaning for their future opportunity to be beautified and governed—by none other than the little human beings presently treading this tiny speck in this vast place.

Yes, today, there are people being taught to qualify for that potential. They are doing so in the only way possible: by starting small. But after they qualify, they will hear those words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21). Their future is as big as the universe itself.

Our human minds, no matter how impressive, can’t comprehend that truth. It’s too big for the mind of man. The only way we can comprehend it is to let God give us another Spirit—the Holy Spirit—to work with our human spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-12). Scientists, physicists, astronomers and the inhabitants of the world cannot even imagine it today—but soon they will. Some day these very scientists who study the universe and puzzle over untold unanswered questions will qualify and become members of the Family of God. They will then be able to travel to the outer edges of this vast universe and observe the answers firsthand!

We need to awaken ourselves to our potential. Our future is truly something to get stirred up about! It should fill us with joy—so much so that we want to live by every word of the Creator God, who is literally opening up the universe to us.

Our ExpandingUniverse

Born in 1889 in Marshfield, Missouri, Edwin Hubble came of age in a golden era of physical scientific discovery. This was the age of Albert Einstein, Maxwell Planck, Alfred Wegener, Richard Feynman and Harlow Shapley. Mankind’s understanding and explanation of the world was rapidly transforming new instruments were being designed that would build the foundation of physical science today.

Hubble was able to join the prestigious staff of astronomers at the Mount Wilson Observatory. It was an astronomer’s dream: Here was the world’s largest telescope—the 100-inch Hooker Telescope. There Hubble worked with one of his senior colleagues, Harlow Shapley, whose work focused on estimating the dimension of the Milky Way. Using bright stars, Shapley estimated the galaxy was 300,000 light years wide. His findings were astounding—the universe now had dimension well beyond previous estimates. Further, Shapley’s observations supported Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Though Hubble assisted Shapley with his work, he was far more interested in the “hazy blobs” he saw, known as nebulae. These were thought to be gas clouds within the Milky Way. It was only after Shapley’s departure to the Harvard College Observatory that Hubble could finally focus on the hazy blobs. What he was to discover changed our understanding of the universe.

In working to determine the distance between Earth and the hazy blobs, using the technique developed by Shapley, Hubble found that each blob was colored red. Though he wasn’t the first to note the red color of distant stars, Hubble was the first to suggest a provable explanation.

You know that the pitch of a police car’s siren changes as it passes you. This is called the Doppler effect. Sound and light travel in wave motion, like ripples in water. As a wave moves toward you, its wavelength gets shorter, so the frequency increases—raising the pitch. When the siren passes and moves away, the pitch drops because the wavelength increases and the frequency drops.

Light waves behave the same way. If a light source is moving toward you, the color shifts more toward blue (shorter wavelength, higher frequency). But as the light source passes and moves away, the color of the light shifts toward red. In astronomy, this is known as redshift.

Coupling the Doppler effect with his observations, Edwin Hubble theorized the stars were traveling away from us because their light appeared red through the telescope. Hubble was right every distant star he observed outside of the Milky Way was red.

The implications were astounding. By 1929, Hubble had proved the universe was expanding into the unknown reaches of space. This idea revolutionized the way physicists and astronomers explained the world around us.

The launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 has resulted in discoveries that answer some long-standing questions—and raise many new questions. Not only did it confirm that the universe is expanding, its findings suggested that it is accelerating in its expansion! This discovery has since been confirmed using other telescopes.

According to Hubble’s law, the farther away a galaxy is from the Earth, the faster it is racing into the depths of space. The expanding universe concept is now the foundation for the field of modern cosmology.

Scientists’ understanding of why this is happening remains foggy. Known, observable, measurable laws of physics would suggest the universal expansion should be slowing because of gravity. Clearly, some other force is in play to produce the opposite effect.

It is likely God is using a type of physical energy that functions according to a predictable law that He Himself established in order to accomplish universal expansion—perhaps dark energy or something very like it. We should certainly view an accelerating expansion of the universe as evidence both of God’s power as Sustainer and of God’s ambition for the endless expansion of His government and peace.

Edwin Hubble never received the Nobel Prize for his research because astronomy was not recognized as a field of physics until after his death. Yet nasa honored Hubble by naming its greatest telescope after him. Surely, Hubble would be honored by this distinction more than any other prize. Born in 1889 in Marshfield, Missouri, Edwin Hubble came of age in a golden era of physical scientific discovery. This was the age of Albert Einstein, Maxwell Planck, Alfred Wegener, Richard Feynman and Harlow Shapley. Mankind’s understanding and explanation of the world was rapidly transforming new instruments were being designed that would build the foundation of physical science today.

Hubble was able to join the prestigious staff of astronomers at the Mount Wilson Observatory. It was an astronomer’s dream: Here was the world’s largest telescope—the 100-inch Hooker Telescope. There Hubble worked with one of his senior colleagues, Harlow Shapley, whose work focused on estimating the dimension of the Milky Way. Using bright stars, Shapley estimated the galaxy was 300,000 light years wide. His findings were astounding—the universe now had dimension well beyond previous estimates. Further, Shapley’s observations supported Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Though Hubble assisted Shapley with his work, he was far more interested in the “hazy blobs” he saw, known as nebulae. These were thought to be gas clouds within the Milky Way. It was only after Shapley’s departure to the Harvard College Observatory that Hubble could finally focus on the hazy blobs. What he was to discover changed our understanding of the universe.

In working to determine the distance between Earth and the hazy blobs, using the technique developed by Shapley, Hubble found that each blob was colored red. Though he wasn’t the first to note the red color of distant stars, Hubble was the first to suggest a provable explanation.

You know that the pitch of a police car’s siren changes as it passes you. This is called the Doppler effect. Sound and light travel in wave motion, like ripples in water. As a wave moves toward you, its wavelength gets shorter, so the frequency increases—raising the pitch. When the siren passes and moves away, the pitch drops because the wavelength increases and the frequency drops.

Light waves behave the same way. If a light source is moving toward you, the color shifts more toward blue (shorter wavelength, higher frequency). But as the light source passes and moves away, the color of the light shifts toward red. In astronomy, this is known as redshift.

Coupling the Doppler effect with his observations, Edwin Hubble theorized the stars were traveling away from us because their light appeared red through the telescope. Hubble was right every distant star he observed outside of the Milky Way was red.

The implications were astounding. By 1929, Hubble had proved the universe was expanding into the unknown reaches of space. This idea revolutionized the way physicists and astronomers explained the world around us.

The launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 has resulted in discoveries that answer some long-standing questions—and raise many new questions. Not only did it confirm that the universe is expanding, its findings suggested that it is accelerating in its expansion! This discovery has since been confirmed using other telescopes.

According to Hubble’s law, the farther away a galaxy is from the Earth, the faster it is racing into the depths of space. The expanding universe concept is now the foundation for the field of modern cosmology.

Scientists’ understanding of why this is happening remains foggy. Known, observable, measurable laws of physics would suggest the universal expansion should be slowing because of gravity. Clearly, some other force is in play to produce the opposite effect.

It is likely God is using a type of physical energy that functions according to a predictable law that He Himself established in order to accomplish universal expansion—perhaps dark energy or something very like it. We should certainly view an accelerating expansion of the universe as evidence both of God’s power as Sustainer and of God’s ambition for the endless expansion of His government and peace.

Edwin Hubble never received the Nobel Prize for his research because astronomy was not recognized as a field of physics until after his death. Yet nasa honored Hubble by naming its greatest telescope after him. Surely, Hubble would be honored by this distinction more than any other prize.

A Zillion Times More Impressive

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

The “lights” to which James refers are those of the universe. God is the Father of that vast material creation. He created all those lights through Jesus Christ. All of those heavenly lights inspire God. They represent incredible promise and potential, just waiting to be realized!

This is an inspiring verse. But we can’t get distracted by that massive universe because James just uses it as an introduction to set up what he is really getting at! No matter how magnificent the universe may be , it is as nothing compared to what James is about to discuss . So let’s not be distracted by the universe.

Notice the very next verse: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (verse 18). Here is where James—the brother of Christ—puts the emphasis! Really work to comprehend what he is saying here!

The limitless stars are impressive to anyone—but all that is trivial compared to God begetting you ! You have the potential to become God—God’s son—with the capacity to even create a universe and animals, perhaps even create more sons of God! Remember, God wants to recreate Himself in you!

That is what we must emphasize! That is where the real excitement is: your life !

We were begotten by the Father !

If He isn’t calling you or hasn’t begotten you with His Holy Spirit, you cannot truly understand this. If you do understand it, then you have received that unparalleled spiritual begettal from the Father of lights!

What is it worth to be begotten by that Father who created all those lights? That magnificent Creator God made you a firstfruit—the highest, most wonderful calling you could ever have! That calling is a zillion times more important than anything the Hubble telescope can show us.

Be in awe of the universe , but be a zillion times more in awe of your potential !

Consider it: What would all the universe out there be worth without God beings to rule over it? What if, as a worst-case scenario, God had the universe, but no sons? What would that be worth to Him? I don’t think God would put much value on it.

Sure the universe is magnificent and luminous—but it is just material stuff. It means nothing compared to a son of God ! It’s not even worthy of comparison!

The universe becomes much more impressive to behold when you realize that God put it there in order for His sons to rule over it.

God’s supreme creation isn’t the universe—but His masterpiece of recreating Himself in man.

—Excerpted from The Epistle of James, by Gerald Flurry request a free copy.

The Beginning

The last book Herbert W. Armstrong wrote before his death was Mystery of the Ages. This book clearly covers God’s plan for this universe and the destiny of man (we will send you a free copy of it upon request). Here are the words he used to close this inspiring book:

“How wonderful beyond the ability of words to express is the glory of God and His wonderful purpose actually now in progress. Praise, honor and glory be to God and to Jesus Christ forever and forever.

“With God’s great master plan of 7,000 years finally completed—the mystery of the ages finally revealed, and with the re-creating of the vast universe and eternity lying ahead, we come finally to … the beginning.”

As physical beings, we can only see this future as “through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12)—though new scientific discoveries are certainly adding light. The universe is filled with incredible mysteries waiting to be discovered. Is the universe really limitless? Does “dark matter” really exist? How does God’s spiritual power work? What lies beyond the edges of space?

These are fantastic, mind-boggling questions. Draw close to the Designer, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and one day soon, you will be able to answer those questions from firsthand experience. That is when the most exciting phase of God’s plan will begin !


Time-frame regarding cosmic expansion and the bound state of the Virgo Cluster - Astronomy

For those of you crunching [email protected] you may indirectly be finding new planets!

Radio signals from the pulsar PSR B1257+12 in the constellation Virgo led Penn State professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Alexander Wolszczan to discover the first planets ever known outside our solar system. He discovered the planets in 1991 and confirmed their existence in 1994. Wolszczan used the worlds largest radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, to time the radio signals coming from a distant tiny neutron star in the constellation Virgo, 7,000 trillion miles from Earth. These measurements helped him to determine that two of the planets are similar in mass to Earth and the other is about the mass of the Moon. Until Wolszczan's discovery, the only known planets were in our solar system. His work suggests that planets may be more common in the universe than astronomers had previously thought. It will also help astronomers to understand how planets, including Earth, are formed. The planets Wolszczan found probably don't support life because the tiny pulsar they orbit bombards them with deadly radiation. However, his discovery increases the chances that somewhere in the universe planets may exist that, like Earth, are capable of supporting life.

Click on the interactive map to browse the planet finding centers around the world.

(PLANET QUEST) -- A team of U.S. astronomers has discovered five gas-giant type planets outside our solar system, bringing to 139 the total number of known planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, according to a paper posted in the online edition of The Astrophysical Journal.

The new planets were detected using the radial velocity method, which infers the presence of an unseen companion because of the back-and-forth movement induced in the host star. This movement is detectable as a periodic red shift and blue shift in the star's spectral lines. (For more about this method, see the article Finding Planets.)

As with all other extrasolar planet discoveries to date, the new planets are not of a type that could support life as we know it. However, they provide further statistical information about the distribution and properties of planetary systems, according to the paper.

- HD 183263 b, which has a minimum mass more than three times that of Jupiter and takes 634 days to complete an orbit
- HD 117207 B, which has a minimum mass about twice that of Jupiter and takes 2,627 days to complete an orbit
- HD 188015 b, which has a minimum mass only slightly greater than Jupiter, is located at a similar distance from its star as the Earth is from the Sun, and takes 456 days to complete an orbit
- HD 45350 b, which is slightly smaller in mass than Jupiter, and takes 891 days to complete an orbit
- HD 99492 b, which has a relatively low minimum of mass, about 36 times that of Earth and takes 17 days to compete an orbit.

The team, led by Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler, based its findings on observations obtained at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. [email protected]

Detection of Extrasolar Planets via Photometry
Another of Doyle's current projects is detecting extrasolar planets utilizing photometry. Doyle uses photometry in three different ways to measure the brightness variation of stars. The Photometric Transit Method uses an algorithm to look for the shadow of a planet as it goes through the disc of a star. The algorithm is a mathematical way of quantifying if there really is a transit or an oscillation in the atmosphere. Another method, the Phase Reflection Method uses sinusoidal variation (similar to the orbiting of the moon from new to full) to detect giant planets as they go through phases orbiting near their stars. Eclipsing Binaries is the third planet detection method for stars that come in pairs and eclipse in front of each other regularly. By timing the eclipses, astronomers can determine whether there is a planet nearby, offsetting those eclipses.

PlanetQuest
PlanetQuest is perhaps the project about which Doyle is most passionate. It is educational in nature and allows everyone to participate in the search for extrasolar planets. "I see this as turning everyone into astronomers," exclaims Doyle. "It isn't just reading about it. And it isn't just supporting something. It's turning people into the explorers. It's turning them into bona fide astronomers with the opportunity to discover something, and soon." PlanetQuest software allows amateur astronomers to download, images of high-density star regions. The assigned star would be tracked using the computers spare CPU cycles. "The basic idea is they pick out a star and their computer measures the brightness of the star and compares it with brightness variations that are typical of different kinds of variable stars," says Doyle. The program is connected to the PlanetQuest website which would provide a reference for the user as to what he or she is discovering. There is also a cataloguing system that will allow the user to be credited with any discoveries. While only one in 3,000 to 5,000 stars will have planets going across it, all stars will be doing something, claims Doyle. "Sometimes they just sit there like the sun and create a nice stable habitable zone," he saids. "Sometimes they pulsate and are interesting as distance indicators or for studying stellar stability or evolution." Doyle believes that participating in searching the universe is a great way for people to set aside differences as they seek something relevant to everyone, on the planet. "We need to connect," he says. "The universe is huge now. I really feel like we need something to unite us and connect us together. In a worldwide search for worlds revolving around other stars, I think that has a possibility of helping to unite people." [email protected]

(PLANET QUEST) -- The past four weeks have been heady ones in the planet-finding world: Three teams of astronomers announced the discovery of 12 previously unknown worlds, bringing the total count of planets outside our solar system to 145.

Just a decade ago, scientists knew of only the nine planets - those in our local solar system. In 1995, improved detection techniques produced the first solid evidence of a planet circling another star. A proliferation of discoveries followed, and now dozens of ongoing search efforts around the globe add steadily to the roster of worlds. Most of these planets differ markedly from the planets in our own solar system. They are more similar to Jupiter or Saturn than to Earth, and are considered unlikely to support life as we know it.

The news of the past four weeks has included:

The discovery of six new gas-giant planets by two teams of European planet-hunters was announced this week. Two of these planets are similar in mass to Saturn three belong to a class known as "hot jupiters" because of their close proximity to the host stars. The sixth is a gas giant at least four-and-a-half times the mass of Jupiter.
All were discovered as part of the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Search (HARPS), an ongoing search program based at La Silla Observatory in Chile.

On January 20, a paper posted in the online edition of the Astrophysical Journal described five new gas-giant type planets detected by a team of U.S. astronomers. These planets provide further statistical information about the distribution and properties of planetary systems, according to the paper.
The U.S. team based its finding on observations obtained at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, which is jointly operated by the University of California and Caltech. Observation time was granted by both NASA and the University of California.

Last week, Penn State's Alex Wolszczan and Caltech's Maciej Konacki announced the discovery of the smallest planet-like body detected beyond our solar system. The object belongs to a strange class known as "pulsar planets." It is about one-fifth the size of Pluto and orbits a rapidly spinning neutron star, called a pulsar.

A pulsar is a dense and compact star that forms from the collapsing core left over from the death of a massive star. The new pulsar planet is the fourth to be discovered all orbit the same pulsar, named PSR B1257+12.

Because the planets around the pulsar are continually strafed by high-energy radiation, they are considered extremely inhospitable to life. (Note: The currentl planet count posted on this website includes only planets around normal stars.)

The pulsar planet was discovered by observing the neutron star's pulse arrival times, called pulsar timing. Variations in these pulses give astronomers an extremely precise method for detecting the phenomena that occur within a pulsar's environment.

The gas-giant planets were detected using the radial velocity method, which infers the presence of an unseen companion because of the back-and-forth movement induced in the host star. This movement is detectable as a periodic red shift and blue shift in the star's spectral lines. (For more about this method, see the article Finding Planets.) [email protected]

What is the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM)?
SIM PlanetQuest, scheduled for launch in 2010, will determine the positions and distances of stars several hundred times more accurately than any previous program. This accuracy will allow SIM PlanetQuest to determine the distances to stars throughout the galaxy and to probe nearby stars for Earth-sized planets.

What are the SIM's science goals?
The Space Interferometry Mission, SIM, is the first space project designed to use interferometry to measure the positions of stars. It will do so to a degree of accuracy unprecedented by earlier groundbased or space-based measurements. During the course of its five-year mission, SIM, operating from 450 - 900 nm, will complete a survey of the whole sky, using interferometric techniques to tie the optical reference frame it defines firmly to the radio reference frame already established.

What are the SIM's technology goals?
Control of optical components with nanometer precision. Sub-nanometer-level sensing of optical element positions. Integration of a large set of complex instrument systems that must work together autonomously while in orbit.

Kepler Mission Animation
The first sequence of this animation shows the Kepler spacecraft as it leaves the Earth to go into orbit around the Sun. The spacecraft soon turns to point to the 100,000 stars in our galaxy that it will monitor for four years looking for planetary transits. The second sequence shows how a planet in a distant system periodically blocks some of the light bound for the Kepler spacecraft, signaling the presence of a planet.

Kepler Science Animation
The animation shows several planets in orbit around different stars far off in our galaxy. Each planet casts a moving shadow as it orbits its parent star. We then zoom back from the 100,000 stars being monitored, which are about 1000 light-years away. The Kepler spacecraft watching those stars will record the periodic faint change in brightness produced by orbiting planets. The light from the stars is focused by the optics onto an array of charged coupled devices (CCD). In this way the Kepler scientists hope to detect many hundreds of habitable planets.

What is the Keck Interferometer (KI)?
The Keck Interferometer is part of NASA's overall effort to find planets and ultimately life beyond our solar system. It will combine the light from the twin Keck telescopes to measure the emission from dust orbiting nearby stars, directly detect the hottest gas giant planets, image disks around young stars and other objects of astrophysical interest, and survey hundreds of stars for the presence of planets the size of Uranus or larger. The Keck Interferometer is a ground-based component of NASA's Origins Program. Origins addresses fundamental questions about the formation of galaxies, stars, and planetary systems, the prevalence of planetary systems around other stars, and the formation of life on Earth. At 4,150 meters (13,600 feet) above the Pacific Ocean, atop the dormant volcano Mauna Kea on the "Big Island" of Hawaii, the twin Keck Telescopes are the world's largest telescopes for optical and near-infrared astronomy. The Keck Interferometer joins these giant telescopes to form a powerful astronomical instrument.

What are the KI's science goals?
The Keck Interferometer will be capable of carrying out a variety of scientific studies integral to NASA's search for new worlds. It primary goals are the characterization of exozodiacal dust, which can obscure the infrared signature of orbiting planets direct detection of giant planets and brown dwarfs high-resolution imaging of protoplanetary disks and the astrometric detection of planets.

What are the KI's technology goals?
The twin Keck telescopes will initially form a two-element interferometer with a separation of 85 meters. With the light-gathering capability of the two 10-m telescopes, the resulting interferometer will give the angular resolution of an 85-meter telescope: 8.5 times that of a single Keck telescope.

KI's Adaptive Optics System animation
This animation illustrates how adaptive optics is used to remove distortions caused by the Earth's atmosphere. A representative sample of the light that is being collected across the entire main mirror of the telescope enters a wavefront sensor, which separates the column of light into many areas, or zones, and samples each zone to determine how the light was altered by our atmosphere. By taking samples many times per second, the information from the wavefront sensor is fed back to a "flexible" mirror that can be adjusted to counteract for the distortions caused by the atmosphere.

Keck Interferometer Animation
This animation demonstrates how the twin Keck telescopes gather light from a single star. Through a technique called interferometry, the beams are combined to achieve a resolution equal to that of a single, enormous telescope. A process called nulling will be used to suppress the bright starlight, allowing scientists to study the star's much dimmer planetary companion.

Keck Interferometer Virtual Tour
The Keck Interferometer is a powerful new instrument that is being developed to search for new planets and investigate our cosmic origins. Located 4,150 meters (13,600 feet) above the Pacific Ocean atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, the W.M. Keck Observatory houses the world's two largest optical and infrared telescopes. By linking them together as an instrument called an interferometer, astronomers can obtain measurements that are not possible with a single telescope. Observations are carried out by pointing both telescopes at the same target and combining their light in an optical laboratory in the basement of the observatory. For more information about how this process works, see Interferometry. To find out more about how optical interferometry can be used to cancel out starlight so that nearby planets or other features can be observed, see Planet Imaging. [email protected]

Frank Drake and Seth Shostak Look at Optical SETI

In the TV Western, cowboys often flashed mirrors to signal each other across desert buttes. Pulses of light are an old and effective means for humans to signal humans. Could the same be true for other civilizations? Could distant worlds be signaling other sentient species with light flashes?

From the earliest days of SETI, scientists have been "on the look out" for signaling technology that would be detectable across interstellar distances. The first lasers stirred interest, but researchers soon realized that they were too weak for effective communication between star systems. Attention focused on the radio portion of the electro-magnetic spectrum, which seemed to offer the most efficient signaling medium.

This thinking dominated the SETI community until the late 1990s, when Nobel laureate (and SETI Institute Board of Trustee), Dr. Charles Townes reported upon advances in laser technology at the SETI Science and Technology Working Group (SSTWG), a panel convened by the Institute to chart the future of SETI science. Finally, lasers powerful enough to send a flash of light across the cosmic void were being deployed (for more prosaic purposes) right here on Earth.

In a recent interview, Drs. Frank Drake and Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute recalled the blossoming of OSETI in the wake of Townes' report, discussed the Institute's OSETI project at Lick Observatory and speculated about the future of the field.

Drake remembers the moment that "the light came on" about OSETI at the SSTWG. "Two people immediately began working on OSETI projects, and within months they had primitive OSETI detectors working," he explained, referring to Drs. Paul Horowitz of Harvard and Dan Werthimer of the University of California, Berkeley. "There was a learning curve. Early detectors produced lots of false alarms which slowed things down and left observers with uncertain results."

OSETI and the SETI Institute

After about a year of observing the Berkeley and Harvard experiences with OSETI, Drake conferred with Lick Observatory Director, Remington Stone. "Rem Stone and I got together and decided that we should really do an Optical SETI Project," he recalls. "Dan Werthimer developed the instrumentation and we used Lick's 40-inch Nickel Telescope," a resource that would otherwise remain idle.

Today Optical SETI programs, including the Institute's Lick effort, are deployed at five locations: Lick, Harvard, Princeton, the University of California, Berkeley, and in Australia at the University of Western Sydney. While the Institute's program at Lick was not the earliest program-Harvard's carries this distinction-it was the first program to successfully observe and achieve meaningful, conclusive data using a single site. Early optical SETI observations persistently yielded a detection rate sufficiently high to render data meaningless. Harvard scientists addressed this problem by switching to a two-site (Princeton's observatory is the second site) program, and Harvard continues to cooperate with Princeton in the OSETI effort.

Reducing False Positives

As is the case with any new endeavor, "OSETI" researchers had a learning curve. During the year between the launches of the Harvard, Berkeley and Lick projects, the astronomers realized that the addition of third photo-multiplier tube would dramatically reduce the rate of false positives from one occurrence each observing session, to a single spurious result per year. Starlight, cosmic rays, muon showers, and radioactive decays in the glass of photomultiplier tubes can all contribute confusing "events" to optical SETI searches, however, using three photomultipliers reduces the likelihood that all of the tubes will be hit by photons within the billionth of a second time frame that characterizes the pulse of a deliberate laser signal.

Deploying three photo-multiplier tubes, the Institute's program at Lick gained an immediate advantage over the earlier projects. Use of three photo-multiplier tubes is a technique that has been successfully adopted by the search conducted at the University of California. This technique will be adopted by the Harvard program as well during a future program upgrade. Iowa State is currently establishing an OSETI program that will also use the triple photo-multiplier technique.

Since the Lick Observatory project launch on July 9, 2001, it has observed over 3,900 target stars, an impressive figure when one compares this progress to that of Project Phoenix, which should complete scrutiny of the 1,000 stars on its target list during two final observation sessions this fall and next spring (2004).

Greater access to telescope time and a simpler search strategy make an enormous difference, Drake notes. And, he adds "being able to actually see the target star while observing is a thrill," that radio astronomers lack when conducting SETI observations.

While it wouldn't be quite true to say "anyone can do SETI," it would be true to say that anyone with the right backyard telescope and special equipment can conduct OSETI observations. This is the conclusion of Dr. Seth Shostak, for whom OSETI has offered an opportunity for the kind of creative thinking that is most rewarding to the SETI Institute Senior Astronomer.

Realizing that OSETI assumes civilizations sending optical signals will briefly flash a huge number a targets, Shostak points out that ideally, OSETI needs "lots of telescopes" looking at "lots of stars, all the time." The backyard telescope may therefore prove to be a critical OSETI tool, a prospect Shostak finds compelling.

"There are always new ideas in SETI," notes Shostak. Because the field evolves in tandem with the evolution of our communication technology, new ideas will keep the field fresh and exciting for quite some time to come. Optical SETI stands as a reminder of human innovation, as we seek beyond our planet for evidence of other minds on other worlds. [email protected]

Friends of PlanetQuest Newsletter Vol 1, No 1

**PlanetQuest Mission: To inspire the people of the world with the thrill of individual discovery, a better understanding of our uniquely precious planet, and a wider perspective on our place in the universe.**

Welcome to our first Friends of PlanetQuest Newsletter. We'd first like to thank you for showing interest in what we're doing. It's taken the PlanetQuest team a long time to get this place, and we'll certainly appreciate your support as we build the most exciting science project on the planet.

Our aim is to send this short informal newsletter to you about once a month. The purpose is to let you know what we've accomplished, what we're working on, and how you can get involved.

Et une petite note à nos Amis francophones: Bienvenu, bienvenu à vous! Nos excuses que nous ne sommes pas capable de produire un bulletin d'informations bilingue chaque mois, mais soit assuré que nous pensons à vous! Plus, vos euros donnés valent de plus en plus ici, comment triste.
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$408m Kepler Mission Adopts Our TDA
Yup, it's true: NASA will be using a customized version of our Transit Detection Algorithm, optimized for space-borne observing, as its sole method of locating new planets. Dr. Jon Jenkins, who worked with PlanetQuest co-founder Dr. Laurance Doyle in the late 1990s to develop the original photometric transit detection algorithms and who continues as our own TDA expert, is the lead signal detection specialist and a coinvestigator on the Kepler mission. Jon is continuing to create the best ground-based algorithms available, and we're lucky to have him on our team.

PlanetQuest Public Web Launched
In December, we launched a basic public website to tell the world who we are and what we're doing. You probably know this already if you're reading this newsletter. We're constantly making improvements as we go, and we thought we'd let you know what's in store in the coming months:

o A Flash demo of the coming PlanetQuest Collaboratory - you'll get to see how the parts work together in an interactive mockup. This is a preview of next generation distributed computing at its best.

o Lots and lots of education content. This will be a major focus for us - posting interactive ways that you can learn about science, astrophysics, global histories of astronomy (yes, there's more than one), and math.

o More information on our telescopes, including news about the Crossley telescope upgrades, for example

World-Changing Science - Your Help Required
If you subscribe to this Newsletter, you probably have some idea of what PlanetQuest will accomplish. Think of it, though: in five years, we hope to have 20 million PlanetQuesters around the world, discovering literally hundreds of planets each year. Along the way, they'll learn not only a great deal about science and math, but also that each little PlanetQuester is a vital part of our own world community and connected to the larger universe. This is public science in every possible way when you discover something out there - your name goes down in our PQ catalogs and in astronomical history. Every PlanetQuest participant is doing real science and contributing to our global effort to learn more about our universe. The resulting science, like the universe, belongs to everyone - not just professional scientists.

*But we your financial support to launch this global effort.* We just recently added an easy way to donate to PQ: just hit the "Donate!" link at the top of any page. Yes, for the price of two small hot chocolates per month, you can help us build PlanetQuest into the world-changing organization! We are a registered 501(c)(3) US nonprofit charitable organization, so your donations are completely tax-deductible.
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"Astronomy is useful, because it raises us above ourselves it is useful, because it is grand, . it shows us how small is man's body, how great his mind. His intelligence can embrace the whole of this dazzling immensity in which his body is only an obscure point and enjoy its silent harmony. Thus we can attain self-insight, something which cannot cost us too dear, since this insight makes us great."


New study suggests that iconic structures more aptly named the Pillars of Destruction

T he original Hubble Space Telescope image of the famous Pillars of Creation was taken two decades ago and immediately became one of its most famous and evocative pictures. Since then, these billowing clouds, which extend over a few light-years, have awed scientists and the public alike.

The jutting structures, along with the nearby star cluster, NGC 6611, are parts of a star formation region called the Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16 or M16. The nebula and its associated objects are located about 7000 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens (The Serpent).

The Pillars of Creation are a classic example of the column-like shapes that develop in the giant clouds of gas and dust that are the birthplaces of new stars. The columns arise when immense, freshly formed blue–white O and B stars give off intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds that blow away less dense materials from their vicinity.

This dramatic night time view shows the MUSE instrument in the dome of the VLT Unit Telescope 4. The telescope tube appears at the top of the picture and MUSE is seen glinting in the foreground. The Milky Way shines in through the open doors of the dome. Credit: ESO/Ghaouti Hansali/Fernando Selman

Denser pockets of gas and dust, however, can resist this erosion for longer. Behind such thicker dust pockets, material is shielded from the harsh, withering glare of O and B stars. This shielding creates dark “tails” or “elephant trunks”, which we see as the dusky body of a pillar, that point away from the brilliant stars.

ESO’s MUSE instrument on the Very Large Telescope has now helped illustrate the ongoing evaporation of the Pillars of Creation in unprecedented detail, revealing their orientation.

MUSE has shown that the tip of the left pillar is facing us, atop a pillar that is is actually situated behind NGC 6611, unlike the other pillars. This tip is bearing the brunt of the radiation from NGC 6611’s stars, and as a result looks brighter to our eyes than the bottom left, middle and right pillars, whose tips are all pointed away from our view.

This colour view was created from observations of the Pillars of Creation made with the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The parts of the three-dimensional MUSE data cube that correspond to emission from different chemical elements in the clouds have been extracted and combined to create this colour view of the region. Credit: ESO

Astronomers hope to better understand how young O and B stars like those in NGC 6611 influence the formation of subsequent stars. Numerous studies have identified protostars forming in these clouds — they are indeed Pillars of Creation. The new study also reports fresh evidence for two gestating stars in the left and middle pillars as well as a jet from a young star that had escaped attention up to now.

For more stars to form in environments like the Pillars of Creation, it is a race against time as intense radiation from the powerful stars that are already shining continues to grind away at the pillars.

By measuring the Pillars of Creation’s rate of evaporation, MUSE has given astronomers a time frame for when the pillars will be no more. They shed about 70 times the mass of the Sun every million years or so. Based on the their present mass of about 200 times that of the Sun, the Pillars of Creation have an expected lifetime of perhaps three million more years — an eyeblink in cosmic time. It seems that an equally apt name for these iconic cosmic columns might be the Pillars of Destruction.

This view shows how the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope has created a three-dimensional view of the iconic Pillars of Creation in the star-forming region Messier 16. Each pixel in the data corresponds to a spectrum that reveals a host of information about the motions and physical conditions of the gas at that point. The slices of the data corresponding to some of the different chemical elements present are highlighted. Credit: ESO

More information

This research was presented in a paper entitled “The Pillars of Creation revisited with MUSE: gas kinematics and high-mass stellar feedback traced by optical spectroscopy” by A. F. McLeod et al., to appear in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on 30 April 2015.

The team is composed of A. F. Mc Leod (ESO, Garching, Germany), J. E. Dale (Universitäts-Sternwarte München, München, Germany Excellence Cluster Universe, Garching bei München, Germany), A. Ginsburg (ESO), B. Ercolano (Universitats-Sternwarte München, Excellence Cluster Universe), M. Gritschneder (Universitats-Sternwarte München), S. Ramsay (ESO) and L. Testi (ESO INAF/Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Firenze, Italy).

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.