Could We See the Edge of the Universe?

  1. Everywhere I've looked, it says that the universe is at, getting to, or already past the speed of light and quickly accelerating. Can we ever get to see the edge of the universe? Could we see it as it was in the past, because it seems we will never see it in the present?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. chroot

    chroot 10,427
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Light travels at a finite velocity. Since the universe is not infinitely old, light from one place in the universe can only have gone some finite distance away from its origin. This means that there are (or at least, could be) things in the universe that are so distant that light from them has not yet had time to reach us.

    The furthest distance an object may be from us and still have had time for its light to reach us is called the 'particle horizon.' Objects which are visible to us are said to be within our 'past light cone.'

    As you mentioned, because the expansion of the universe appears to be accelerating, the number of objects visible in our past light cone is not rising as quickly as the radius of our past light cone. This means the number of objects visible to us is actually going down over time.

    - Warren
     
  4. So, by studying the direction from which everything is moving away, we could theoretically find the point from where the big bang theory began?
     
  5. Yes, but I think there is a cluster of galaxies near us that are moving as a group in the same direction, so if the universe continues expanding forever (if the average density of the universe isn't enough to reverse the expansion from the big bang; called the big freeze theory), eventually we will only be able to see the cluster of galaxies moving in the same direction as us.
     
  6. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 15,942
    Gold Member

    No. There is no centre/the centre is everywhere.
     
  7. if we studied the direction with which everything is receding from us, disregarding local galaxies, we would find that we are at the point where the big bang began...
     
  8. chroot

    chroot 10,427
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    As has been said, there is no "center" of the expansion. Everything is moving away from everything else.

    Some people have likened the expansion of the universe to the rising of a loaf of raisin bread. As the bread rises, every raisin gets further away from every other raisin.

    No matter where you are in the universe, the expansion will look the same -- as though everything is moving away from you.

    - Warren
     
  9. I don't understand. Certain galaxies are moving faster away from us than others are, and this can determined by redshift, right? The farther away a galaxy is, the faster it is moving away. So if you measure the redshift of many different galaxies, shouldn't you be able to develop an idea as to where the lines which they are travelling in converge? And then wouldn't this be approximately the point of the big bang?
     
  10. Ah, that helps a little. But if this is true, then how could there have been a big bang? What would have had to have happened during it to have resulted in the current state of the universe?
     
  11. chroot

    chroot 10,427
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    That's a relatively large question, Sidis, one which I cannot answer appropriately with a forum response. I suggest you pick up a book which includes some cosmology (like Carroll and Ostlie's Introduction to Astrophysics). If you have some specific questions about big-bang cosmology, I can try to answer them, however.

    - Warren
     
  12. Thanks! I was just thinking, the empty space between galaxies is expanding at an increasing speed and faster than the speed of light, right? This doesn't violate Einstein's rule that the speed of light is the maximum speed in the universe because it's empty space that's expanding, correct? So is that basically the main idea of the big-bang theory, that the empty space between the components of an incomprehensibly dense particle expanded in a "bang"?
     
  13. Also, is it true that a galaxy facing North Pole is receding from Earth just as fast as a galaxy facing the south side of Earth if the two galaxies are the same distance from Earth? Or would it depend on how much matter is between Earth and the galaxies?
     
  14. "big bang" was a phrase coined by Fred Hoyle in an effort to discredit the theory (he had his own pet steady state theory). It has nothing to do with an explosion, since when people think of an explosion they think of something expanding into something else. The Universe does not expand into something else.

    Superluminal recession "velocities" do not violate special relativity since nothing is moving through space, rather the space between the observer and the observed is "stretching".
     
  15. Yes indeed, can't recommend that paper enough.
     
  16. Isnt there one possible scenario? That the big bang exploded in a sphere/spherical shape, so everything is moving away from everything else, but there is a common point of origin? And because there are galaxies in front of and behind us, isnt it possible that there is one other galaxy going the same direction as we are?

    If Andromeda is supposed to collide with us, doesnt that defeat the thing about everything moving away from everything else? Am i missing something?
     
  17. chroot

    chroot 10,427
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Yes, you are missing something -- an understanding of non-Euclidean three-dimensional geometry.

    As another analogy, consider the surface of a balloon. This surface is only two-dimensional, rather than three, but illustrates the expansion of the universe quite well. This two-dimensional space is finite, yet has no boundaries.

    Imagine that the balloon was originally very small, and you drew a few dots on its surface, representing galaxies. As you add air to the balloon, all of the dots become further apart. As you blow the balloon up, the two-dimensional space "expands." However, there is no "center" to the expansion -- everything is moving away from everything else. The further two dots are from each other to begin with, the faster they will appear to be moving apart as you blow the balloon up. No matter which dot you consider to be "home base," it looks as it all other dots are moving away from home base, with the same speed/distance depedence.

    Our universe appears to be the same sort of space, only with three dimensions instead of two. The inclusion of another dimension does not, however, affect any of the features I've mentioned.

    - Warren
     
  18. But once you "take the air out of the balloon", wouldnt all those dots come back to a certain area? Or are you saying that the dots were never at the same point in the first place?

    Andromeda?
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2006
  19. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 15,942
    Gold Member

    There's an ant living on every dot. Each ant looks around his universe and sees the other nearby ants. When the balloon is expanding he sees every other ant on every other dot receding from him. Nearby ants-on-dots are receding slowly, ants on more distant dots are receding faster. All ants are (on average) receding.

    Now reverse it. When the balloon is deflating, each ant sees every other ant-on-a-dot rushing towards it.

    Each ant sees himself at the centre of the universe. Which one is right?


    You, in your 3D view of the balloon may be able to point to the centre of the balloon, but the ants, living only in two dimensional surface, can only point to a spot on the surface of the balloon. Can any ant point to the center of expansion/contraction? Well, yes, sort of, they all point at the dot under their own feet!
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2006
  20. Suppose that one ant, smarter than the rest, takes into calculation his position and movement relative to the other ants and their positions and movements and creates an equation for a line and figures that the center of the balloon is somewhere on that line, and he is moving away from it, so now he knows what direction in which to look. Then, this smart little ant figures out an equation for another ant on another dot. He finds where the two lines intersect and figures that must be the center of the balloon, and he then checks this with another line from a third dot... etc.

    Ants are next in line for big brains... Just kidding.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share a link to this question via email, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook