Scientists say a "ghostly glow" is surrounding our solar system, but they're not sure where it's coming from.
Equivalent to "the steady light of 10 fireflies spread across the entire sky," the dim glow continues even when all expected sources of light are accounted for. In a new study, scientists subtracted the light emanating from known sources, such as stars and galaxies, and found that some light remained.
Scientists used 200,000 images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to make the discovery, according to a press release from the space agency.
The glow could be the result of an unknown structure within the solar system, scientists have speculated, and may include a sphere of dust made up from comets falling into the solar system, which reflect sunlight.
If the dust shell is real and not hypothetical then it would alter the understanding of the solar system's architecture, the release said.
The New Horizons spacecraft also found a small amount of background light in the solar system in 2021, which also remains unexplained. Possible explanations have ranged from the decay of dark matter to a huge unseen population of remote galaxies.
The light observed by New Horizons was less intense than that seen in the Hubble images, possibly because New Horizons was further away – approximately 4 or 5 billion miles from the sun – than Hubble.
That makes researchers think the light is coming from inside or nearby the solar system. When put together, the two findings suggest there may be a previously unmeasured element within the solar system.
The scientists' findings are reported in new papers published in The Astronomical Journal and The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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