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If The Universe Is 13.8 Billion Years Old, How Can We See 46 Billion Light Years Away?

2 Mar 2018, 15:01 UTC
If The Universe Is 13.8 Billion Years Old, How Can We See 46 Billion Light Years Away?
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An image of the extremely distant Universe, where many of the galaxies are tens of billions of light years away. (NASA, ESA, R. Windhorst, S. Cohen, and M. Mechtley (ASU), R. O’Connell (UVa), P. McCarthy (Carnegie Obs), N. Hathi (UC Riverside), R. Ryan (UC Davis), & H. Yan (tOSU))Distances in the expanding Universe don’t work like you’d expect. Unless, that is, you learn to think like a cosmologist.There are a few fundamental facts about the Universe — its origin, its history, and what it is today — that are awfully hard to wrap your head around. One of them is the Big Bang, or the idea that the Universe began a certain time ago: 13.8 billion years ago to be precise. That’s the first moment we can describe the Universe as we know it to be today: full of matter and radiation, and the ingredients that would eventually grow into stars, galaxies, planets and human beings. So how far away can we see? You might think, in a Universe limited by the speed of light, that would be 13.8 billion light years: the age of the Universe multiplied by the speed of light. But 13.8 billion light years is far ...

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