A ghostly glow surrounds the solar system, and no one can explain it: ScienceAlert

A new analysis of Hubble data concludes that there is a lot of light in space around the solar system.

Not a lot of extra light, of course. Just a subtle, ghostly glow, a slight excess that cannot be accounted for in the account of all light-emitting objects.

Of all the stars and galaxies surrounding the solar system — and zodiacal light, also known as solar system-wide dust — none of them can explain what astronomers now call “phantom light.”

After analyzing 200,000 Hubble images and taking thousands of measurements in a project called skysurfAn international collaboration sure that excess light is real.

Moreover, they cannot fully explain it. There are possibilities, but none have been confirmed. Not now anyway.

The strongest possibility? An element of solar system dust that we haven’t yet directly detected: tiny particles of dust and ice from a group of comets travel inward from dark parts of the solar system, reflecting sunlight and generating a diffuse, global glow.

This source will be a little closer to us than Extra light detected by the New Horizons space probewhich found an excess of optical light in the space beyond Pluto, outside the solar system.

“Si our analysis is correct, it is a composant of poussière entre nous et la distance où New Horizons an effectué des mesures. Cela signifie qu’il s’agit d’une sorte de lumière supplémentaire provenant de l’interieur de notre solar system”, says astronomer Tim Carlton from Arizona State University.

“Because our measurement of residual light outperforms New Horizons, we believe this is a local phenomenon not very far from the solar system. They may be a new solar system content element that has been hypothesized but not quantitatively measured yet.”

There are a lot of bright things floating around the universe: planets, stars, galaxies, and even gas and dust. And the shiny things are usually the things we want to look at. So detecting ambient light in interstitial spaces – the space between planets, interstellar and between galaxies – is challenging.

However, when we look, we sometimes find that things are not what we expected.

For example, something we cannot explain produces the center of the galaxy High power light. While traveling I found an excess of hydrogen-related luminescence at the edge of the solar system. Discover New Horizons. Things look strangely bright in there.

Illustration of a hypothetical cometary dust cloud that can produce the glow. (NASA, European Space Agency and Andy James/STSCi)

The goal of SKYSURF was to perfectly describe the luminosity of the sky.

More than 95% of the photons in the images from the Hubble archive come from distances of less than 3 billion km from Earth. Since the early days of the Hubble Telescope, most Hubble users have dismissed these photons from the sky, as they are interested in discrete faint objects. In Hubble images, like stars and galaxies,” says astronomer and veteran Hubble expert Roger Windhorst from Arizona State University.

“But these photons from the sky contain important information that can be extracted thanks to Hubble’s unique ability to measure low levels of light with high precision over its three decades of life.”

Across three separate papers, the researchers combed through the Hubble archives for signs of faint galaxies we might have missed and determined what light objects known to glow should be emitting.

The Hidden Galaxy Search team determined there weren’t enough lost galaxies to account for the extra light.

The resulting excess was, according to the scientists, the equivalent of a steady glow emanating from 10 fireflies across the sky.

It may not seem like much, but it’s enough to know we’re missing something. And this is important. Increasingly, scientists are finding ways to see the light between the stars. If there is a local excess, we need to know about it, because it might skew our understanding of distant, ghostly flares.

And of course, there could be an impact on our understanding of the solar system and how it is put together.

“When we look at the night sky, we can learn a lot about Earth’s atmosphere. Hubble is in space,” says astronomer Rosalia O’Brien from Arizona State University.

“When we look at this sky at night, we can learn a lot about what’s going on in our galaxy, our solar system, and on a scale as broad as the entire universe.”

The three articles published by SKYSURF were originally published in The Astronomical Journal And the Letters from The Astrophysical JournalAnd they can be found over hereAnd the over hereAnd the over here. Fourth article, submitted to The Astronomical Journal Which has not yet been published, can be found on the arXiv demo server.

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