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Mr. Witman Explains: The Big Bang Nearly

Hubble Extreme Deep Field. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Away from the bright lights of Los Angeles, generations of humans have stared up at a cloudless night sky. The overwhelming number of stars can both inspire us and leave us speechless. Looking into the expanse of time and space begs questions about other galaxies, the universe and our own significance.
What would you see if your eyes could peer deep into the dark space “between” stars? What if you had the ability to see back in time billions of years, almost to the creation of the universe? Nearly 20 years ago, the astronomers in charge of the Hubble Space Telescope decided to seek answers to these questions.
Over a period of ten consecutive days in 1995, Hubble took 342 separate exposures in a variety of wavelengths. The target area was a tiny patch of dark sky in the region of Ursa Major, just above the Big Dipper where the handle meets the bowl.  Sophisticated image processing techniques assembled these images to create what is known as the Hubble Deep Field.
What the Hubble Deep Field revealed was simply astounding. The final image displayed almost 3,000 galaxies representing ages up to 12 billion years. The Deep Field is a window into space and time, and researchers have mined its wealth of information for years. This September astronomers released the latest version, dubbed Hubble Extreme Deep Field. The Extreme Deep Field combines ten years of Hubble photographs to give us the deepest look into space yet. The furthest visible galaxies are so distant their light took 13.2 billion years to arrive at Earth, a mere 500 million years after the estimated time of the Big Bang.
Consider for a moment that the thousands of galaxies within the Hubble Deep Field occupy a mere 1/24 millionth of our sky. To put things in perspective, this would be about the area of sky visible if you were looking upward through an eight-foot straw.  A rough estimate based on the Hubble Deep Field suggests that there are over 200 trillion galaxies in the universe. Each of these galaxies contains billions of stars.
The vastness of the universe and the billions of years it has existed simply cannot be comprehended. The Hubble’s discoveries have implications that go beyond cold facts. To anyone who thinks science is devoid of emotion, I ask them to look at the Hubble Deep Field. It can challenge us mentally, emotionally and spiritually like nothing on Earth.