A NASA mission has discovered that there may be far fewer galaxies than initially believed, opening up the possibility that humanity is alone in the universe.
The New Horizons mission, which had the first close-up photographs of Pluto, provided enough data for scientists to determine that it is likely that the number of galaxies is in the hundreds of billions, rather than 2 trillion, as initially assumed .
“This is an important number to know – how many galaxies are there?” The study’s lead author, Mark Postman, said in a statement. “We just don’t see light from 2 trillion galaxies.”
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The findings, which were published and can be read here, are in contrast to the Stark 2 trillion figure that had been used for a long time, thanks to data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Scientists used mathematical models to determine that 90% of galaxies in the universe were beyond Hubble’s ability to see “visible light”.
Traveling at a rate of approximately 33,000 mph, the $ 720 million New Horizons spacecraft, which launched in January 2006, would eventually reach interstellar space, such as before the Vayager probe. The fact that it is currently near the edge of the solar system allows it to see the sky 10 times deeper than Hubble’s Vikrant point.
“These types of measurements are extremely difficult. Many people have tried to do this for a long time,” study co-author Todd Lauer explained. “New Horizons has provided us with a vantage point to measure the cosmic optical background that anyone is capable of.”
The New Horizons spacecraft is now 4.4 billion miles from Earth.
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“Collect all the galaxies Hubble can see, double that number, and that’s what we see – but nothing more,” said Lauer.
NASA’s James Webb telescope, which returned its launch due to an epidemic of coronavirus virus, can help scientists learn more about the faint glow in the background of space and learn whether they are dwarf galaxies or anything else.
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The New Horizons spacecraft has recently made several discoveries in memory, including the object orcoth, formerly known as the Ultima Rule. In May 2019, New Horizons discovered water and organic molecules on the Arokoth, deep within the so-called Kuiper Belt or Twilight Zone beyond the orbit of Neptune.