Without the light provided by stars, there wouldn’t be anything to see in the Universe. Light brings knowledge, but what can you do when the first element is not enough? You’ll get the pitch black outer space that we’ve all seen on the night sky, in movies, in video games, and so on. But could there be that the human perception is wrong by itself?
Tod Lauer is one of the scientists who asked themselves if our Universe really is dark, and he’s from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Arizona.
The New Horizons spacecraft brings answers
The New Horizons is a spacecraft that travels even beyond Pluto, and astronomers had been using it to determine if outer space is truly black or not. The advantage of the New Horizons spacecraft is that it’s far enough from major sources of light. As scientists were aiming to detect the faint glow of the Universe, they went through images taken by a telescope and a camera mounted on the spacecraft.
“The images were all of what you just simply call blank sky. There’s a sprinkling of faint stars, there’s a sprinkling of faint galaxies, but it looks random,” Lauer says.
“What you want is a place that doesn’t have many bright stars in the images or bright stars even outside the field that can scatter light back into the camera.”
Extra light detected… but no origin
Marc Postman, who is an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute from Baltimore, reveals the shocking aspect that the light coming from mysterious sources was distributed in the pretty much the same amount as the light belonging to the known galaxies.
Tod Lauer comes with the conclusion: “space is dark.” Even after all the analysis, “it’s still pretty dark.”
Luckily for all of us, there are trillions of galaxies out there and each of them containing hundreds of billions of stars that illuminate the Cosmos. The first stars emerged when the Universe was “only” 200 million years old, and these majestic structures are created every single day out there from hydrogen gas.