NPR

What Does An Expanding Universe Really Mean?

Cosmic expansion stretches space itself, as if space were made of some kind of stretchy rubber material; there is no physical border, only stretching space, says astrophysicist Marcelo Gleiser.
Astronaut Reid Wiseman captured this image from the International Space Station and posted it on Sept. 28, 2014, writing: "The Milky Way steals the show from Sahara sands that make the Earth glow orange," according to NASA's website. Source: Reid Wiseman

I often get asked what an "expanding universe" really means.

It's confusing, and for very good reasons. So, if you are perplexed by this, don't feel bad. We all are, although cosmologists — physicists that work on the properties of the universe — have figured out ways to make sense of it. In what follows, I'll try to explain how to picture this.

In the next few weeks, we will address other bizarre cosmic questions, such as the meaning of the Big Bang and the future and material composition of the universe.

Here is the problem: From our everyday perspective, when we see something expanding, we immediately also see what it's expanding into. An inflating balloon

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