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"Mysteries of Deep Space"
Program 1: "To the Edge of the Universe"

Narrator Today, astronomers have opened a stunning new window on the universe.

As we peer ever deeper into space, we travel farther back in time.

Margaret Geller
This idea that we can map the universe and see its history is a testament to our imagination and our desire to explore.

Mark Dickinson
How far away are these things? Are they little dwarfs nearby, are they starforming protogalactic subfragments? What are they?

Narrator
Now, to a distant horizon we venture: To the very brink of time and space...


Series Title: "Mysteries Of Deep Space"
Program Title: "To the Edge of the Universe"


Narrator
Its stars number one hundred billion. It is so vast it takes seventy thousand years for light to travel across its expanse. For more than a hundred million centuries, it has defied the eternal night of space.

Our Milky Way is but one galaxy out of billions of others. And yet, behind its luminous veil, amid the chaos of gas and stars, is a small wonder...

Nine tiny planets, united by little more than their orbits. In their embrace, a star of no particular distinction.

Within their sphere, a world of singular importance...

Ian Garland
Are we there yet?

Don Garland<P> Not yet, but we're getting there.

Narrator
As far as we know, our planet Earth is the one place in all the cosmos where Creation has allowed itself a few admirers. Chief among them, the Garland family of Fort Worth, Texas.

Don Garland
Shelly and I first started coming out to the Davis Mountains when we were still in college. And we were first introduced to the mountains together and the nighttime skies right out here at the state park.

Narrator
Fifteen years ago, Shelly and Don Garland helped organize what has become the largest gathering of stargazers on earth.

A hundred and fifty miles from the lights of the nearest city, the Texas Star Party will take place under night skies as dark as any in the United States.

For six nights each spring, up to seven hundred stargazers descend on this remote cattle ranch, to roll out their telescopes.

Man 1
Welcome to the dust bowl. The Texas Star Party.

Narrator
They come geared up with precision mirrors and equatorial fork mounts. Sophisticated computers and star tracking software. The sky's the limit.

Man 2
This is the most exercise you get in the course of an evening, is taking the top off.

Man 3
There's no hangover. I don't kill off any brain cells. I'm with a great group of people. I can't think of a better thing to do.

Miles
The Ring Nebula, Jupiter, Venus, M13.

Narrator
For the Garlands, the Star Party is part vacation, part pilgrimage. This trip marks an important right of passage.

Shelly Garland
Yes, we're here!

Ian Garland
Yeah!

Narrator
Ten-year old Ian has attended every year of his life. This year he'll get his first telescope -- And take his place amid the community of amateur astronomers.

Man 3
There's a lot of things out there people never realize are out there. Just seein' these points up in the sky that don't really mean anything, they're just white dots. But there are all kinds of things out there, just unbelievable to see.

Narrator
As night approaches in West Texas, a thousand eyes are at the ready.

For stargazers around the world, the secrets of creation are emblazoned across the heavens. But even as the universe beckons us to explore, it also challenges us with its incomprehensible distances, and staggering voids.

Stan Woosley
As we discover more and more and the universe seemingly gets larger and larger and more complex, vaster, there's the tendency perhaps to think that humans' role in this diminishes with time. But, for me, anyway, it's like learning my world better. I feel larger, the more I understand. I don't understand the purpose of it all at this point, but at least I begin to understand my place in it.

Narrator
Today, the science of astronomy is being transformed by a new age of technological advances. On mountaintops around the world, scientists are opening ever larger telescopes, capturing light from ever more distant reaches of the universe.

That light may have traveled millions, even billions, of years to reach us. By the time it does, it offers a window into the distant past.

Sandy Faber
These giant telescopes, they are the only true time machines that human beings have and they are totally faithful. There's nothing hokey about this. You look through a giant telescope, you get a view of a very distant region of space, and it is as though you were a historian and could put your eye to a telescope and actually see Hannibal crossing the Alps and all those elephants trotting along. We are actually seeing the universe and the things in it behaving as they did billions of years ago.

Narrator
The deeper into space we peer, the farther back in time we venture. This notion that we can study the history of the cosmos is only a few decades old.

Early in this century, astronomers believed that the universe was eternal, infinite and unchanging.

Our solar system, they found, is nestled within a flat, rotating disc we now know as our galaxy, the Milky Way. But they envisioned our galaxy as the whole of the cosmos. Beyond lay only the blackness of space.

Albert Einstein, for one, defended this model of a static universe, but he recognized an implicit flaw. Gravity ought to cause stars and gas to collapse into a common center. Instead, he proposed, an unknown "repellent force" somehow keeps them apart.

This vision was about to be shattered. In 1917, after fifteen years in construction, a powerful new telescope, mounted on a summit above Pasadena, California was opened.

The Hooker Telescope was hailed as a technological marvel. At one hundred inches wide, its mirror was by far the largest ever built.

Paul Davies
A hundred years ago, there was a feeling that if you just got enough money together and built a bigger telescope, then you'd see further and it would just be more of the same. What happened with the 100-inch telescope is that it was a lot more than just more of the same. In fact, it was a fundamental reappraisal of the nature of the universe.

Narrator
Among the parade of astronomers, a young newcomer arrived fresh from service in World War One. Edwin Hubble was interested in mysterious cloud-like objects known as nebulae.

He turned the new telescope on the fabled Andromeda nebula.

Sandy Faber
Andromeda was very important to Hubble because astronomers were wondering what all these little fuzzy blobs that we now call galaxies were. And there were lots of astronomers who thought that they were small little things that were just pieces of the Milky Way. But Hubble was able to discover stars in Andromeda that were -- that he could see were very much like stars in our own galaxy. And at this point everything clicked into place. He got the scale. He could see that it was far away. It was big. There was no way that it was a little piece of our own Milky Way.

Narrator
Hubble discovered that the universe contains other galaxies -- that it's far larger than we dared imagine. But he didn't stop there. He analyzed the light of distant galaxies, and found that it is skewed slightly to the red.

This "redshift" is the result of the "Doppler Effect." It's like the sound of a train whistle that changes pitch as it speeds past. The redder the galaxy's light, the farther away it is, and the faster it is moving away from us. The universe, Hubble found, is not static, but expanding rapidly in all directions.

Margaret Geller
And it expands according to a very simple law, and I have a tiny piece of the universe here that shows that. So the black elastic here represents the stretching space of the universe and these -- these stars represent galaxies. So if I stretch the universe, the galaxies move apart. They recede from each other. The universe is expanding. And they recede from each other in such a way that the velocity is just proportional to their separation. So if I sit on this guy, this moves at some velocity, this at twice that, this at three times that. And it's the same for this guy, this guy who's at velocity V, 2V, 3V. Anywhere I sit, I see the same law.

Narrator
The importance of Hubble's discovery eluded most of the world -- but not one visitor.

Newsreel narrator

Dr. Einstein, who gave the world its biggest headache, is back in California again with his wife. Now he's going to the Institute of Technology in Pasadena to work with other distinguished scientists...

Narrator
In 1931, Einstein lent his prestige to Hubble's discovery. He conceded that his own model of the universe was wrong. It was not a "repellent force" that kept the universe from collapsing... only its relentless expansion.

News traveled fast -- all the way to Hubble's hometown paper in Missouri.

Paul Davies
In my mind, there's no doubt that Hubble's discovery that the universe is expanding was the most important scientific discovery of this century. And the reason is that without an expanding universe, it's impossible to make sense of the idea that the universe has a finite age, that it came into being a finite time in the past.

Sandy Faber
This discovery had a profound consequence. If the universe is getting larger, we can make a movie, a cosmic movie, and we can run it backwards. It would look very comical. All the galaxies would be getting closer together and we can see that the expansion of the universe implies that there was a first moment, a Big Bang.

Narrator
All the universe can be traced back to a single explosive event. This idea launched the modern science of cosmology.

Like Hubble before them, astronomers today place galaxies in time and space by measuring how far their light is shifted to the red.

To understand the sheer scale of the universe, they are working to translate these readings to actual distances. Slowly, they are discerning the size and layout of the universe -- one stolen glimpse at a time...

Bob Kirshner
It's going to be a good night tonight. We're going to get something done. We're going to find out how big the universe is, we're going to find out what shape it is, and we're going to find out what kind of shape we're in. It's gonna' be fun. Hope the equipment works. I always worry about the equipment.

Narrator
Astronomer Robert Kirshner has come to Mt. Hopkins in Arizona to study what may be an ideal mileage marker: a kind of star that goes out in a blaze of glory.

Bob Kirshner
Alright, this is supernova 1996, number 13. And it's going to be record number 42 on the disk.

Narrator
It is a supernova: an event so rare it happens only once a century in most galaxies.

Bob Kirshner
We can see these things. They really exist. A single star becomes as bright as a billion stars. And that means you can see these things in distant galaxies.

The whole star explodes suddenly and you get a violent explosion, a nuclear explosion in which the nuclear fuel that's carbon and oxygen burns very, very rapidly in a kind of burning flame.

Narrator
A supernova is a cosmic flare, providing a singular chance to measure the distance to its host galaxy. Kirshner can calculate how bright this type of supernova should be. So the dimmer one appears from earth, the farther away it must be.

Bob Kirshner
This is a picture taken while the Supernova 1994D was still bright. And so this is the supernova. It's a star in that galaxy that exploded. These things are so bright you can see them out halfway across the universe. That star isn't there anymore and the light from it came to us and, you know, we saw it a couple of years ago.

Narrator
Because the supernovae Kirshner is studying are so far away, they are dim indeed.

Bob Kirshner
So the standard star is something like 20,000 counts in a minute, right? What we're seeing for the object is something like one count per minute...roughly speaking. Right?

Narrator
The telescope counts light particles. But by the time these "photons" reach us, precious few land on the telescope.

Bob Kirshner
That's it. We should expect it to be that faint. We should expect it to take forever.

Narrator
After long hours of recording, the telescope at last captures its image.

Bob Kirshner
Okay, here we go. Ahhhohhhh, look at that, a little streak down the middle. It's much better than the last one. Alright, all we have to do is do this for another two hours and we'll have some kind of signal.

Narrator
Gone are the days when professional astronomers huddled over their telescopes in the cold of night, painstakingly logging their findings. Today computers do most of the work, leaving observers time to... ponder.

Once a distance scale is finally in hand, it can be applied to a much larger project -- one astronomers pioneered in the 1980s: to discover the very structure of the universe.

It was long assumed that the Big Bang created a sprawl of galaxies spread uniformly across space. That it might, instead, have a more complex structure seized the imaginations of scientists.

...Among them, Margaret Geller.

Margaret Geller
You can ask lots of questions in science that you can't answer. Either because the technology isn't there, or because you just haven't defined it well enough. So if you ask, "What does the universe look like?" The universe is huuuge! So what are you gonna' do? You have to figure out how to map a little piece of it wisely chosen so that it will tell you something in answer to a very precisely defined question.

Narrator
That question, for Geller and her colleagues, was whether a narrow slice of the universe could reveal a pattern on the largest of scales. She set out to actually begin mapping the universe.

Margaret Geller
We mapped the distribution of galaxies in this first slice of the universe not expecting to find pattern, because the prejudice was the pattern isn't there. And when we plotted the data we saw this pattern which has become very famous, it's known as the stick man. So here you can see there's a very striking pattern... there are large empty regions where there are very few galaxies and these regions are a hundred and fifty million light years across. But most of the galaxies are in thin structures which surround, or nearly surround these empty regions. And I must say that the experience of seeing this very striking stick man pattern was the kind of thrill that I think people are very fortunate to have once in their lives. You just wonder how could it be that you are one of the first three people to see this.

Narrator
Geller's first wedge extended roughly 700 million light years into space, and contained a thousand galaxies. They skirt the perimeter of vast empty spaces, which she likens to bubbles.

But is the pattern in Geller's slice a fluke or a phenomenon? She set her sights even farther afield.

Now, more than seven times the galaxies are plotted over a wider area. They are drawn in expansive sheets of matter that encircle enormous voids.

Margaret Geller
I think there is some kind of fundamental human attraction to patterns in nature. Many times when I've given public lectures, especially to young people, I ask them whether they would prefer... suppose they could design the universe any way they wanted. How would they stick galaxies around the universe? Would they just throw them out like grains of salt? Or would they make a pattern? And every single audience I've ever talked to, they all want to make a pattern.

Narrator
How did the universe gain such definition? The answer is written in microwave radiation that bathes the earth from all directions... the afterglow of the Big Bang.

There were slight variations in the density of the primordial gas. Over time gravity amplified them, and drew matter into a vast web.

Cosmologists are using their newest tool, the supercomputer, to envision how the universe then evolved.

Out of patches of stars and gas, galaxies began to coalesce.

While the universe as a whole expanded, gravity held these evolving star systems in clusters.

Some merged, or were swallowed by others. To this day, violent duels continue to erupt between galaxies. Their immense gravity sets them on a collision course.

They cross paths... leaving behind vast trails of stars and gas to mark the encounter.

In the aftermath, whole new galaxies emerge.

Margaret Geller
So this is about the size of the bright region of the galaxy. It's amazing, gives you some idea of what a fine technology is needed...

Narrator
Margaret Geller is now part of an international effort to map galaxies in ever larger portions of the universe. For her, the task will be that much easier, thanks to an instrument that will be attached to the base of a telescope.

A pair of robots will deploy three hundred fiber optic sensors. Each sensor will capture the light of a single galaxy, then move on to another. They'll capture thousands each night -- a hundred thousand per year.

The robots, light on their feet, are nicknamed Fred and Ginger.

Dan
We'll pretend to be a Hectospec Robot. You can be Ginger. I'll be Fred.

Margaret
Okay, I'm a lot less graceful than Ginger here. I can barely reach this thing.

Narrator
Geller believes that with technology advancing at its present rate, new generations of astronomers will have mapped the entire visible universe by the end of the next century.

Margaret Geller
This idea that we can map the universe and see its history is a testament to our imagination and our desire to explore. It's these things that really make us human. It's an extraordinary thing that we can ask these things about our grandest environment and I think that it's even more extraordinary that we can answer them.

Narrator
The telescope that will house Geller's instrument is itself a milestone.

Construction at the University of Arizona began with tons of glass, melted, then spun into shape. After months of polishing, workers are now mounting a strategic attack on a few remaining imperfections: specks of dirt. Their precision tools: a box of toothpicks, and some solvent.

Bound for Mt. Hopkins, this is one of the largest optical mirrors in existence.

But even the best ground telescopes are at a disadvantage. As far as the light of the universe has traveled to reach us, its way is blocked in its final mile by the blurring effects of our atmosphere.

We are learning to cancel these distortions with computers and sophisticated optics. But astronomers are now realizing an even loftier ambition...

To capture the pristine light of the universe with a telescope positioned in space.

In 1990, astronauts placed the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit 200 miles above the Earth. Its mirror was designed to produce images a hundred times sharper than the best telescopes on the ground.

Then disaster struck. A flaw in Hubble's optics impaired its vision. The world's astronomers despaired. The largest investment ever in astronomy, nearly two billion dollars, seemed utterly lost in space.

Three years later, astronauts returned to Hubble's side. The nation looked on as they undertook painstaking repairs, against seemingly impossible odds.

Within weeks, the suspense was rewarded with images of breathtaking clarity.

Amid the rush of accomplishments, Hubble showed its true forte: capturing visions of galaxies deep in the universe.

Margaret Geller
As we look out in space, we look back in time. And today, with large telescopes on the ground and with Space Telescope, we can look at galaxies as they were five billion, even ten billion years ago. Very near, galaxies which are very young. And we can see, in fact we can measure from the ground, how galaxies were distributed. So the historical record is there for us to observe.

Narrator
The Hubble Space Telescope is probing regions billions of light years away, when the universe was far younger than it is today.

There, galaxies have blotchy, distorted shapes. They are pocked with the bright blue signature of myriad stars being born.

Sandy Faber
One of the most exciting things about these really distant galaxies is that they look quite different from nearby galaxies. They look very disturbed, very irregular.

And then there are all these little specks, tiny specks and blobs that don't look anything like galaxies nearby. Those are probably the little bits and pieces, the little building blocks, ah, the little galactic Leggo pieces out of which galaxies were forming at a very early time.

Narrator
Today, astronomers are using Hubble to extend the very limits of what we can see. Mark Dickinson studies the origins of galaxies.

Mark Dickinson
It's a great time to be an astronomer because you have new tools like the Hubble Space Telescope to study extremely faint objects which can't really be probed in any other way.

Narrator
Dickinson led one of Hubble's first projects after the repair. He and colleagues discovered a group of galaxies eight billion light years away. It was, for a time, the most distant cluster ever glimpsed.

Now he is part of an ambitious new venture known as the Hubble Deep Field.

The project will zero in on a tiny patch of sky near the Big Dipper that is no larger than a grain of sand held at arms length. To most ground-based telescopes, the target area appears utterly void of galaxies or stars.

Mark Dickinson
The idea of this project is to go as deep and faint as the telescope can be pushed to go and see the faintest galaxies. Those don't even show up in individual exposures for the most part. They're so faint that there's not enough light for them to record an adequate signal on one exposure. But this is one of 50 or so that we'll be taking through, say, this one particular filter over the course of ten days.

Man 1
Do you always display in linear?

Narrator
The project has drawn a team of astronomers from around the world. Already, images of distant galaxies are beginning to take shape.

Mario Livio
This one I would have thought was a spiral...

Andy Fruchter
But it has no nucleus, or several...

Narrator
They're counting on this venture to shed light on how the universe, and its galaxies, evolved from the earliest times.

Astronomer
It would be hard to imagine that a galaxy would end up looking like that.

Narrator
The question is: just how deep in the universe has Hubble delivered them?

Bob Williams
That is really a great part of the field.

Sandy Faber
Now we can build bigger and bigger telescopes and see even farther out into space. And the limits of how far we can see galaxies now are about ten or maybe 14 billion light-years. This is assuming that the universe as a whole is about 15 billion years old. So the farthest we could see is 15 billion years because that's all the time that light has had to travel, and that's the edge of our visual patch. It's called our horizon.

Narrator
For now, it seems, Hubble's view of that horizon is obscured.

Mark Dickinson
Some things change from exposure to exposure, which are all cosmic rays. And by filtering and by comparing at a given position, and throwing away anything that strongly deviates, you remove the cosmic rays and end up with a combined image that looks like this. And that's the basic cleaning process that we do.

Harry Ferguson
Scattered light's getting into the telescope...

Narrator
Then there's glare from the sun.

Andy Fruchter
We're gonna try subtracting out these patterns independently...

Narrator
At last the team begins its major work: to enhance details within the galaxies.

They repeatedly shift Hubble's position slightly off center. In the coming days, they'll overlay the varying images, and refine them pixel by pixel.

Inga Heyer
I take one picture like this. Shift a millimeter, take it again. Shift a millimeter, take it again. So I'm taking the same picture, but it's slightly different positions, so I get a better sample. Then you combine the information from all that, and you get a better resolution. Is that sort of roughly right?

Andy Fruchter
If you've ever watched on television, when they block out someone's face and put on these large pixel squares. We have something like that...we have a face blocked out by large pixel squares. And if someone gave you the original videotape with those large pixel squares, you could, using a technique like this, reconstruct that person's face.

Narrator
Barely a month after the Hubble Deep Field began, it's time for the big unveiling.

In recent years, the annual gathering of the American Astronomical Society has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. This year, the Deep Field is center stage.

It's an hour before curtain. What better time to address an important question: how many galaxies are there in the universe?

Mark Dickinson
I like a hundred billion because it's like roughly the number of stars in the galaxy. I think we'd better not push our catalogue verbally too far.

Narrator
It boils down to simple math. Take the number of galaxies in the Deep Field and multiply across the full extent of the sky -- give or take a few billion.

Mark Dickinson
...that works out to a hundred billion across the sky, nice number. So we're talking about fifty billion roughly.

Narrator
The winning number: fifty billion galaxies.

Bob Williams
This is a large blow up of it, done by a photographic lab. In which you see a very small region of the sky, ten days of exposures and you can see a myriad of galaxies. There are roughly 1,500 of them.

Mark Dickinson
As Bob described, this is basically a blank patch of the sky which if you look at with a modest sized ground based telescope, at one of the sky survey prints, you see almost nothing...one or two galaxies. The statistics, the sheer numbers are impressive, but by itself that's not really enough. We can count the galaxies in this image and say, my god there's a lot of them, but we don't know what they are. We need to understand what these galaxies are, we need to understand how far away they are, what their properties are before we learn anything about galaxy evolution from a picture like this.

Narrator
Now revealed in stunning detail: the distant frontiers of time and space.

The early universe, it seems, is a jumble of twisted shapes and cosmic question marks.

Ultimately, though, the Deep Field is simply a flat portrait. Which of these galaxies, astronomers want to know, shine from the limits of the visible universe? And what milestones in galaxy formation do their shapes reveal?

Andy Fruchter
In many ways, what we have here is an archaeological dig, the deepest archeological dig ever dug. And we're left with a good view of the colors, the shapes, and the sizes of all the relics. But we don't know the layer of dirt from which they came.

Mark Dickinson
How far away are these things? Are they little dwarfs nearby... are they starforming protogalactic subfragments? What are they? Well, we'll try to find out eventually and that's what this is meant to be a resource for.

Narrator
For all the unknowns the Deep Field presents to astronomers, to the public it's sure to be a revelation.

Kathy Sawyer
I think it's one of the most important things that the Hubble is doing...the picture is stunning and we'll probably want to run that, and then await the scientific analysis, and then report on that.

Charlie Petit
There are huge numbers here. Billions of light years away, billions of years ago, billions, hundreds of millions of light years across, seeing things they'd never seen before. This is like candy to a science writer. This is easy, this is like falling off a log.

Narrator
The Deep Field goes on view like a grand work of art snatched from space.

Measuring the distance to its galaxies, the same work that once consumed Edwin Hubble, now awaits astronomers lining up to study it. They will peer for the first time into this narrow celestial corridor.

On Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, is one of the largest and most sophisticated telescopes on earth: the Keck Observatory. Tonight, a group of astronomers has come to pinpoint the most distant galaxies in the Deep Field.

Sandy Faber leads the team.

Sandy Faber
My own personal hope for the Hubble Deep Field is to identify the moment of the beginning of galaxy formation. What were the first proto galaxies like? How big were they? How did the stars form in them? We're looking back to an era when the universe and the galaxies in it were really quite different from the ones we see today. But not totally different. We can see a relationship. These are infant galaxies and adolescent galaxies compared to our own mature galaxy today.

Narrator
Faber and her team are looking for galaxies ten to fifteen billion light years away. These appear as tiny blue lights in the Deep Field, shining faintly among the larger, brighter ones.

To capture the light of these distant gems, they'll isolate them in a series of slits.

Sandy Faber
These labels tell us what to expect if we're lucky. And everything that says "HZ" means very high redshift objects, so we have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten very high redshift candidates on this mask, which makes this an exceptionally rich mask for very very distant galaxies.

Narrator
Keck is one of the most complex instruments in all astronomy -- but rarely has it been pushed this far.

Ed Groth is one of Faber's collaborators.

Ed Groth
It's wonderful. I just can't believe that I get to come up here and use it. It's really a rush.

Narrator
Still, Keck is only three years old -- And it has a few kinks.

Sandy Faber
We think that this particular grading setting isn't optimum for finding our high redshift distant galaxies. Which way is our compass, Rose?

See I'm a little irritated at the quality of those images. I don't think that's a wonderful image. That ain't wonderful. That looks like telescope.

Narrator
Inevitably, time is lost to calibrating the telescope.

Sandy Faber
That ain't good.

Sandy Faber
At Keck we're at 14,000 feet. We don't think very well at that altitude. Every moment of telescope time is precious. You prepare intensively to go there. It's easy to make a mistake and waste time during the run that you have. It's just like a time warp. It's living very, very intensely for a short period of time. It's thrilling, really.

Drew
We've got an offset applied. Wait for a few seconds. Okay, start the exposure.

Sandy Faber
Wow, Drew, that's our best alignment yet. Every star's in the middle of the box...

...Each of these galaxies is a hundred million times fainter than you can see with your naked eye. And they're hard even for this big telescope.

Narrator
At last, Keck captures its first flickers of success.

The spectral bar codes of these galaxies hardly seem as impressive as Hubble's pictures -- but to the trained eye, they're nothing short of sensational.

Sandy Faber
There's a really nice continuum in that object there. I think this one is very interesting. That's a good Hi-Z candidate because it just dropped out. Oo, that's pretty. That's it! That's it, alright.

Narrator
In the span of a few nights, Faber and her team record no less than three new high-redshift galaxies... Each is fully ninety percent of the way back to the edge of the universe.

Sandy Faber
We've discovered a couple of really, very distant galaxies in the Hubble Deep Field. We've probably got three or four redshifts of three. Which means that we're looking back maybe 12, 13, 14 billion years. So those are among the top record holders. That's what we were really after in that field, was more like that.

Narrator
As we peer ever deeper into space, how long before physical law itself blocks our vision beyond?

Stan Woosley
We know that there is a boundary to the universe that we can see. We call it the "observable universe." It's how far a light ray can have gone since the beginning of time. Ah, we think that that observable universe is imbedded in a much, much larger universe upon which we can make no observations because of the finite speed of light.

Sandy Faber
My response to the universe is complicated now and it's really determined by the fact that I personally, not for scientific reasons completely, partly emotionally, think that there are lots of universes. And I think that they might all be mostly different in terms of their physics from our universe.

I'm thinking now of our universe the way other cultures might have thought about the nourishing Mother Earth. And in some sense we truly belong here because we were produced by the physics here.

Narrator
Overhead, the universe is expanding relentlessly. But not too fast for a father to share its wonders with his son. The Texas Star Party is in full swing.

Don Garland built this telescope for ten-year old Ian.

Don Garland
Which way does this need to face?

Ian Garland
Uhhhhhh..

Narrator
Tonight, at their tenth star party together, they are ready to give it a test run. It may not be Keck. It may not be in orbit. But for a young astronomer, it's state of the art.

Don Garland
Put the plate right up here?

Ian Garland
Yeah.

Don Garland
Here you go. Got it. Want to look at Venus first?

Ian Garland
Yeah. Where is it? Oh, there it is.

Don Garland
Right there. Alright, pull it around, we can sight right down the edge of the tube to start off with. We'll find it. Guess what, there it is. What a great view.

Ian Garland
Let me see. It's my telescope.... Oh wow.

Don Garland
First object viewed, astronomically, through the telescope is Venus.

Narrator
Ian has a long life of stargazing before him. But tonight will be hard to beat.

Man
When I see gas clouds, I see these little globules of stuff up there. What I think of is: I'm seeing something forming, I'm seeing something being created. It's exciting.

Woman
Sometimes it's very mysterious to people, and very frightening. And I know the Lord put things up there for us to see, and to behold the beauty in it. And you come out here at night and the ground is lit and you can see your shadow and walk around. And you can look up and watch the meteorites as they come in and just watch the heavens as they turn, which is a wonderful thing.

Sandy Faber
I am not a religious person, but I have found piecing together the history of the universe and watching other people do it, trying to understand what they say about it, a very deeply satisfying experience. I think it just pleases me to know what the past was like, how I got here, and what the future is likely to be like. And I think this knowledge is important for me to decide where I fit into the big picture.

Don Garland
Where are you going, Jenny? Want to see the light? You say "Dad, I know you saw something in there."

Narrator
Tonight, even two-year old Jenny is starstruck -- though her technique could use a little work.

Don Garland
What do you think? Did you see it? I doubt it, but you could try. You wanna try again?

Narrator
By the time she reaches her father's age, who knows what visions of the heavens await us.

Don Garland
Pretty cool. Jenny wants to get in on it too.

Narrator
We once defined our universe only by the stars that turned overhead. Technology has now delivered us into a vast assemblage of 50 billion galaxies. As we continue to probe the limits of the cosmos, we can only hope our imaginations keep pace.


Title: Next time on Mysteries of Deep Space

Alex Filippenko
Supernova's coming up. Look at all the undulations. We've got another one.

Narrator
In the death of a star, the universe reveals its deepest secrets.

Title: Black Holes and Exploding Stars


Other "Mysteries of Deep Space" Episode Transcripts

Episode 2: Exploding Stars and Black Holes || Episode 3: The Search for Alien Worlds

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