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© Don Dixon, Jerry Weil, Griffith Observatory

Massive telescopes and space-borne observatories give us tantalizing peeks into the physical nature of the universe. It contains countless billions of galaxies, all arranged in a vast web-like structure.

This intricate pattern of galaxy distribution formed about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. The infant universe was expanding and cooling as gravity shaped its matter into stars and galaxies. The expansion continues, and most objects in the universe are still moving away from each other as they evolve.

The Scale of the Universe

© Andrey Kravtsov, University of Chicago and Anatoly Klypin, New Mexico State UniversityWhen we gaze deep into the universe, we look back into time. We see objects as they were when the light left them on the long journey to our telescopes and eyes. Using wavelengths of light beyond the visible, we can observe the universe back to nearly the beginning. This helps us create a timeline (right) of cosmic evolution.

It is hard to imagine distances at the scale of the universe. Strands of galaxies can be millions and billions of light years across. We use what we can observe and prepare simulations (left) of what the universe looks like today and what it may have looked like in the past.

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