Space is absolutely huge, but scientists say they have been able to measure all the stellar light ever produced in the visible universe.
It not only includes the current starlight, but all the stellar light "produced through the history of the visible universe" – so it is a fairly large number.
After all, it is estimated that our universe is about 13.7 billion years old and began to create stars for several hundred million years.
The best hit for science is that it has about two trillions of galaxies and trillion trillion stars.
And now astronomers at Clemons College of Science use NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray space telescope data to determine how many photons (particles of light) ever produce stars.
Technically, the number is known as septenvigintillion – but it is not massively useful.
Actually, 4 was multiplied by 10 at power 84.
With each strength, multiply the number by 10. So 10 to 2 is 100, 10 to 3 is 1000, and so on.
In that case, complete with a number that has 84 zeros – also known as: 4.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.000 .000.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.
Yes, that is how many photons make up the light of stars ever produced in the visible universe, according to scientists writing in Science.
By contrast, it is estimated that the number of sand grains on Earth is about 7.5 x 10 in strength of 18 – or 7.500,000,000,000,000,000.
And the amount of water molecules on Earth is estimated at 4.6 x 10 to the power of 43 – or 46,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules.
Basically, there's lots of lights out there.
"From the data collected from the Fermi telescope, we were able to measure the entire amount of star light ever emitted," said Clemson's Marco Ajello.
"It has never been done before."
He continued: "Most of this light emits stars living in galaxies.
"And so we were able to get a better understanding of the evolutionary star process and gain amazing insight into how the universe produced its brilliant content."
Of course, that's not all the light out there – it has a lot of light that just does not come to Earth.
This is a measure of the visible universe, which (as the name suggests) is a bit of what we can see.
How was the measurement done?
Here's what you need to know …
- Light can be measured in terms of photons, the least possible unit of light
- We have comprehensive light information in the universe thanks to telescopes on Earth and in space
- In the universe, there is a phenomenon known as extragalactic background light (EBL)
- It is a "cosmic fog" composed of all the light emitted by stars or dust in their vicinity
- Until recently, it was impossible to do more than hit the thickness of that fog – and so extract the amount of light
- Scientists have used blaars, which are galaxies that contain super-massive black holes, releasing narrow nozzle particles that quickly move across the cosmos
- When one of these nozzles is directed directly to the Earth, the gamma ray photons produced within the nozzles collide with cosmic fog – leaving a print
- This enabled researchers to measure the density of the cosmic cloud at a particular location
- However, using bladder jets at different distances (taking varying amounts of travel time), the researchers were also able to measure how much the cosmic fog was dense at a certain time in history
- "Gamma-ray photons traveling through the fog of starlight have a high likelihood of absorption," said Marco Ajello, a professor involved in the study
- "Measuring how much photons were absorbed, we were able to measure how thick the fog was and also measured, depending on time, how much light was in the entire range of wavelengths"
- This enabled the measurement of light we can not see – but we know it's there
- This can be combined with the light we can see, giving us a pretty accurate estimate of the amount of stars light in the universe
Many lights are blocked on the way to Earth. And a little light, from the very beginning of the universe, has not yet come to Earth.
In fact, the great piece of light measured here comes from our own sun and galaxies.
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The rest of the stellar light that reaches the Earth is "extremely weak," experts say.
It is equivalent to looking at a 60W bulb in a complete darkness, from a distance of about 2.5 miles.
This is mainly because the universe is incredibly large. It also explains why the night is night sky – except the light from the Moon and some stars.
Do you think we'll ever explore the whole universe? Let us know in the comments!
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