Q & A: The Age and Size of the Universe?

Alright; this is a question I’ve been putting off for various poor reasons, but Starts With A Bang! reader Andy asks:

If Im looking at something, the light from which has taken 15 billion years to get to me, and there was only an opaque ball of radiation and stuff 15 billion years ago, why do I see formed galaxies? Shouldnt the age of the universe be: TIME LIGHT FROM OBJECT TAKES TO REACH ME + TIME TAKEN TO FORM OBJECT IM LOOKING AT?

In other words, how can I see things like galaxies that are 15 billion light years away, if the Universe isn’t even 15 billion years old?! This is a damned good question, and something that took me about two years in graduate school to figure out the answer to.

First off, how old is the Universe? Well, you can take a look at the oldest stars that we see, and you know the Universe has to be at least that old. So far, of all the stars we’ve been able to accurately date, the oldest is HE 1523-0901, coming in at 13.2 billion years old.

Image credit: SDSS.

Image credit: SDSS.

Want to get more accurate than that? There are other methods, too, like looking at radioactive element abundances.

If we know how these elements were created, and we know their half-lives, we can figure out how old something is by measuring how much of that radioactive material is left. That’s how we know that the oldest rocks on Earth are 3.8 billion years old, for example. We can apply these methods to the Milky Way, and we find that it is between 12.3 and 17.3 billion years old. But can we be more certain than that?

Yes. Because we measure the temperature of the Cosmic Microwave Background (2.725 K), and we know what the Universe is made out of today: 73% dark energy, 27% dark matter, and maybe 0.01% radiation (photons and the like). Put those together, and you can calculate how old the Universe is today, as compared to an arbitrarily high temperature, and you find that it’s between 13.5 and 13.9 billion years old: pretty accurate for my tastes!

So, now we know how old the Universe is. Does that mean that it’s 13.7 billion light-years in size? Surprisingly, no. Take a look at the “model universe” below, which is a balloon with coins (that can represent galaxies, if you like) glued onto it:

Let’s pretend that we are the quarter at the center, and we’re looking at the dime on the left. When the Universe was younger, it was smaller, and the dime was closer to us (left panel). The dime emits light at us, and the light starts traveling towards us along the balloon. But as the Universe ages (middle panel) and ages even more (right panel), the balloon expands. This means two things for us:

  • the light emitted gets redshifted on its way towards us, and
  • the light has to travel a longer distance to reach us than it would have were the Universe not expanding.

So when we see the light from the dime today, and someone tells you how far away it is, it’s not always easy to tell whether they mean

  1. how far away was it from us when the light was emitted
  2. how far away is it now that we observe it, or
  3. how long has the light been traveling towards us, and what is that time multiplied by the speed of light?

When you read a press release, the “distance” they usually (but not always) give is the third option, which is always younger than the age of the Universe times the speed-of-light. But, if you want to know how far is that object from us today, that’s the second option, and that number can be much greater, up to 46 billion light years in any direction from us.

Now, you might ask, does this mean that space is expanding faster than the speed of light? The answer, my dear friend, is yes. Take that brain-buster to your physics teacher and watch him/her go into denial; it’s awesome! (It is, of course, because the Universe expands in a very bizarre, complicated, but moreover counterintuitive way.) Then send them to my webpage and to Ned Wright’s page for the more technical explanation.

And if your brain ain’t broke yet, check out the latest Carnival of Space, where they have my post on why we need dark matter!


  1. #1 Don Andrews
    February 28, 2008

    How can we tell if the universe is speeding up in expansion if we’re looking at light from far away galaxies. There is more red shift 13 billion years ago than there is in light from closer galaxies. Seems to me the expansion is slowing down.

  2. #2 ethan
    February 28, 2008

    Don, when you look back at light that was emitted 13 billion years ago, you see all of the expansion that has happened in the last 13 billion years. If you see light from 13, 11, 10, 8, 5, and 3 billion years ago, then you can figure out what happened between 13 and 11, 11 and 10, etc. That’s how we learned the expansion isn’t slowing down!

  3. #3 Michael Grofe
    September 16, 2008

    Hi Ethan, great website! I’ve sent my students here. I have a question I can’t answer, and maybe you can…
    Since we know that space is expanding, and farther galaxies are moving faster away from us (and we from them), conceivably there will be an observable limit to what distance can ever be seen with those galaxies (or pre-galactic matter/radiation) that are moving faster than the speed of light away from us, yes? The light could NEVER reach us from these distances, correct? But what distance will this be? And then will we no longer see the CMB? As it is at present, we can ‘see’ 13.7 ly in every direction, to the CMB, right? Over time, this observable horizon will expand farther out. But when will it reach the limit above, beyond which the points in the universe are moving faster than the speed of light away from us? Thanks! -Michael

  4. #4 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 18, 2013


    It seems you have a desire to incessantly use my work without permission and credit. You have done it again with HE 1523-0901 above as well as at http://startswithabang.com/?paged=57 . Please remove both of these instances immediately!

    This is the third time I am sending you such a message and it will be the last. The next time I catch you using my work in such a manner, a lawyer will be coming after you!

    I would have expected much more from an academic and where such infractions are frowned upon!

    Anthony Ayiomamitis

  5. #5 Ethan
    February 18, 2013

    No problem, Anthony. Always happy to remove your work where I find it. We’ll have to see about removing it (or anything) from the old site, as it is no longer maintained and has not been since 2009.

    For what it’s worth, this article (and your now-taken-down image) is from 5 years ago. I have been diligent about not using a single image of yours since we first made contact with one another, and I will make extra certain to never do so again.

  6. #6 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    Athens, Greece
    February 20, 2013
  7. #7 Ethan
    February 20, 2013

    The first image — from the current site — has been removed. As promised, I will continue to remove any images of yours that have been used over the years.

  8. #8 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    “Shameful behaviour and attitude!”

    It is a bit.

    So why do you do it, Anthony?

  9. #9 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    PS copyright doesn’t apply for education or illustrative purposes.

    About all you have is the (Europe-limited) “Moral Rights” to the author.

    Being pissy about “your stuff” being used is only making you look like an arrogant bastard.

    Try doing what Ethan does:

    Politely inform him you wish your work be removed and cut out this bullshit bullying: there’s no weight or value behind it other than your ego.

  10. #10 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013

    I do not appreciate having my work used without my permission and also without credit. If this is offensive to some of you, no problem, for I dictate how and where my work is used and irrespective if others have little or no regard for intellectual rights and copyright.

    No question Ethan does a lot of work to prepare his presentations. However, have you considered the amount of work that goes into my photography? At the same time, I would like to see Ethan’s reaction if someone used his work without credit and permission as he has done repeatedly with my work.

    People who have not produced anything in their life telling me how I should react when my work is used without credit and permission. Right!


  11. #11 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013

    10 Big Myths about copyright explained


    Top 10 Myths About Copyright


  12. #12 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    The big myth is the one you’re spouting here.

    Those sites are not going to say “Hey, the control of copyright is limited to certain areas” because that is devastating to their business.

  13. #13 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    “I do not appreciate having my work used without my permission and also without credit.”

    That’s fine. Don’t appreciate it.

    Ask nicely if you can have it removed.

    But copyright is a limited right over your work and it doesn’t give you license to be a dick. Yet you feel compelled to do so.

  14. #14 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    Apart from all those 10 myths being mythologically myths (Berne convention introduced the no requirement to register), this is a complete hoot:

    Under the provisions of the Copyright Act, the copyright owner, and only the copyright owner, has the right to reproduce the work unless it comes under certain limited exceptions, such as “fair use”


    Fair use isn’t a gap in your copyright control. Copyright was never meant to cover many uses of “copying”. Fair use are examples of those areas copyright DOES NOT COVER.

    Copies required for a work to be used as intended are not covered by copyright, for example.

    Education, illustration, critique, parody and distribution without copying (second hand market) are not covered by copyright.

    Though the content industry DID try to make reading a book require a license from the copyright holder. This led to Right of First Sale acts and similar.

  15. #15 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013

    I did ask nicely and this is not the first time it has happened.

    Also, all messages here are moderated in case you haven’t noticed. As a result, it is Ethan, as moderator, who decides what remains public and what remains private. If there is a dick in all of this, you are it … idiot!

    Be a wise-guy over your work, if you have any, and certainly not mine. I do not owe you any explanation as to why I want MY work handled and you are also in no position to intervene in this matter … and especially like a coward using an alias.

  16. #16 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    Myth #4: “If I don’t charge for the work, it’s not a copyright violation.”
    False. See Myth #3. Some people believe that they are giving the copyright owner free advertising, and the owner should be grateful. But it is up to the owner, not you, whether he/she wishes their work displayed or published – and in what context.

    Since a civil tort requires damages to proceed, copyright has very little traction here.

    And “in what context” indicates that they’re picking and choosing which countries laws they’re going to pick up on. Context can only be restricted in those countries which have a “Moral Rights” for authors. Not the USA. But the USA doesn’t have what is called a “turning copy”. In other countries outside the USA, personal copying is not actionable or controlled by copyrights.

    So they pick and choose what they’re going to do based on extending the rights they want to claim.

    A sham article.

  17. #17 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    I did ask nicely and this is not the first time it has happened.

    You’ve asked nicely here???
    This is the third time I am sending you such a message and it will be the last. The next time I catch you using my work in such a manner, a lawyer will be coming after you!

    and here???
    Shameful behaviour and attitude!

    No, you’re being a runt.

  18. #18 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    If there is a dick in all of this, you are it … idiot!

    No, definitely you.

    Over-indulged and arrogant.

  19. #19 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    Both your links assert they are US law.

    You’re in…?

  20. #20 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013

    Obviously you are “slow”. You cannot use what is not yours without permission and credit. Whether you like it or not, it is reality.

    Ethan is doing his blogging on National Geographic servers from what I can tell. I suggest that respect be shown for NG if nothing else (I hope you get my drift, Ethan).

    As noted above, this is not the first time it has happened … it is not the second time it has happened … it is not the third time it has happened …. etc.

    Patience may be a virtue but it also has a limit!

  21. #21 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013

    @Wow: You know what? Thanks to you I have reached my limit. Time to contact one of my contacts who is a NG photo editor surrounding the copyright violations occuring on NG servers.

  22. #22 Wow
    February 20, 2013


    What is the threshold of originality for the protection of works?

    While Law 2121/1993 is influenced by French Authors’Rights’law that views the work as an emanation of the author’s personality, the jurisprudence follows the principle of“statistical uniqueness”. According to this theory a work is original if a third person under the same conditions and circumstances cannot produce the same work. The originality in the Greek Copyright system is a relative originality, i.e. it present individual characteristics in accordance to the statistical uniqueness theory or has a certain distance from the known and self evident. Specifically for computer programs, photographs and databases, the Greek law recognises a lower threshold of originality, following Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs, i.e. that the work needs to be the author’s own intellectual creation. Greek jurisprudence accepts that there may be variable levels of originality depending on the character of the work as more creative or more functional or utilitarian.

    What are the limitations on the economic rights?

    The limitations only apply on the economic rights and allow users of the works to perform acts otherwise prohibited without asking permission from the author or rights holder. These are:

    reproduction for private use
    quotation of extracts
    use in School Textbooks and anthologies
    reproduction for teaching purposes
    reproduction by libraries and archives
    reproduction of cinematographic works (National Cinematographic Archive)
    reproduction for Judicial or Administrative Purposes
    reproduction for Information purposes
    use of images of works sited in public places
    public performance or Presentation on Special Occasions
    Exhibition and Reproduction of Fine Art Works
    Reproduction for the Benefit of Blinds and Deaf-Mute
    temporary acts of reproduction

    The limitations provided above shall only be applied in certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work or other protected subject-matter and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rightholder.

  23. #23 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    You know what? Thanks to you I have reached my limit.

    Internet blowhard waves willy. News at 11.

  24. #24 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    Obviously you are “slow”.

    Faster than you, bub.

  25. #25 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    Time to contact one of my contacts who is a NG photo editor surrounding the copyright violations occuring on NG servers.

    See post 22.

  26. #26 OKThen
    In my opinion
    February 20, 2013

    WITH A POLITE COMMENT, e.g. “please attach attribution to my work such and such”, your work would be correctly labeled and thus marketed on Ethan’s educational site.

    Instead Ethan will never use your photographs again. That is really STUPID MARKETING.

    Take a look at any of Ethan’s recent posts, correct attribution is always there (if not he adds it as soon as he knows it). Wouldn’t his blog be a great place to POSITIVELY increase the awareness of your work?

    But instead you choose NEGATIVE MARKETING.

    Really stupid.

  27. #27 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    Found this amusing, though:


    Despite your complaints here, you seemed to have no qualms about “stealing” other people’s work there, right?

  28. #28 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013

    @OKThen: Have you read the complete thread CAREFULLY? Ethan lifts photos from my website and simply drops them into his blogged entries? No credit reference and without permission for using the photos?

    I am the bad guy in all of this? Do you know how many times this has happened?

    The photo in this blog entry is NOW credited. Why don’t you ask Ethan about the earlier photo he used? Was it credited? Was it used with permission?

    Again, I am the bad guy for defending the copyright of my work!

  29. #29 Ethan
    February 20, 2013

    Anthony (and onlookers),

    I don’t normally do this, but because you are threatening to accuse me of some copyright violation crimes, I would like to set the record straight about our only past correspondence, which took place on December 18th, back in 2010. You can check your records and my blog (which is still here, hi!) and see that I have held to our agreement. Here it is — all 15 emails — in chronological order, reproduced in their entirety.

    I suppose in some sense I should thank you for the exchange, because I have become far more diligent about attributing and sourcing all the images and videos that appear on my blog ever since. None of which have been yours, as you requested.

    If we have had correspondence other than this, I apologize, as I do not remember, and there is no record of them either in my email or on this blog.
    Anthony Ayiomamitis [email address redacted] 12/18/10

    Dear Ethan,

    A friend forwarded a couple of links which not only contain my copyrighted work but it is in use without my permission and also without credit.

    More specifically, I see my aphelion-perihelion comparison as well as one my of analemma photos at http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/12/celebrate_this_winter_solstice.php as well as another analemma photo of mine at http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2009/08/why_our_analemma_looks_like_a.php .

    I kindly request that this material be removed since it violates copyright of my work and it is being used without my permission.

    If National Geographic is interested in licensing these images, it is something I would be happy to discuss with them.
    Ethan Siegel [email address redacted] 12/18/10


    I cannot speak with or negotiate with Nat Geo directly, so I will sadly take these images down.

    As you may know, your images simply turn up in many places across the internet — doing a google image search — without attribution and without credit. I would have been happy to link back to you and credit you for your images, but since you requested a takedown I shall do so without protest.

    It will take a few minutes to make it happen.

    Ethan Siegel [email address redacted] 12/18/10

    Also: I am assuming that your photo in the older post is the one of the analemma near the Greek ruins. If that is incorrect, please correct me, and I will take down the appropriate photo instead.

    Anthony Ayiomamitis [email address redacted] 12/18/10

    Yes, that photo is mine as well. If you check on NASA APOD, you will see full credit to me. You also cite Michael Stecker’s website and where I am one of the highlighted astrophotographers: he has a full credit back to me under this photo.

    By the way, these two analemma photos I mention below are part of a larger set which represents TEN years worth of work: http://www.perseus.gr/Astro-Solar-Analemma.htm .

    I am assuming that there are no other photos of mine on your blog!

    Ethan Siegel [email address redacted] 12/18/10


    You truly do have some great work that you’ve done, and it is a pity to lose your images on my site. However, I have about 500 posts with about 5-10 images apiece in them, and I do not have the time to source all of my images. Where the image attribution has been quick and easy to find I am happy to link back to give credit to the author/copyright holder, and if anyone cares to contact me and ask for attribution I am happy to give full credit and a link back to it.

    There may well be other photos of yours on my blog; like I said, there are thousands of images that I’ve used from all over during the past three years. If you are the copyright holder of any of them I am happy to either link back to you and attribute you with full credit for them, or alternately, to take them down.

    Anthony Ayiomamitis [email address redacted] 12/18/10


    We have more photos …

    (1) http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2009/08/a_question_of_why_the_analemma.php … analemma photo

    (2) http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/09/geocentrism_was_galileo_wrong.php .. both perigee-apogee and aphelion-perihelion

    (3) http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/05/how_big_and_how_far_is_the_moo.php … umbral shadow and apogee-perigee

    (4) http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2009/08/a_question_of_why_the_analemma.php… analemma photo

    As an academic, I hope you understand and value copyright. Please remove the above images.

    Ethan Siegel [email address redacted] 12/18/10


    Not a problem; I’m happy to take them all down and replace them with other people’s photos.

    It baffles me how you’d turn down the free publicity of an image credit and a linkback, but they’re your images and down they’ll all come, per your request.
    Anthony Ayiomamitis [email address redacted] 12/18/10


    Many people turn to the free publicity comment when confronted with a copyright violation. First of all, I did not ask for such a favour (I do have a website for such matters) and, second of all, there is no free publicity since the photos right now do not have a credit. Yes, I realize that you are now offering such a gesture but I prefer to have them removed since they were used initially without permission and credit.

    You have a very strong academic background and, respectfully, I am surprised at how easily you ignore the issue of copyright on your blog and the various thought-provoking articles therin. All it takes is a simple email. Photographers bend over backwards to share their work and I am in the same boat as each and every other photographer. However, you have no idea how annoyed I see my work lifted and without the slightest courtesy of an email asking if it can be used and also without credit.

    How would feel if I were to take one of your interesting articles and post it on my website as “food for thought” and without your permission and certainly without credit back to you?

    Please do respect copyright. There is a LOT more work than you may realize to get many photos just right. My analemma photos represent a 10-yr effort and which has yet to complete. My aphelion-perihelion photo which you also use was produced in 2005 and I have yet to have clear skies on the two days of the year since then to reproduce a more recent version of the same.
    Ethan Siegel [email address redacted] 12/18/10


    Well, you’ve got your wish now, and they’re all down.

    And since I now know that acceptable permission for displaying one of your images requires explicit email permission, I will make sure to send you a request explicitly if I wish to make use of one of your images.

    For whatever it’s worth, I am extraordinarily unlikely to do so; the additional time it would take to do so for each of the pictures/photos I display in my posts makes that avenue unacceptably slow.

    Still, your images are amazing, and my gratitude goes out to you for sharing them with the world.
    Anthony Ayiomamitis [email address redacted] 12/18/10


    The friend who first alerted me to these transgressions has gotten the better of me and has noted that your blog has a highly educational perspective (it is quite obvious).

    Please add a credit line to the effect “Copyright: Anthony Ayiomamitis” and you can keep the images in tact. In fact, if you can hyperlink the Copyright statement (http://www.perseus.gr), it would be even more appreciated.

    Anthony Ayiomamitis [email address redacted] 12/18/10


    I think we crossed emails.

    Excuse me for asking but is it really that difficult to send an email asking for permission to use an image? I went through all of your blog articles and you have three to four images per article. Is it that time-consuming to send a simple email requesting permission? Photographers are VERY accomodating. We all have permanent internet connections and have immediate and timely access to our emails. Others have iPads and the like for constant access.

    Seriously, if you do not have the time to ask for my permission to use an image, it is best that you do not use my work.
    Ethan Siegel [email address redacted] 12/18/10


    I took down and replaced all of your images, and explained to you my perspective on this. I consider this conversation over, but I will respond to your questions one last time.

    Yes, it is really that difficult to send an email asking for permission to use an image. Keep this in mind: you live in Greece, I live in Oregon, USA. I write most of my articles around 5 PM, Pacific time. You — and half the world — is asleep when I do so. I try to put out about four educational posts a week, and I only have about an hour (maybe two) to devote to each one. I learned *very* early on while blogging that sending an email every time I want to use an image is largely a waste of everyone’s time, as the general rule is to credit where the image comes from if the source is available, but not to sweat it if it isn’t. I learned that people are generally congenial, especially if the material is being used for educational purposes. You are the second human being, in my three years writing, to ask me to take their copyrighted images down rather than provide a credit and a link back to them. That’s perfectly within your right, and I’m happy to respect your wishes, as I’ve already done.

    But don’t worry; I will take care to avoid using your images in the future, as your wishes clearly indicate.
    Anthony Ayiomamitis [email address redacted] 12/18/10


    You have not removed the umbral shadow image at http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/05/how_big_and_how_far_is_the_moo.php and which most probably was taken from NASA APOD where the image was showcased (see http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap080820.html ).

    You write that it is a waste of time sending out emails requesting permission to use an image. I will not bother to respond to such a statement since it is a blatant disregard for other people’s intellectual work and, as such, thank you for making sure you do not use any of my work in the future!
    Ethan Siegel [email address redacted] 12/18/10

    And that’s the last one.
    Anthony Ayiomamitis [email address redacted] 12/18/10



  30. #30 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013


    In addition to the above items described in the quoted email correspondence, we also have the HE 1523-0901 image used in this particular blog entry and also the widefield Milky Way shot which I describe in this thread as a later comment and which was used in another of your blog entries.

    NONE of this was necessary if you simply had sent a message asking permission and if you also had credited the work upon receiving permission.

  31. #31 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    NONE of this was necessary if you simply had sent a message asking permission

    NONE of that is necessary.

    However, since Ethan is courteous, he removes when told about them, any images you point out are yours.

    YOU DO NOT get to demand emails asking permission.

    And you don’t get copyright protection for use of images that aren’t copyright protected against use for education.

  32. #32 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    I am the bad guy in all of this?


    If your neighbour punctures your kids ball if it goes into his garden, even if he’s allowed to, he’s the bad guy.

    You are moreover demanding and threatening without any legal basis.

    In short, you’re being an opinionated and arrogant bully.

    Hell, this thread is four years old and you bring it up now? It’s hardly Ethan’s fault that you didn’t register copyright, therefore it wasn’t possible to locate the copyright owner of the work.

    If you demand attribution, REGISTER THE COPYRIGHTS in each of the 193 countries of the world.

  33. #33 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013

    @Wow: you are very ignorant when it comes to copyright violation and I will certainly not waste any of my time further with you.

  34. #34 Ethan
    February 20, 2013

    NONE of this was necessary if you simply had sent a message asking permission and if you also had credited the work upon receiving permission.

    Which you have every right to demand, since they’re your images. They’re great images. Many people — amateurs and professionals alike — will enjoy them.

    But — and it’s still the case — I am not willing to contact you ahead of time and wait for your express permission to use your images. You have a set of conditions that must be met to use your images, and that is perfectly within your right. And I know I am not going to adhere to those conditions. So those of us who enjoy your images will continue to do so, just not on this site.

    And, as always, if there is an image of yours that I used years ago that you come across and want either credit attributed to you or removed, I am happy to do so. That goes for every creator of every image on every post on this blog.

  35. #35 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013


    You write: “I am not willing to contact you ahead of time and wait for your express permission to use your images.”.

    I rest my case!


  36. #36 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    @Wow: you are very ignorant when it comes to copyright violation

    Extremely incorrect.

  37. #37 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    You write: “I am not willing to contact you ahead of time and wait for your express permission to use your images.”.

    I rest my case!

    So you’re doing a Copiepresse and going to DEMAND that Ethan use your photos????

    Ethan is not going to use your stuff because they’re easily replaced by other pictures that any effort demanded by you before use of them makes the “content” worthless.

    He’ll go to someone who isn’t such a massive dickhead about it.

  38. #38 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    PS this may help settle your idiocy in your mind:


    In short, anyone now reading Ethan’s blog will AVOID your stuff.

    Good job breaking it.

  39. #39 Ethan
    February 20, 2013

    I rest my case!

    I have no idea what this means. You do not want me to use your images unless I meet certain conditions, I recognize that I am not going to meet those conditions, therefore we both agree that I will not be using your images and that I will remove any instances of your images where I’ve used them in the past.

    How is that not the end of this story? Moreover, how was this not the end of this story back in 2010 when we had this conversation?

  40. #40 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013


    I rest my case in the sense that everyone can finally see what is at play with the flagrant copyright violation dictated by such an attitude.

    Do you realize what the last paragraph in message #34 entails for you from a legal standpoint (vis a vis “That goes for every creator of every image on every post on this blog.”)?

    What you are suggesting is that you can dip your hand in the jar as often and any way you wish and you will remove it if and when caught. I am sorry but you are opening yourself up for one very serious legal mess. You are also getting NG involved as well by virtue of the fact it is their servers which are hosting these infractions.

  41. #41 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    I rest my case in the sense that everyone can finally see what is at play with the flagrant copyright violation dictated by such an attitude.

    So NOT using your stuff is, to you, a copyright violation?

    You: You must email me before using any of my stuff
    Ethan: OK, I will not use your stuff.
    You: SEE!!!! YOU PIRATE!!!!
    Everyone: ????

  42. #42 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013

    @Wow: you must be VERY slow or trolling.

    Ethan: “I am not willing to contact you ahead of time and wait for your express permission to use your images.”

    I: “I rest my case!”

    I (again): “I rest my case in the sense that everyone can finally see what is at play with the flagrant copyright violation dictated by such an attitude.”

    This is my LAST reply to you (Wow). You are wasting bandwidth and time.

  43. #43 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    Nope, you’re still ass-backward wrong here.

    Ethan will not be using your images. If he knows they are being used he will remove them. This is NOT copyright infringement.

    All you’re proving is that you’re a egotistical idiot.

  44. #44 Wow
    February 20, 2013

    Ethan: “therefore we both agree that I will not be using your images and that I will remove any instances of your images where I’ve used them in the past.”

    You seem hell-bent on refusing to excerpt this bit, preferring the cherry-pick you want to concentrate on.

    Your actions here will prejudice your case (not that you have one) but you may find yourself facing charges of barratry.

  45. #45 CB
    February 20, 2013

    If your case rests on taking Ethan’s statement out of context so as to imply that he intends to use your work in the future without permission, when it is patently obvious in context that he has no intention of using your work in the future ever again, then you might want to reconsider your legal counsel.

  46. #46 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 20, 2013

    @CB: Where do I imply about future use? I stated “The next time I catch you using my work ….” and which obviously includes past blog entries and similar to this particular entry from 2008 which was identified only just a couple of days ago strictly by accident.

    In other words, you are the one who took my comment out of context.

  47. #47 CB
    February 20, 2013

    I don’t care about and was not referring to your first comment, making it impossible for me to take it out of context.

    I’m talking about Ethan’s statement that you quoted. and replied with “I rest my case”. His statement was implicitly about future use. Or rather, future non-use. Implying that it says anything about Ethan’s intent or attitude toward copyright infringement is flagrant misrepresentation by neglecting context. The idea that your case could rest on such a misrepresentation is hilarious since it would take two seconds for the defense to refute simply by providing the context.

  48. #48 OKThen
    "The lady doth protest too much methinks."
    February 20, 2013

    Yes, I’ve read the whole thread carefully.

    My opinion on this matter (#26 above) has not changed; except to realize again that Ethan sets a very high standard of gentlemanly behavior (i.e. on his blog and in his emails to you); that you not only do not come remotely close to; but that you seem totally incapable of understanding or appreciating.

    “The lady doth protest too much methinks.”

  49. #49 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 21, 2013

    @CB: You insist in misrepresenting what I have written message #42 above.

    “I rest my case” in that he reinforces and reiterates his wish to knowingly violate copyright (“I am not willing to contact you ahead of time and wait for your express permission to use your images.”) since this statement not only applies to me but to everyone else’s material he uses as well (which he reiterated in passing by the last paragraph in message #34).

    I can understand and accept a one-time “mistake” for whatever reason but repetition implies intent and which Ethan fully acknowledged, thus leading to my “I rest my case!” (read message #42 once again …. carefully).

  50. #50 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 21, 2013

    @OKThen: Since the copyright protection behind any of your work is not being violated, you of course think I am protesting too much in relation to my work.

    I never questioned the quality of Ethan’s work. It is his complete and wreckless disregard for copyright violation that I question and which he has reconfirmed by stating that he never seeks permission with any photo (see #42).

  51. #51 Wow
    February 21, 2013

    Since the copyright protection you’re demanding doesn’t cover its use, you’re being greedy.

    “It is his complete and wreckless disregard for copyright violation”

    Of course, you’re now going to be looking at a libel case if Ethan decides to pursue it.

    Since you haven’t registered the copyright and Ethan will remove your works (even though he doesn’t necessarily have to) when you tell him about it, there is no infringement going on.

    That makes your caterwauling about how you’ve been done wrong libellous.

  52. #52 Wow
    February 21, 2013

    “@CB: You insist in misrepresenting what I have written message #42 above.”

    You insist on misrepresenting what Ethan has written in #34 above.

    Courts take a very dim view of people abusing them to harass. Indeed in the USA they have SLAPP to fight back against copyright trolls like you.

  53. #53 Wow
    February 21, 2013

    If you want to keep whining and whinging about it, don’t pollute the blog in an act of juvenile vandalism to “get him back”. All he has to do is ask you not to post here and if you continue, you’re in a whole heap of trouble with computer trespass laws in both Europe and the USA.

  54. #54 OKThen
    Ethan's blog is a gift
    February 21, 2013

    “It is his complete and wreckless disregard for copyright violation that I question and which he has reconfirmed by stating that he never seeks permission with any photo.”

    Take a deep breath and try to cool down.

    Consider Carl Sagan’s wonderful TV series Cosmos which was produced and aired on public TV as a non profit educational program versus the boxed DVD set of the TV series Cosmos which is sold as a commercial product.

    A different standard and set of practices apply to the non profit educational PBS Cosmos series than to the commercially sold boxed DVD set (commercial).

    “With the original series (of Cosmos) developed as a non-commercial broadcast for public television in 1980, a variety of music could and was used, ranging from from classical, ethnical and traditional music, to Vangelis synthesized pieces… “This changed when in 1986 on occasion of Halley’s comet Carl Sagan wanted to redo the original series and focus more on the astronomical subjects. With the status of Cosmos changing to a commercial product, this posed some difficulty due to the legal rights of the music used in the series. THEREFOR THE MUSIC HAD TO BE CHANGED IN PLACES WHERE COPYRIGHT MUSIC WAS HEARD THAT COULDN’T BE CLEARED.” Ann Druyan (Carl Sagan’s wife)

    So, cool down.
    Yes there are a lot of ins and outs in copyright law.
    And you are welcome your extremist interpretation of copyright law.

    But most photographers, musicians and other writers are not extremist in their views. BECAUSE they realize that YouTube videos of their copyrighted concerts are GOOD PUBLICITY; artist often ignore such copyright infringement until someone tries to sell the concert videos as DVDs.

    In my personal opinion the problem with copyright law that fair use is continually being eroded (e.g. by the Mickey Mouse copyright law). And what would Shakespeare do today.

    BUT, if you want to make money or your beautiful nature pictures; then I suggest that you improve there quality. The first picture of yours (on your site) that I opened was a landscape with telephone wires. Maybe a news service would buy such a photo but I wouldn’t want it in my living room or as a screensaver.

    In contrast, look at Peter Lik’s astonishing nature photographs. http://www.lik.com/

    They are of the highest quality, blown up to huge size, printed in hyper-realistic detail. And in a Peter Lik gallery (he has several around the world, the walls are covered only with his work and three salespeople sell only his photographs,) His photographs sells for $5000 to $50000 each and are printed in limited editions of 250. He is the gold standard of nature photography as an art and a business.

    Poets and astronomers are starving artists and scientists; don’t waste your time threatening either with your righteous copyright bravado. In our society, a scientist like Ethan gives much more than he receives.

    Raise your standard of photography and business!
    And try to understand that Ethan’s blog is a gift to you, me and everyone who reads it.

  55. #55 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 21, 2013


    How exactly is Ethan promoting my work? Did you ever see a credit (name or link) accompanying each of my photos he has used in the past?

    Check any of his blog entries …. you see photo after photo and with no credit line (and I am sure also no underlying permission to use the photo). If there is no credit line, where does the supposed exposure of my work come from?

    With YOUTUBE, the artist etc are specifically specified and, as a result, one can possibly make the argument of publicity.

    As I noted earlier, I do not have the slightest problem with Ethan’s blog entries (vis a vis the text). However, material which accompanies his entries are simply images dropped to enhance the text and without the slightest reference to whom the (photo) work belongs to and, of course, without the copyright owner knowing that his/her work is being used.

    My work has appeared in over 200 books and magazines and has appeared in countless other media, formats, POD’s (Photo of the Day) etc. I have a VERY good idea of copyright and what it implies and I can assure you my views are not extremist.

    Photographers often bend over backward to share their work. However, this presupposes the courtesy to ask for its use from the copyright owner and which Ethan has stated explicitly that he will not do (“I am not willing to contact you ahead of time and wait for your express permission to use your images.”).

    To this end, where do you see the problem? At my end or perhaps Ethan’s?!

    Speaking of the COSMOS series, if Carl Sagan were alive today, would he be raiding the internet for photos for use in his series without the slightest courtesy and regard for copyright?

  56. #56 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 21, 2013

    PS. I was approached by the History Channel for the use of my photos involving the Antikythera Mechanism – http://www.perseus.gr/Astro-Greek-Archae-Astr-Antikythera.htm – for a documentary they were preparing?

    How is the History Channel different from Carl Sagan’s COSMOS and/or Ethan’s blog?

    Copyright is effective immediately once a piece of work is created and remains in effect until 70 yrs have lapsed since the death of the creator. It becomes public domain IF the copyright owner releases it for use in the public doman or 70 yrs have lapsed since his/her death.

  57. #57 Wow
    February 21, 2013

    “How is the History Channel different from Carl Sagan’s COSMOS and/or Ethan’s blog?”

    They may be using your work.

    Ethan won’t.

    Pretty basic difference there.

  58. #58 Wow
    February 21, 2013

    “Copyright is effective immediately once a piece of work is created and remains in effect until 70 yrs have lapsed since the death of the creator”

    Copyrights do not cover all uses.

    See post #22, you clueless idiot.

  59. #59 Wow
    February 21, 2013

    “How exactly is Ethan promoting my work? ”

    He isn’t. He’s removing it as you demanded.

  60. #60 OKThen
    February 21, 2013

    If Carl Sagan had a piece of music that he liked but had no attribution; he could and did use it in his educational program Cosmos. PBS and BBC (who funded production of the show) apparently had approval by their lawyers. However, when the Cosmos series was to be sold as a boxed set; the lawyers didn’t allow it.

    Just so, if Ethan sees a picture online with no attribution; he uses it in his educational blog.

    You are the problem; not Ethan. In my opinion.

    Carl Sagan did use unattributed music.
    Copyright law is the same for music, photos, painting, etc.
    So Carl Sagan/PBS/BBCs copyright behavior is a matter of both public knowledge and common law.

    Here’s an example
    The painting, The Crying Crocodile Tries to Catch the Sun, 1956, by Karel Apel http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/karel-appel/the-crying-crocodile-tries-to-catch-the-sun-1956
    The wikipainting site says, “This artwork may be protected by copyright. It is posted on the site in accordance with fair use principles.”

    So the site doesn’t know the copyright status of this work (or thousands of others); they obviously have not tried to contact the painter or whoever. But they have posted this painting anyway as a matter of fair use.

    So again, “cool down… there are a lot of ins and outs in copyright law… don’t waste your time threatening Ethan with your righteous copyright bravado.”

    If you’d like Ethan to post your work on his site; it must be not only on your terms but his terms also. And his terms are that he will give attribution when he knows it or as soon as he knows it.

    Think about it.
    Ethan has made his decision.
    Now you need to make yours?

    All the best to you.

  61. #61 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 21, 2013


    I was contacted by WikiPedia surrounding some of my images (ex. analemma). I was informed that the only way they would use my work was IF I were to release it in the Public Domain since they were obligated to use only Public Domain material (I think they had mentioned that they were obligated by some recent law that they must use only material in the Public Domain).

    Of course, I declined and the material was removed from further consideration.

    If you do not believe me, I can try and locate their correspondence in this regard.

  62. #62 OKThen
    February 21, 2013

    Here’s another example
    The 40 Most Spectacular and Mindblowing Photos of Nature

    Problem is 8 of those 40 pictures are without attribution.

    So what is an artist to do?
    Well my words are copyrighted, as soon as I write them even on Ethan’s blog (as far as I know).

    BUT if you decide to use my good advise and “Raise your standard of photography and business!” And even include my words of inspiration in your photography business brochure. I probably won’t sue. Well maybe in your case, I’ll make an exception and sue.

  63. #63 OKThen
    February 21, 2013

    So Ethan is just like wikipedia.
    He won’t knowingly use your images.

  64. #64 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 21, 2013


    WikiPedia asked me to release some of my photos into the Public Domain so that they can use them. My answer was NO. Why I would release my work into the Public Domain so that others can use it as they wish and for both commercial and noncommercial purposes?

    If you were book publisher, for example, how sweet it would be if all the material you required was available in the Public Domain. Would the same publisher also release their book(s) in the Public Domain.

    As has been mentioned repeatedly, Ethan (and every other Ethan) canNOT use my work without prior permission and credit. Since Ethan is not willing to request permission, it follows that he will not be using my work.

  65. #65 Wow
    February 21, 2013

    And you asked Ethan to remove your images.

    He said YES.

  66. #66 OKThen
    Sue Google
    February 21, 2013

    Do a Google Image Search (without quotes): such as
    Anthony Ayiomamitis photos in public domain

    Google will display a lot of photos (without attribution)

    Do another Google Image Search:
    Astronomy photos in public domain

    You get even more photos.

    Maybe some of these photos are yours.

    If you want to get to the heart of the problem; sue Google.

  67. #67 Anthony Ayiomamitis
    February 21, 2013


    You will not find a SINGLE photo of mine which is in the Public Domain, for I have not released anything and I certainly do not plan on doing so.

    For any instance where I find my work used without permission, I file a DCMA for immediate take-down and the offending item is gone within 24-48 hrs. This includes blogs and special social media sites.

  68. #68 OKThen
    ó, ti kalýtero
    February 21, 2013

    I hear and respect that this is a serious issue for you.
    I also hear that Ethan respects your point of view,

    I’ve enjoyed and learned from this discussion with you.
    Though I hold a different point of view.

    I wish you all the best.

    Είμαι εδώ γίνεται

  69. #69 Palli
    September 2, 2013

    You know i accidentally came across this article thought I read it. It was a great read and very educational. Your conclusion in the end caugh my attention quite well. But didn’t give it much thought. Then at the end of the article I noticed that you “anothny” is having a go at Ethan for using few of your work. A picture I presume? Anyway reading your attitude towards Ethan disgusted me.. Now honestly when I read your article I did not even pay any attention to your images. except for the balloon and the coins. Anyway my point is that since its your work you have some rights over it. But the way you went and tried to bully Ethan in removing them. Even when he told u it’s for educational purposes and that he will happily credit you once you reffer him to your images. At the same time he also offered to delete your images from his blogs and so on. Anyway once he removed all your images you realized that this did not work in your favour. So U somewhat tried to get Ethan to upload and credit your work again. But by now Ethan had realized what kinda of selfish and greedy person you are and therefor he chose to pay extra attention in not loading your images on his blog. Which kinda put you in a bad position since so u retaliate by coming up with the most Bullsht exuses that you are right.
    As for my opinion I came to a conclusion that the whole purpose of your attitude and behaviours towards Ethan and his site is driven by greed and selfishness.. You cared more about trying to make some money from Ethan rather than getting the best thing any human can ask for, a name/reputation. U failed to see the big picture where you could have got so much more where money can’t even buy it. For one that would of been my respect!!

    Ethan and wow wins. You my friend anothny.. It’s ppl like you who make this world a miserable place..

  70. #70 PJ
    September 3, 2013

    Sheesh ! What happened to the original discussion? I’ve not seen such ‘dirty linen’ being flung around. Let’s hope we can read more astro-educational material in the future.
    Questions & suggestions looks like a really promising undertaking, Ethan. Well done.

  71. #71 Mike
    September 3, 2013

    I’ve heard more mature arguments on a playground. Anthony, you should be embarrassed and ashamed of yourself for having such a tantrum immortalized for everyone to gawk at. Right or wrong, you’re a temperamental baby.

  72. #72 bui
    December 20, 2013

    Thank you Ethan for the blog. I have 2 questions:

    1. If we can see 15 (or xx, nevermind the number) bill LY in every direction, does it sound like we are in the center of the universe?
    2. What if within 15 bill LY there is enough matter chunks dispersed in a way that can block all rays coming from outside?

    Thank you again.

  73. #73 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    December 20, 2013

    @bui #72: When you stand in an open field, you can see approximately three miles in every direction. Does that means that the Earth is just an open field six miles across? Please consider the answer to this question in relation your question number 1.

    Regarding your question #2, please look up Olber’s Paradox.

  74. #74 gaz
    January 31, 2014

    What a shame that you have embarrassed your self on here.
    This is an educating and interesting blog. Nobody cares about the issues you have with the original poster. He told you polity he wasn’t going to use your photos. I think hes made that pretty clear to you and has been more than polite about the situation considering your rudeness towards him. And now, every time i see a photo of yours, i will remember your poor attitude and behaviour on this site. He was willing to give you credit and let people know who you are and direct them to your work. But instead you’ve made your self look like an arse for all to see.

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