December 8, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Galaxy-Spangled Banner Unfurled

The Hubble team has unveiled a new deep field image of distant galaxies, the “Hubble Ultra Deep Field Infrared WFC3/IR.”  The image, available at the HubbleSite, was taken with the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) installed during the latest servicing mission.
    It’s been 5 years since the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (03/09/2004; see APOD) and almost 14 years since the initial Hubble Deep Field (1996; see APOD) that awed the world with revelations of the wonders to be found in a tiny patch of blank sky.  The new image, which took 4 days and 173,000 seconds of exposure time to produce, hones in on a portion of the 2004 Ultra field at infrared wavelengths.  The press release explains what is seen:

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made the deepest image of the universe ever taken in near-infrared light.  The faintest and reddest objects in the image are galaxies that formed 600 million years after the Big BangNo galaxies have been seen before at such early times.  The new deep view also provides insights into how galaxies grew in their formative years early in the universe’s history.

Space.com and PhysOrg posted information on the image, with a video on the latter zooming into the field of view.
    The fact that we can see galaxies so far back presents another problem.  New Scientist reported that “The universe is far more transparent at high energies than we thought.”  Astronomers are perplexed that distant blazars are brighter than they should be if theories of how high-energy photons interact with infrared photons is correct.  It seems to suggest that the infrared background left over from star formation in early galaxies is at the lower limit of expectations.  “The amount of infrared is really right at the minimum you would expect from what we know about star formation and evolution,” says Rene Ong (UCLA).  “It’s becoming a problem.”

We are blessed to live in a privileged time, when high-technology telescopes are bringing sights like this home (compare with this stunning naked-eye view on APOD).  If the heavens declared the glory of God to the shepherd boy David, how much more do they today?
    Notice that the astronomers seemed surprised to see whole galaxies existing just 600 million years after the Big Bang.  It’s another confirmation of the “lumpiness problem” in cosmology, in which structure appears abruptly as far back as we see.  And the amount of infrared light expected from “what we know about star formation and evolution” (where know means thought we knew) is out of sync.  What’s at fault: theory, or observation?  Astronomers tend to get cocky about what they think they know about star formation (example at PhysOrg).  Science should favor observation.
    What about all this talk of billions of years, though?  What do Biblical creationists do about the light-distance and time problem?  First, recognize that it’s a problem for the Big Bang theory as well (see CMI article).  Second, a Biblical solution may be simpler than you think.  Consider one example: an explanation by Dr. Jason Lisle posted by 4th Day Alliance.

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Categories: Astronomy, Cosmology, Physics

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