All Starlight EVER Measured Through Time’s Foggy Lens

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 10 December 2018



Let There be Light. Lots of Light

All Starlight EVER Measured Through Time’s Foggy Lens

Clemson scientists measure all of the starlight ever produced by the observable universe,
Clemson University, November 29, 2018.


The Great Fog
“...gamma rays (the most energetic form of light) and their interaction with the extragalactic background light (EBL), which is a cosmic fog composed of all the ultraviolet, visible and infrared light emitted by stars or from dust in their vicinity.”

How Thick
“...using Fermi's Large Area Telescope data to analyze the extragalactic background light. Starlight that escapes galaxies, including the most distant ones, eventually becomes part of the EBL. Therefore, accurate measurements of this cosmic fog, which have only recently become possible, eliminated the need to estimate light emissions from ultra-distant galaxies.”

"Scientists have tried to measure the EBL for a long time. However, very bright foregrounds like the zodiacal light (which is light scattered by dust in the solar system) rendered this measurement very challenging."

The One Fog
"Our technique is insensitive to any foreground and thus overcame these difficulties all at once."

Fogging Through Time
“...measured the total starlight at different time periods. We measured the total starlight of each epoch - one billion years ago, two billion years ago, six billion years ago, etc. - all the way back to when stars were first formed. This allowed us to reconstruct the EBL and determine the star-formation history of the universe in a more effective manner than had been achieved before."

Current Total


4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 photons.

Star Facts
“Star formation, which occurs when dense regions of molecular clouds collapse and form stars, peaked around 11 billion years ago. But though the birthing of new stars has since slowed down, it has never stopped. For instance, about seven new stars are created in our Milky Way galaxy every year. “



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