Left: galactic coordinates of science fields color-coded according to total integration time per field. Right: heliocentric distance of each scientific domain. The height of each bar indicates the total integration time per field. Credit: arXiv (2022). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2212.07449
Scientists have analyzed new measurements showing that light emitted by stars outside our galaxy is two to three times brighter than light from known populations of galaxies, challenging assumptions about numbers and surroundings stars in the universe. The results of the study, conducted by researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology, have been published on arXiv and accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.
The research team analyzed hundreds of background light images taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) during NASA’s New Horizons mission to calculate the cosmic optical background (COB) – the sum of light emitted by stars beyond the Milky Way in the history of the universe. If the COB luminosity is not equal to the light from galaxies we know of, it suggests that there may be missing optical light sources in the universe.
“We are seeing more light than we should be seeing based on the populations of galaxies we understand exist and how much light we estimate they should be producing,” said Teresa Symons Ph.D. ( Astrophysical Science and Technology), who led the study for her thesis and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Irvine. “Determining what produces this light could change our fundamental understanding of how the universe formed over time.”
Earlier this year, an independent team of scientists reported that the COB was twice as large as originally believed. Astrophysical Journal Letters. These findings were no accident, as supported by the use of a much larger set of LORRI observations in the new study by Symons, RIT Associate Professor Michael Zemcov and researchers at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, UC Irvine, UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University.
While an unmasked COB measurement is difficult to make from Earth due to dust between planets, the New Horizons spacecraft sits at the edge of our solar system where that foreground is minimal and provides a much greater view. clear for this type of study. Scientists hope that future missions and instruments can be developed to help explore the gap.
“It’s gotten to the point where it’s a real mystery that needs to be solved,” said Zemcov, a research professor at the Center for Detectors and RIT’s School of Physics and Astronomy. “I hope that some of the experiments we are involved in here at RIT, including CIBER-2 and SPHEREx, can help us bridge the gap.”
Teresa Symons et al, A measurement of cosmic optical background and galactic diffuse light scaling from R<50 AU New Horizons-LORRI data, arXiv (2022). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2212.07449
Tod R. Lauer et al, Anomalous Flux in the Cosmic Optical Background Detected with New Horizons Observations, Letters from the Astrophysical Journal (2022). DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac573d
Provided by Rochester Institute of Technology
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