Hubble Goes to the eXtreme to Assemble Farthest-Ever View of the Universe (Credit: NASA; ESA; G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R. Bouwens, Leiden University; and the HUDF09 Team)
This image, recently released by NASA, was captured by the orbiting Hubble telescope. Derived from hours of observation, it is the ultimate time exposure, featuring a tiny part of the sky, called the “Ultra Deep Field”, selected for its near-absence of visible light. If you held a pin at arm’s length in the right direction, the head of the pin would cover the entire area—and yet the image contains over five thousand galaxies, including the most distant ever imaged.
Those incredibly distant galaxies appear in the image as very small fuzzy dots with a bluish tinge. The reason for the blue is that most of the light is coming from highly energetic, super-giant stars, hundreds of times larger than our Sun. Those early stars were far too big to be stable and exploded as supernovae very quickly (cosmically speaking). You could say that those sky-shattering supernovae all those billions of years ago were the beginning of life in our universe, because they transformed the almost pure-hydrogen early universe into one containing the heavier elements, and particularly carbon, which is the principal building block of all life.
The light from those distant galaxies is so faint that it had to be amplified 10 billion times to be visible. Limited by the speed of light, it took 13.2 billion years to reach the Hubble telescope. Think about it. This is time travel on the grandest scale. We are seeing our Universe the way it was soon after the very first galaxies formed, in fact right around the time our own galaxy formed. One of those tiny blue specks could be a twin of our home galaxy. It’s like seeing a baby picture of your great, great (and lots more greats) grandfather.
When I showed the image to my next door neighbour, Ralph, and told him I was going to caption it “God’s face revealed”, he took a second, closer, look at the picture and said “I don’t see it… Is it a trick image?”
Ralph’s problem, I realized, was that he, like millions of others, visualises a human-like face (probably with a beard…) when he thinks of God’s image. Does that make sense? Let’s think about it.
The first question to consider is when did God come into being: before or after the birth of the Universe? The answer that makes sense to me, and I think to just about everybody who believes that there is a God, no matter what religion they connect with, is that God is the Creator, therefore He precedes everything…
But we are told with scientific certainty (a) that the universe began, with the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, (b) our home galaxy formed ‘only’ about 500 million years later, (c) our solar system formed out of a giant gas/dust cloud about 4.6 billion years ago, (d) the first mammals larger than a small dog only evolved after the end of the dinosaur era 65 million years ago, and (e) our species, Homo Sapiens, first appeared on Earth about 150 thousand years ago. So does it make sense that God, the Creator, should look like a creature that only appears in His universe 13.7 billion years after creation? I don’t think so. No more than it seems likely that He chose a ragged bunch of nomadic herdsmen in a tiny country that is now called Israel to reveal Himself and chat to one of their number (Abraham)…
Why do so many believers persist in seeing God only through the lens of a book written three thousand years ago? Do they not see that God is so much more than those ignorant, homeless, people could even imagine? In those times Abraham and his circle thought the Earth was flat and the Sun and stars were just ornaments placed there for our enjoyment. Isn’t it time we accepted that we now know so much more?
Let’s face it. The God that created our universe is so much more than the God of the holy books. In fact, “God” (or “Jehovah”, “Eloha”, “Om”, etc.) is just a word that man invented to convey something that was far beyond man’s powers of comprehension—an awesome unknown.
It’s time we trashed our outdated, ignorant, institutionalised concepts of the Creator. Let’s begin by recognising that no word that we can invent will do justice to the imponderability of that entity. As the old saw goes “a picture is better than a thousand words”. Look at the image that prompted this article. That is where you will see God…