In the first chapter of my book, I compare the story of God in Scripture to the unfolding story of our expanding universe. I ran across a fantastic little editorial piece last week and wanted to share it in its entirety below (original link here). What an amazing universe this is, and what a big, unfolding story we’re living.
“In April, NASA’s space-based Swift satellite sent back a text message announcing that it had detected a gamma-ray burst, the remains of an extraordinarily violent explosion that ended the life of a distant star. Since then, astronomers using ground-based telescopes have been able to measure the spectrum of the burst’s infrared afterglow and estimate its distance from Earth.
When you look at the stars, you are looking at light that comes from the past. This gamma-ray burst, officially GRB 090423, is, in fact, the most distant, and oldest object, yet detected in our universe; it is some 13.1 billion light-years away. In other words, this is the vestige of an explosion that took place a mere (when it comes to the life of the universe) 630 million years after the Big Bang.
Light coming to us from such a distance is stretched because the universe is expanding. The greater the stretching — called redshift — the more distant the object. The previous most-distant object, a galaxy, has a redshift of 6.96. GRB 090423 has a redshift of 8.2 and appears to observers as an extremely red point of light. When that explosion took place, the universe was more than nine times smaller than it is now.
It’s one thing to explore such remote recesses of time in theory. It’s something else again to witness their afterglow. And GRB 090423 is an invitation for all of us to unfetter our imaginations. We imagine looking outward from that distant point knowing that our own exploration still lies some 13 billion years in the future.”