Our Universe Just Got A Whole Lot Bigger

Our Universe Just Got A Whole Lot Bigger.

The more information we get, the more it becomes clear. The universe may be vastly larger than we ever imagined. Astronomers recently announced there may be ten times more galaxies than previously counted by any observatory, whether ground-based or in space. Found at the edge of visible space, the strange infant galaxies formed just after a period known as the Epoch of Reionization. At this time, neutral hydrogen reverted to an ionized form and created a clear, diffuse universe instead of a haze around everything. These galaxies are believed to be the catalyst for the change.

Prior to this cloudy universal haze, none of the first objects in our early universe could be seen. The researchers used 3-D modelling of the Hubble Deep Field images to build a good estimate of the number of galaxies across time in the universe. Using these numbers, Chris Conselice of the University of Nottingham and his team further extrapolated that 90% of all the galaxies out there have yet to be seen. “It boggles the mind that over 90% of the galaxies in the universe have yet to be studied. Who knows what interesting properties we will find when we observe these galaxies with the next generation of telescopes?” Conselice said in a press release.

These galaxies are unlike the giant structures we know today; they are primitive assemblages of stars that appear in a sort of greenish colour. The previous estimate of 200 billion galaxies in the universe did not account for these early, strange blobs at the edge of what Hubble can see. The Epoch of Reionization is hard to study, but astronomers are trying several ways to witness it in action. Some, like the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array, try to tune in to the faint radio signals from this era. But NASA is banking on the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope to peer into these boundaries with unprecedented precision. For now, we will have to be content knowing that the universe is bigger than we anticipated with any previous model.

Credit: Astronomy February 2017