A while back, some astronomer working with Hubble decided to use some of the time to try an experiment. The way I understand it is that it’s like using an SLR camera (wow, remember those?) where the aperture is open for a longer amount of time. And what would happen if you did that would be that anything moving during the time the aperture was open would show up as a blur representing the motion of the object from the time the aperture opened to the time it closed, while everything stationary would just be normal.
So if you did that with a camera on an Earthbound telescope for a long time, say an evening, you would see the planets remain stationary in their orbit relative to the Earth while the stars would rise and set as a result of the rotation of the Earth throughout the night.
But now think of doing this with an orbiting space telescope (like, for example, Hubble) which could focus on a particular point in the sky independent of the Earth’s rotation. Then the more distant objects would remain constant since that’s the focus, while the closer objects would be blurred due to the rotation of other solar systems and galaxies. Somehow they found a way to omit the blurring from the images to observe objects very far away in space/time.
So they did this with a very small point in the night sky and just focused on it for days with the hopes of capturing an actual image of the very early Universe some 13 billion years ago and as many light years away from us. It’s probably as close to traveling through time as we’re ever likely to get.
Anyway, this was all done a while ago, but there is a new one which just came out in the past few days. So here it is (click for the larger, more hi-res pic):
Each one of those little dots are entire fucking galaxies. They’re not stars. They’re billions of stars lumped together by gravity. Fuck.
The galaxies which appear to be red are apparently the farthest away, while the ones that appear blue are closer. But they’re all way further than anyone will ever travel, so it’s safe to just say that they’re all really far.
And remember, this is just a tiny piece of the night sky, stared at by Hubble for 48 hours straight. Other images pointing in different directions look similar, so it’s safe to assume that this is a constant of the Universe and it looks like this in every direction – which kind of makes it difficult to believe that life on Earth is especially important, except insofar as we’re able to even understand this kind of stuff.