It's one of the most fascinating questions you could ask, and one that humanity has been asking since the dawn of time: What lies beyond the known boundaries? What is beyond the edges of our maps? The ultimate version of this question is, "What lies beyond the universe's boundary?" The answer is—well, let's just say that it's tricky. However, only a few months after its launch, the new James Webb Space Telescope has discovered something massive and interesting at the edge of the cosmos that threatens to turn physics on its head. What has the new Space Telescope discovered at the edge of the universe? Why are scientist's ecstatic about it? Join us as we discuss how the JWST recently discovered something massive on the fringes of the observable realm.
In Berlin in 1915, at the height of World War One, Albert Einstein came up with a revolutionary theory of gravity that substituted Newton's, and in 1916, he applied it to the largest source of gravitating mass he knew of: the Universe. Einstein's theory demonstrated that the Universe could not be stationary and had to be in motion, either expanding or contracting. In fact, American astronomer Edwin Hubble observed in 1929 that galaxies were flying apart like cosmic shrapnel in the aftermath of a massive explosion - the Big Bang. This is essentially what we mean by the Universe expanding: the distance between galaxies is increasing. Einstein's theory may readily describe a Universe that stretches on forever and so has no edge, or one that bends back on itself like a higher-dimensional version of a ball's surface and thus has no edge.
In the latter situation, we would need to peer far enough away with our telescopes to see the identical galaxies on opposite ends of the Universe. Others would argue that the Universe has an actual edge because it was born 13.82 billion years ago in the Big Bang. Because of this, the only galaxies that we are able to observe are those whose light has travelled a distance of less than 13.82 billion years to reach us. These galaxies exist in a sphere of space centered on the Earth that we call the ‘observable Universe’. It is actually 92 billion light-years across because the Universe 'expanded' far faster than the speed of light in its first split-second of existence. The observable Universe is bordered by a 'cosmic horizon,' similar to the sea horizon. Just as we know there's more ocean beyond the horizon, we know there's an unlimited number of galaxies beyond the cosmic horizon. Their light simply hasn't reached us yet.
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