Distant Universe, Early Universe

Tanno and Iguda accidentally got launched to the far end of the Universe. The light from these places takes so long to reach Earth, that when telescopes look at really distant galaxies, we are looking back in time.

This illustration shows a timeline of the Universe, stretching from the present day (left) back to the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago (right). The newly discovered galaxy GN-z11 is the most distant galaxy discovered so far, at a redshift of 11.1, which corresponds to 400 million years after the Big Bang. The previous record holder’s position is also identified. Its remote position puts GN-z11 at the beginning of the reionisation era. In this period starlight from the first galaxies started to heat and lift the fog of cold hydrogen gas filling the Universe. The previous record-holding galaxy was seen in the middle of this epoch, about 150 million years later.
How the Hubble Space Telescope sees ‘back in time’. Image credit: ESA, NASA

Tanno and Iguda landed up in a galaxy called MACS0647D. It’s so far away that when we see it here on Earth, the images show the galaxy when it was only 420 million years old. “Only”?!? Well, the Universe is 13.82 thousand million years old, so 420 million years is a very early time in the life of our Universe.

The cosmic background radiation shown with improving resolution from different telescopes.

The cosmic background radiation shows us the energy left over from the Big Bang, which is now spread out across the sky. These three telescopes have mapped it out in different levels of detail.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA


Take a piece of string at least 1.5 metres long and hang it up. Mark a middle section with two marks, exactly 138.2 cm apart. This will be your Timeline for the Universe.

At the first mark, hang a card with the time and event: “0 years, Big Bang”. At the other end mark, hang a card that says, “13.82 billion years, today.”

Make at least six more cards to hang along your timeline. Each one should be placed at the correct position along from the start. You could include that the Milky Way formed 310 million years after the Big Bang, or that the Earth was formed 9.28 billion years after the Big Bang. Human type animals first evolved on Earth about 6 million years ago. Do some research about other events in space to decide what to put on your six cards.

On this scale: 10cm = 1 billion years; 1cm = 100 million years; 1mm = 10 million years.

Activity title image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/A Kashlinsky (Goddard Space Flight Center).

“The Big Bang” video on this page is shown courtesy of kurzgesagt.org who are an amazing science organisation, with some great stuff on their YouTube channel, and in their website shop!