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80% of the light in the universe is missing


Posted on Sunday, 13 July, 2014 | Comment icon 41 comments

Where is the missing ultraviolet light ? Image Credit: NASA/ESA/ESO
Astronomers have identified a new cosmological mystery using data from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The problem centers around the fact that the 'tendrils' of hydrogen believed to bridge the space between galaxies are not lighting up as expected.

When these hydrogen atoms are struck by ultraviolet light they are transformed in to charged ions, however scientists have been able to identify far more charged ions than can be explained by the known amounts of ultraviolet light in the universe.

The discrepancy isn't small either - observations from Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph suggest that a whopping 80% of the expected light seems to be unaccounted for.

Even stranger is the fact that this effect only seems to apply to observations of the sky near to us, whereas the figures appear to add up as expected when observing the distant universe. Scientists are therefore understandably baffled as to the nature of this "dark light" and how to account for it.

"We are missing 80 per cent of the ionizing photons, and the question is where are they coming from?" wrote study co-author Benjamin Oppenheimer. "The most fascinating possibility is that an exotic new source, not quasars or galaxies, is responsible for the missing photons."

Source: Gizmodo | Comments (41)

Tags: Hubble, Light, Universe

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #32 Posted by DieChecker on 15 July, 2014, 20:08
If there is "missing" light, then is there missing energy? If there is less energy, does that mean there is more mass?
Comment icon #33 Posted by Giggling Panzer on 15 July, 2014, 22:04
It probably has something to do with Black Hole, the nearest one is said to be getting bigger from what I hear.
Comment icon #34 Posted by andy4 on 15 July, 2014, 23:07
I thought that this article meant that there are too many ionized particles activated by ultraviolet light, and that there aren't enough sources to make up the discrepancy in how many particles are ionized compared to the sources. Not that there is light being eaten up by black holes or light is disappearing. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
Comment icon #35 Posted by andy4 on 15 July, 2014, 23:39
Personally I like the idea of decaying dark matter generating ultraviolet light. Not too hard to think of ways to check on this either, since we already have an idea of the distribution of dark matter here and there. The difference between the little if any decay early on in cosmic history and the present decay rates should also give a good idea of half-lives of some fundamental material, I would think a good clue as to what it is (since I suspect the stuff comes in several flavors, it would have varying decay rates). By the way, this is all my speculation; no claims here. http://news.sciencem... [More]
Comment icon #36 Posted by DieChecker on 16 July, 2014, 1:23
I thought that this article meant that there are too many ionized particles activated by ultraviolet light, and that there aren't enough sources to make up the discrepancy in how many particles are ionized compared to the sources. Not that there is light being eaten up by black holes or light is disappearing. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. I think you are right. The idea, I think, is that there is not enough intergalactic UV to excite the intergalactic hydrogen to the levels seen locally (on a galactic scale). It is the UV that presumably excites the hydrogen that seems to be coming from no ... [More]
Comment icon #37 Posted by andy4 on 16 July, 2014, 1:48
I think you are right. The idea, I think, is that there is not enough intergalactic UV to excite the intergalactic hydrogen to the levels seen locally (on a galactic scale). It is the UV that presumably excites the hydrogen that seems to be coming from no where that is the mystery. Ok, just checking to make sure I read that correctly, thanks. If it isn't dark matter there will probably be a lot of head scratching in the near future. Quite a mystery, but a fun and fascinating one it is.
Comment icon #38 Posted by andy4 on 16 July, 2014, 23:29
I was thinking about the missing light (uv source) problem today. Could it be that the missing sources can't be found because they are artificial? Hear me out. Deep space lasers will probably be used en masse in the future to communicate and send signals SETI style in space. Uv, which lasers emit, can ionize hydrogen, which is the most common element in the universe. Now, SETI says that an intelligent civilization will most likely use the hydrogen line to communicate with radio waves, hydrogen line being a frequency which travels well through hydrogen. Now if lasers can activate hydrogen and i... [More]
Comment icon #39 Posted by nik-h on 17 July, 2014, 19:26
Or our 'Laws' of Physics &/or the maths are wrong...
Comment icon #40 Posted by Parsec on 21 July, 2014, 0:17
Ok, just checking to make sure I read that correctly, thanks. If it isn't dark matter there will probably be a lot of head scratching in the near future. Quite a mystery, but a fun and fascinating one it is. Yeah, the article (and especially its title) is a bit misleading, che calculations show that we miss 80% of the source of the light, not the light itself. [...] A problem stated in the article also says that the older universe doesn't have a "missing light" discrepancy, and they can't figure out why. Maybe it's possible that intelligent life, if we look at earth as an example, takes time t... [More]
Comment icon #41 Posted by SaraT on 21 July, 2014, 9:08
Well, there's no satisfying scientists. Some of them say we're using too much electricity and depleting the planet of its resources, so we shouldn't have so many lights. And now some are saying there isn't enough light in the universe. They really should make up their mind!


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