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80% of the light in the universe is missing

Posted on Sunday, 13 July, 2014 | Comment icon 42 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 (42)

Tags: Hubble, Light, Universe

Recent comments on this story
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 I agree with that. According to the above article, dark matter decays into photons, albeit very slowly. Photons can also ionize atoms, which I believe would be responsible for the extra ionization in the universe which is supposedly missing. Also 84.5% of the universe is thought to be dark matter and now all of a sudden there is a discrepancy of 80% of particle ionization in the universe. Another thing to ponder is how there was once less dark matter in the universe than there currently is. P... [More]
Comment icon #36 Posted by DieChecker on 16 July, 2014, 1:23
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.
Comment icon #37 Posted by andy4 on 16 July, 2014, 1:48
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 a... [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
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. That's a very interesting idea! I thought something similar, although simpler without the "artificial" part: if we find this discrepancy only near us, maybe it's not a long process that takes time to be evident (like a long decay rate), but it's a new one, that wasn't present in the distant past. As far as we know, this could be a brand new phenomenon and we're witnessing its beginning. And this leads to... [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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