Scientists discover that outer space is not entirely dark

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Launched in January 2006, the New Horizons probe continues, even 10.3 billion kilometers from Earth, bringing important information: a group of NASA researchers recently published a work in which, through images of the distant probe, they can determine whether outer space is really dark.

The question, which has intrigued scientists for decades, was analyzed in a study by astronomer Tod Lauer and other NASA researchers, responsible for the New Horizons mission, which currently travels far beyond the dwarf planet Pluto.

In fact, New Horizons’ original mission was to explore the planet farthest from our Solar System, but after flying over it in July 2015, the spacecraft simply continued its journey to the ends of outer space. Currently, it is 50 times farther from the Sun than Earth, and it was this distance from the main light source in the Solar System that spurred the new research.

In total darkness

New Horizons’ position today puts it away from the main sources of light contamination that could prevent the detection of any type of light signal from the universe itself. In our internal solar system, for example, space is full of dust particles that naturally reflect sunlight, creating a diffuse glow that spreads across the sky.

As there are no signs of cosmic dust or sunlight in the location where New Horizons is located, which is very weak, the researchers analyzed the images captured by the telescope and the probe’s simple camera, and of course what they were able to obtain were totally photos. monotonous and dull.

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The astronomers then processed the images, removing all known sources of visible light. However, even taking out the light from the stars, plus the scattered light from the Milky Way, and any interference from the camera, scientists continued to perceive light coming from a place beyond our galaxy.

Where does this light come from?

According to Lauer, there is still no entirely concrete answer as to what is the source of so much light in outer space. He says there could be many more galaxies with small, weaker dwarfs on the “periphery” of the systems we know. Or perhaps the amount of dust is greater than expected.

A stranger explanation could be the existence of some phenomenon of the universe, still unknown, that creates visible light. It could even be something related to dark matter, a supposed form of matter that exerts gravitational attraction, but that has never been seen.

For Marc Postman, co-author of the study, “the components that emit light are something that would give us a good sense and understanding of why that light exists”. And that is what the new study may provide, as the location of New Horizons will allow new measurements to be made in a place in outer space that is totally “clean”.

Until then, Postman admits, the space will still remain dark.


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