Observers living in the Andromeda galaxy and beyond have their own observable universes that are different from but overlap with ours. Andromedans can see galaxies we cannot, simply by virtue of being slightly closer to them, and vice versa. Their observable universe also used to be the size of a grapefruit. Thus, we can conceive of the early universe as a pile of overlapping grapefruits that stretches infinitely in all directions. Correspondingly, the idea that the big bang was "small" is misleading. The totality of space could be infinite. Shrink an infinite space by an arbitrary amount, and it is still infinite.
In this way, the Hubble distance gets larger. As it does, light that was initially just outside the Hubble distance and receding from us can come within the Hubble distance. The photons then find themselves in a region of space that is receding slower than the speed of light. Thereafter they can approach us. The galaxy they came from, though, may continue to recede superluminally. Thus, we can observe light from galaxies that have always been and will always be receding faster than the speed of light.
For example, if gravity got stronger, your spinal cord would compress until the electrons in your vertebrae reached a new equilibrium slightly closer together. You would be a shorter person, but you would not continue to shrink. In the same way, if we lived in a universe dominated by the attractive force of gravity, as most cosmologists thought until a few years ago, the expansion would decelerate, putting a gentle squeeze on bodies in the universe, making them reach a smaller equilibrium size. Having done so, they would not keep shrinking.
In fact, in our universe the expansion is accelerating, and that exerts a gentle outward force on bodies. Consequently, bound objects are slightly larger than they would be in a nonaccelerating universe, because the equilibrium among forces is reached at a slightly larger size. At Earth's surface, the outward acceleration away from the planet's center equals a tiny fraction (10–30) of the normal inward gravitational acceleration. If this acceleration is constant, it does not make Earth expand; rather the planet simply settles into a static equilibrium size slightly larger than the size it would have attained.
This reasoning changes if acceleration is not constant, as some cosmologists have speculated. If the acceleration itself increased, it could eventually grow strong enough to tear apart all structures, leading to a "big rip." But this rip would occur not because of expansion or acceleration per se but because of an accelerating acceleration.
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