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If the universe never ends, how can it be expanding at the speed of light?

If the universe never ends, how can it be expanding at the speed of light?
Laura Young from Surrey (age 5-14)

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3 Responses

  1. This raises the debate is the Universe infinite or not? As you say if the Universe is expanding then this can only happen if it has a determinable size however large that may be. Infinity is a mathematical concept and I don’t think it can be applied here. If you imagine yourself running along a conveyor belt in the opposite direction, whether you run for 10 minutes, 10 years or 1 million years you will be exactly the same distance from the end. If the Universe was infinite this would also mean every single point would be the centre of the Universe as every point would have an infinite length in every direction.

    The Big Bang started out from an extremely small point known as a singularity and began to expand at incredible speed hence the usage of ‘Bang’. I believe the Universe has a determinable size but exceeds anything we as humans have the ability to measure.

  2. We’re not totally sure the universe never ends, but that’s not really important for this question. I think you’re really wondering how some things in the universe can be moving away from us ‘faster than light’, when physicists also tell you that you can’t go faster than light, and how if it is infinite you can measure how much bigger it is.
    The trick is that those things aren’t really moving away from us in the normal way – it’s the space between us and those distant galaxies which is getting bigger.
    This sounds like I’m trying to worm my way out of this by just twisting my words, but what this really means is that those distant galaxies will never actually overtake a light ray moving in the same direction away from us, even though the distance between us and them is growing faster than a light ray would move away from us here.
    It’s all a bit difficult to get your head around, but at the core is the idea that it’s space itself that is expanding, and everything is sitting still in its own little patch of space – just the distances between things in it are getting bigger. And while the universe might be infinite we can only see a finite amount of it, and see things inside that part of it, and that part and the distances between galaxies in it are all getting bigger as time goes on.

  3. Nobody seems to directly address the following question: If something is expanding (wether infinite or not) then that implies that it is within something else. Or maybe better said if the big bang took place then it took place with a certain space to begin with – thus do we not account for that space.

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