NASA’s Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment rocket launch last year at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia shows that half the extragalactic background light is coming from rogue stars kicked out of their galaxies.
Scientists who shot a rocket up beyond the atmosphere for minutes at a time have discovered something remarkable in the universe’s diffuse background light that as many as half of the stars in the universe may have been stripped from their home galaxies and flung into space.
Scientists have long wondered about the origins of the diffuse light permeating the heavens, which they called extragalactic background light.
“There were some hints that there was some light in the background, and the question is that do we understand all of the processes that produced that light?” said study coauthor James Bock, a Caltech experimental cosmologist.
One theory held that the faint radiation might be coming from the early universe, a product of the first primordial galaxies that are so far away that they elude astronomer’s telescopes.
To find out, scientists with NASA’s Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment (CIBER) shot a small telescope up beyond the atmosphere to take clear shots of the sky in near-infrared light and then parachute back down to Earth.
Rather than finding signs of the stretched-out, red-shifted light from distant galaxies, the scientists discovered the light was surprisingly blue; a sign that it was coming from more nearby stars in the universe; stars that weren’t accounted for among the known galaxies.
These stars are so distant and faint that there’s no way to pick them out individually. They could be detected only by looking for this collective glow, the scientists said.