Scientists discover that 80pc of light in the near universe is ‘missing’

11 Jul 2014

Colorful stars galore inside globular star cluster Omega Centauri. Image via NASA

A team of research scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder (UCB) analysing data from the Hubble space telescope are left baffled at being unable to account for the source of 80pc of light in the visible universe.

Highlighting their findings on the university’s website, the researchers explained that they were able to find this bizarre anomaly by analysing the tendrils of hydrogen that bridge the vast reaches of empty space between galaxies

By examining these tendrils, the researchers are able to see ultraviolet light when hydrogen atoms are struck by this highly energetic light source, thereby transforming them from electrically neutral atoms to charged ions.

However, it now appears that there is an overabundance of hydrogen atoms compared with the amount of ultraviolet light in the nearby universe by over an incredible 400pc, or as said the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Juna Kollmeier puts it: “It’s as if you’re in a big, brightly lit room, but you look around and see only a few 40-watt lightbulbs.”

Even more bizarrely for the researchers, when the Hubble telescope focused on galaxies billions of light years away, there appeared to be no anomaly with all the percentages matching up.

While they are still unsure as to why this is happening, one of the co-authors of the paper detailing their findings has said that the mystery is perhaps the best result they could have hoped for: “The great thing about a 400 percent discrepancy is that you know something is really wrong. We still don’t know for sure what it is, but at least one thing we thought we knew about the present day universe isn’t true.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic