This very wide, multi-frame panoramic photograph was taken in October 2014 at Canyon de Chile National Monument in Northeast Arizona. The zodiacal light is at the left, with the northern milky way to the right.

Z. Levay

Although we may think of space as a vast sea of ​​blackness, all we have to do is look up at night to see that it is interspersed with countless stars, galaxies and even a few. Planets visible to the naked eye.

Scientists recently used data from NASA’s New Horizons mission outside Pluto to gauge how dark the cosmic background really is. What they found has implications for what we thought we knew about the formation of the entire universe.

In short, space is very dark and there cannot be many galaxies there, adding its faint glow to the background, as astronomers previously estimated.

“It’s an important number to know – how many galaxies are there?” Mark Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute said in Declaration Tuesday. “We simply don’t see light from 2 trillion galaxies.”

that was Earlier estimate It is derived from Hubble Space Telescope observations, but A. New study It will be published in the Astrophysical Journal and co-authored by Postman, indicating that the total number of galaxies in the universe may be in the hundreds of billions, not the trillions.

Interestingly, this is closer to an earlier figure until you guess there were about 200 billion galaxies. This was based on Hubble data from the 1990s.

New Horizons’ position near the edge of the solar system gives an surrounding sky 10 times darker than Hubble’s location.

“These kinds of measurements are very difficult. Lots of people have been trying to do that for a long time,” said study co-author Todd Lawer of the National Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory. “New Horizons has provided us with a benchmark point to better measure the cosmic visual background than anyone has been able to do.”

The team’s results will be presented on Wednesday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Next James Webb Space TelescopeThe, which is currently slated to be launched on Halloween, could help provide more insights into the number and type of galaxies that provide a faint glow in the background that prevents the universe from becoming completely black.

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