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Ancient Suns Set The Night Sky Aglow

1 Oct 2018, 17:58 UTC
Ancient Suns Set The Night Sky Aglow
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Astronomers have uncovered vast cosmic reservoirs of atomic hydrogen surrounding distant galaxies. The exquisite sensitivity of MUSE allowed for direct observations of dim clouds of hydrogen glowing with Lyman-alpha emission in the early universe — revealing that almost the whole night sky is invisibly aglow. This is a composite image showing the emission in blue against a photo taken with the Hubble Space Telescope.ESA/Hubble & NASA, ESO/ Lutz Wisotzki et al.
Nearly the entire night sky glows a midnight blue from vast clouds of hydrogen gas. New observations made with the MUSE (Multi Instrument Spectroscopic Explorer) instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope have uncovered enormous cosmic reservoirs of atomic hydrogen surrounding distant galaxies. The team of astronomers discovered that the light — called Lyman-alpha emission — covered nearly the entire field of view of the telescope, leading them to extrapolate that most of the sky must be aglow with the stuff.
Astronomers have been looking at the sky in many different wavelengths of light from X-rays to radio waves for decades now, but the extent of the Lyman-alpha glow was still surprising. “Realizing that the whole sky glows in optical (light) when observing the Lyman-alpha emission from ...

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