Universe

The most distant galaxy in the universe Astrophysics

The most distant galaxy in the universe

How large is the universe? As large as the most distant object we can detect, might be one answer. But this is not quite true: The most distant visible object only marks the boundaries of the observable universe. This could be GN-z11. A team of astronomers used the Keck I telescope to measure the distance to this ancient galaxy. They found that GN-z11 is not only the oldest galaxy, but also the most distant. It is so far away that it actually defines the boundary of the observable universe itself. The team hopes its study can shed light on a…
How the universe heats up Astrophysics

How the universe heats up

Shortly after the Big Bang, in the Planck era, the universe was about 1032 Kelvin hot. Afterwards it expanded rapidly and cooled down as the energy spread over an ever larger space. By and large, this process should continue as long as the universe expands - an end to the expansion is not yet in sight, on the contrary. But there is a process that counteracts this cooling - at least temporarily. It is easy to understand. When 10,000 people go home from a football stadium, the mood cools down initially as the density of people decreases. But when…
Why the brain and the cosmos are structurally similar Astrophysics

Why the brain and the cosmos are structurally similar

The human brain has a volume of a about one liter (0,26 gallons, man: 1.27 l, woman: 1.13 l), i.e. one cubic decimeter or 0.001 cubic meter. The universe, on the other hand, has a volume of 2.3 million billion trillion cubic light years. Obviously, this is a huge difference of over 30 orders of magnitude. Nevertheless, both structures, the network of galaxies that criss-crosses the universe and the neural network in the brain, have surprising similarities, as Franco Vazza (astrophysicist at the University of Bologna) and Alberto Feletti (neurosurgeon at the University of Verona) note in a paper…
Fascinating images from the beginning of the universe Astrophysics

Fascinating images from the beginning of the universe

Next to theory and experiments, simulations are one of the most important tools used in research today. Occasionally, scientists develop theories that cannot be tested using today’s practice or technology. Here, a simulation might then be able to point the theoretical physicist where he or she needs to look. Other times, it might happen that there are two different theories that could be suitable for describing reality. If simulations are built based on both theories, their results can sometimes separate the significant from the useless. And sometimes it also happens that there isn’t any theory yet, only data from…
Born from dust: merging proto-galaxies in the early universe Space

Born from dust: merging proto-galaxies in the early universe

As an object of research, the universe is an enviable and unenviable object at the same time. Unenviable because it is really, really big and all of us can only observe it from a single position that is not optimal at all (imagine you had to take all of your photos through the keyhole of your bedroom’s closet door – even pictures of your living room!). Enviable because it permits a look into its own past. Not like a human, who sees his or her own past in their gray hair and wrinkled skin, but instead “as it actually…