July’s first-ever James Webb Telescope images two weeks ago showed sharper-than-ever scenes of extremely distant objects – some distorted into lines and arcs by the warping of space created by invisibly distant massive objects. The goal is to ultimately see the earliest stars and galaxies being formed, once the universe became transparent 279,000 years after the Big Bang. These first images from Webb has not yet showed that but hey, we’re still at the starting line.
The universe was a fog before then, and light could not travel freely. But once everything had cooled enough, bits of light flew everywhere while continuously being stretched out – reddened and cooled further – by the expansion of space.
Taking us to today, when we live in a matter-filled cosmos, where we see an amazingly uniform glow of microwave-frequency light evenly coming at us from the entire sky, after having radiated from everywhere with amazing consistency.
So the next milestone would be actually seeing those forming, and James Webb can do the job. Much solid science supports the Big Bang, and we believe it marked the birth of the universe because everything we know from Hostess Cupcakes to postage stamps had a manufacture date. We know of nothing that’s birthless, unless you believe Werner Heisenberg and his Quantum Theory buddies’ belief that things like awareness are eternal.
But even if the universe is eternal, the Big Bang could still have happened. Given the flat overall topology of space discovered by Berkeley researchers in 2012, the Big Bang could merely be a local event in the ‘hood, which means that somewhere deep within the non-observable, most-distant cosmos lurk other Big Bangs.
There’s no evidence for that, but who knows? Maybe lots of universes are expanding independent of each other, each one utterly invisible from any of the others. So yes, maybe there’s much more to all this than meets the eye.