Question: how far into space can you see with your telescopes

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  1. Not my area of expertise but using various techniques I was under the impression that the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) would be able to see almost to the edge of the known universe and possibly even to the first light which is light that was thrown off during the Big Bang.


  2. Hi Crazychimp.
    With ‘my’ telescope? Well i do own a 12in telescope that i take out stargazing, and i can see jupiter and four of its moons without any problems, as well as other planets, galaxies, nebula and other cool looking space stuff

    But with other telescopes we can see much further into space. Also it depends on what you mean by ‘see’ because astromers use both optical or radio telescopes, which means we see in different ways.

    The hubble telescope, which is the telescope put into space to look deep into the universe, has taken a number of pictures which see back about 10 billion light years. A light year is the distance light travels in one year.

    The link is for the hubble ultra deep field which is one of the most beautiful images i have seen.


  3. Either something is up with this Q&A system or else this week has already become a blur. Could have sworn I answered this one yesterday. The answer is 13.7 billion years, almost all the way back to the Big Bang. We can see back to within 300,000 years of the Big Bang, when we hit a period called the Epoch of Recombination. We can’t see what happens before that. Like I say, could have sworn I’ve already answered this, so you might try and find that post for a more detailed answer.

    Ah, there it is as a comment down the bottom. Phew, I’m not going mad……yet.


  4. Hi crazychimp13 (nice username!),
    Totally not my field but this is an interesting question. I don’t think I’ve actually ever looked through a telescope.
    Nice answers by James, Dustin and Steven – I’m glad I learnt something again! 🙂



  1. Telescopes now can be used to see back almost to the start of the Universe, the Big Bang. We can see back to approximately 300,000 years after the Big Bang. That is, we can look back in time approximately 13.7 billion years. The reason we are limited to 300,000 years after the Big Bang is that immediately after the Big Bang, all the material in the Universe was exteremely hot and expanding very rapidly. Thus, light waves could not propagate through the mess. Only when the Universe expanded and cooled enough that the mess sorted itself out into neutral atoms (mostly hydrogen), could light escape the mess and start its 13.7 billion year journey to our telescope. Interestingly, it is very hard to see what happened next, because stars and galaxies didn’t start forming for hundreds of millions of years. So, the SKA and telescopes like it are designed to “fill in the gap” between 300,000 and few billion years after the Big Bang and try to see how the Universe and the galaxies in it evolved between the Big Bang and now.