I was reading this article this morning:
Scientists have discovered a gamma-ray burst whose light has taken 13.14 billion years to reach Earth. This much is cool and interesting. However, the assumption is then stated that this is "the most distant single object yet spied by a telescope".
But hold on a minute. It is also known that galaxies are moving away from each other at incredible speeds, most faster than the speed of light, because the space/time between them is expanding (or something like that... I'm no scientist!)
So these so-called amazingly distant objects, well for starters, they don't exist any more... They are things that happened billions of years ago. But not only that, they are probably objects that were only a few million light years away from us when they actually took place. So surely then, the objects themselves aren't the most distant ones, but the light from them has been distorted such that the light has taken that long to reach us?
Furthermore, if the galaxies are spreading out faster than the speed of light, who is to say this explosion actually happened 13.1 billion years ago? Isn't it possible that the light was created say 5 billion years ago, but has taken much longer to reach us because of the expanding space between the galaxies?
I'm sure this stuff has already been considered by scientists, but I find it weird the way news articles always assume that just because light travels at a specific speed, that it's always going to take the same amount of time to reach us.
Or am I getting it wrong? I'd love to know!
EDIT: For people discussing the whole faster-than-light-speed thing, I came across this article:
As you look at galaxies further and further away, they appear to be moving faster and faster away from us. And it is possible that they could eventually appear to be moving away from us faster than light. At that point, light leaving the distant galaxy would never reach us. When that happens, the distant galaxy would just fade away as the last of the photons reached Earth, and then we would never know it was ever there.
And this one:
That mysterious dark energy force, which is accelerating the expansion of the Universe is making the most distant galaxies move faster and faster away from us. Eventually, they will cross an event horizon and appear to be moving away from us faster than the speed of light. At this point, any light emitted by the galaxy will cease to reach us. Any galaxy that crosses this horizon will fade away from view, until its last photon reaches us. All galaxies will disappear from view forever.