Astronomy Makes Time Travel Possible

When scientists look at a faraway celestial object, they are seeing it as it existed millions and millions of years ago, because it takes so long for light from the object to reach Earth.

Variable star V838 Monocerotis
“Variable star V838 Monocerotis”
credit: Hubble (NASA/ESA)
Today the world’s best telescopes can look back in time and see stars, galaxies and planets as they were upto 11 billion years ago

Astronomers can therefore “travel back in time” using equipment like the Hubble Space Telescope because light takes a long time to cross the vast interstellar distances in Space even though it zooms along at 299792.458 km/s

For example the rays of sunlight hitting earth this very second took 8 min 19.3 sec to travel from the Sun to Earth.

Similarly, Proxima Centauri is the closest star to our Sun and light from it takes 4.3 years to reach us on Earth.

So when Astronomers view Proxima Centauri through their telescopes they’re actually seeing it as it was 4.3 years in the past. If it imploded right now than we wouldn’t know until we looked at it 4.3 years from now.

Once telescopes became advanced enough to see outside our cluster of galaxies Astronomers could see see objects in space like galaxies as they were during the early age of Dinosaurs … a time that pre-dated our species.

If our telescopes could see far enough, in theory we should be able to see far enough back in time to the beginning of the universe … the big bang.

Few things can let us see further out into the past than the Hubble space telescope operated by NASA and the ESA. Orbiting nearly 600km above us, Hubble is freed from the optical distorting effects of Earth’s atmosphere.

Sadly the lifespan of the revered Hubble telescope is nearing an end, however the good news is that a telescope arms race is taking shape around the world.

Astronomers are drawing up plans for the biggest, most powerful instruments ever constructed, capable of peering far deeper into the universe – and further back in time – than ever before.

Ring Nebula, M 57, NGC 6720, IRAS 18517+3257, Messier 57
“Ring Nebula NGC 6720”
credit: Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA/ESA)

The building boom, which is expected to play out over the next decade and cost billions of dollars, is being driven by technological advances that afford unprecedented clarity and magnification.

In fact, the super-sized telescopes will yield even finer pictures than the Hubble Space Telescope, which was put in orbit in 1990 and was long considered superior because its view was freed from the distorting effects of Earth’s atmosphere.

“We know almost nothing about the universe in its early stages,” said Carnegie Observatories director Wendy Freedman, who chairs the board that is building the Giant Magellan Telescope.

“The GMT is going to see in action the first stars, the first galaxies, the first supernovae, the first black holes to form.”

The new telescopes will be so powerful that they should be able to gaze back to a couple of hundred million years after the Big Bang, which scientists believe happened 13.7 billion years ago. That’s where all the action is
– source: CNN

Explore the Universe From Your Computer


  • Celestia – a free space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions. Celestia runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Unlike most planetarium software, Celestia doesn’t confine you to the surface of the Earth. You can travel throughout the solar system, to any of over 100,000 stars, or even beyond the galaxy.

    Over 10Gb of add-ons like textures, models or celestial objects are available at Celestia Motherlode

  • Stellarium is an open source desktop planetarium for Linux/Unix, Windows and MacOSX. It renders the skies in real-time using OpenGL, which means the skies will look exactly like what you see with your eyes, binoculars, or a small telescope. Stellarium is very simple to use, which is one of its biggest advantages: it can easily be used by beginners.
  • Microsoft World Wide Telescope – The WorldWide Telescope is a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes to enable seamless, guided explorations of the universe.

    WorldWide Telescope, created with Microsoft’s high-performance Visual Experience Engine, enables seamless panning and zooming across the night sky blending terabytes of images, data and stories from multiple sources over the Internet into a media-rich, immersive experience.

  • Google Sky – Google Sky includes a number of different ways to explore the universe. The initial view shows the visible universe and is a mosaic of images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Digitized Sky Survey and the Hubble Space Telescope

18 thoughts on “Astronomy Makes Time Travel Possible”

  1. It’s not actually time travel… It’s more like an optical illusion, because we see a different thing than what is really going on there at the present time.

  2. What does google not do? I checked out google sky, which I had never heard of before and was amazed how cool it is. I am not Mr. Science but found myself on the site for about 15 minutes just messing around. Thanks for showing me this tool.

  3. Wow some of those pictures look fantastic. I’ve always been interested in time travel ever since I saw the film 12 monkeys.

  4. That is a great thought. I love staring up at the stars, especially when I’m in the middle of nowhere, but I rarely think about the fact that those lights could be millions of years old…that some might even be long since gone. What an amazing thing this universe is! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Photos from outer space always have such a surreal feel to them. Hard to believe they’re “real”. Should be interesting to see what the newer telescopes will reveal.

  6. This is absolutely COOL. I’m still amazed at that whole concept of light traveling, and how we’re seeing an “echo” of what’s really going on. I’ll have to check out Google Sky.

  7. You could say that our reality is an illusion! We generally tend to believe in everything we see, but maybe we are living in the past, and our perception of reality is just some kind of energy leftovers? Grate article!

  8. This is very interesting. I never really thought that the light we see from the sun or from any of the stars, takes that long. Well, not that it actually seems like that long. I guess we just live in a world of having everything instantly there for us, that we forget the most beautiful things take time. I can’t wait until the new powerful telescopes are developed because it will show us amazing images.

  9. I always believed in the possibility of a time machine and the way you have manipulated the relation of time machine with the speed of light is just amazing. With these beautiful images your article is the best of its kind I ever found on internet.

  10. Well it is not practically possible that astronauts can reverse the time and we can go back into our pasts. But its really an interesting phenomenon and even then its very interesting to imagine and visualize.

  11. “Once telescopes became advanced enough to see outside our cluster of galaxies Astronomers could see see objects in space like galaxies as they were during the early age of Dinosaurs … a time that pre-dated our species.”

    That’ll be pretty awesome if we can do that. I wonder if its possible to even reverse that somehow and see how the earth looked like in a pre-dated time. That’ll be doubly awesome.


  12. I love stargazing in my neighborhood in Bountiful, Utah; it’s so nice to be able to see the stars after living in the city for so many years. I should get a telescope so I can see this stuff!

  13. I was watching this Asian dude on this channel and he was talking about this, also about teleportation. He says it is possible, but his theories are stupid. He says you’d have to build a planet size dome ( if you did not have this coating you wouldn’t make it) and put a spaceship in it and go out towards a black hole (which in the middle of black holes are wormholes)

    You go through the wormhole in order to go back in time. But they’d have to build that planet size dome so none of your atoms disolves. You’d never be able to go back in time with this though, would you risk your life? And how in the world do you build something the size of a planet?

    Anyways, that’s all I know about it. But I find it impossible. Just think about it, how would you go back in time when the past is done with? You can’t take back time.

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