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Space Science

90% of the Universe Found Hiding In Plain View 279

Posted by timothy
from the that-tricky-universe dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "As much as 90% of previously hidden galaxies in the distant Universe have been found by astronomers using the Very Large Telescope in Chile. Previous surveys had looked for distant (10 billion light years away) galaxies by searching in a wavelength of ultraviolet light emitted by hydrogen atoms — distant young galaxies should be blasting out this light, but very few were detected. The problem is that the ultraviolet light never gets out of the galaxies, so we never see them. In this new study, astronomers searched a different wavelength emitted by hydrogen, and voila, ten times as many galaxies could be seen, meaning 90% of them had been missed before."
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90% of the Universe Found Hiding In Plain View

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  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:22PM (#31616870)
    90% of the Universe was discovered by thinking differently? Steve Jobs just felt a tingle somewhere.
    • by calibre-not-output (1736770) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:26PM (#31616982) Homepage
      A tingle? Steve Jobs just had to go get a change of pants.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Jurily (900488)

      90% of the Universe was discovered by thinking differently?

      Hey, with a name like Very Large Telescope, something big was bound to happen.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday March 25, 2010 @05:38PM (#31618088) Homepage Journal

      And how do they know that they've found 90% of what was previously hidden?

      Maybe there's more hidden than they thought was hidden.

      Is the size of the universe so widely agreed-upon? Far be it from me to challenge a headline in Science, but I'm just a little curious about this assertion.

      • by OakDragon (885217)
        It's usually the last place you look.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Shikaku (1129753)

        If one of the theories concerning the universe holds true about the size and how it works, looking at one point can cause visual feedback.

        The theory is that if you go straight with a velocity with no force ever effecting you you would return to your previous point eventually. In short the universe is curved into itself and like on a planet traveling in 1 direction on the planet returns you to your starting point.

        If you look at one point in the universe I would not be surprised if you saw galaxies and objec

      • by SoVeryTired (967875) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:43PM (#31618894)

        There's a big fat gap between what the calculations say the rate of galaxy formation should be, and what it is actually observed to be. This new observation accounts for 90% of that rate.

      • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:10PM (#31619896)

        A quote from the summary, which should appear directly above the comments in case you are not familiar with slashdot, is:

        and voila, ten times as many galaxies could be seen

        .

        X is the previous amount, and 10x as the new amount of galaxies.

        So simple math gives you X + YX = 10X
        X(1+Y)=10x
        (1+Y)=10
        Y=9

        So we see a 10-fold total galaxies, which is 9-fold improvement. Or to put it another way, the new 100% is 10 times the previous amount, which must have been 10%, leaving 90% more.

        You're reading it as "90% of the universe found", from the headline, which is an attempt, although a poor one, at conveying the increase in observable galaxies. It is correct if you assume that we found 90% of the now-current estimate of the number of galaxies, in other words insert the word "known" in the title somewhere. Choosing not to even read the summary has left you understandably confused, and I'm glad that I was able to help. At the same time, I'm concerned that the other replies did not draw your attention to this. But I was able to post an accurate reply while maintaining an air of disdain and condescension, so that makes me feel good about myself. Thank you for affording me the opportunity, and welcome aboard.

  • I wear IR glasses so I'm really getting a kick out of these replies.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:24PM (#31616920)

    Anyone got any idea how this impacts our estimates of dark matter?

    Does dark matter disappear or do we still need some hiding to explain things?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think 90% of the dark matter just got a little brighter ... though I doubt they'll declare dark matter "a mistake" because so many in the astrophysics community have stood behind the concept.
      • by oldspewey (1303305) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:43PM (#31617312)

        More likely, a huge intellectual battle will break out among humankind, between the Dark Matter proponents and the Dark Matter deniers. Auditoriums full of angry people will hurl insults back and forth at each other, news stations will interview various scientific experts and political commentators in an effort to boost ratings, deniers will accuse the proponents of wanting to destroy the free-market universe and enslave humankind in some kind of subatomic socialism, while proponents will accuse the deniers of being selfish and greedy, willing to gamble the heat death of the entire universe just so they can run their colliders a little longer.

        But that's just my prediction.

      • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:43PM (#31617320) Journal

        Absolutely wrong. TFA even states this means nothing for dark matter, we knew that these galaxies were out there, we just hadn't spotted them yet. Besides, we've seen dark matter much closer to home. When galaxies collide, the gas pressure stops the regular matter, while the dark matter keeps moving along at the same speed. The dark matter has mass, so it creates a gravatic lens. We have seen these lenses, with no visible matter to create them, when galaxies collide.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Very nice. Thank you for explaining a little about what evidence we have for dark matter.

          I knew about the fudge factor we needed to get the equations to work - I didn't know we have actually seen something like that.

          • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:08PM (#31618498) Homepage

            I knew about the fudge factor we needed to get the equations to work - I didn't know we have actually seen something like that.

            It was never a "fudge factor" to make the equation of gravity "work". It was a prediction of the already extremely well-working equation. Not "Oh noes gravity is broken, we need 'dark matter' to fix it." Rather "Huh, gravity implies there is a mass here that we can't see with our electromagnetic detection devices".

            Think of it this way. You're walking around a room blindfolded with a cane that has a pressure sensor on the end that uses a voice synthesizer to tell you the readings. You notice that all along a large flat plane the pressure sensor detects pressure equal to that with which you push. Newton's 3rd Law tells you that for this to happen, something must be pushing back with equal force. Something like a wall.

            Now, do you say that the wall is a fudge to make Newton's 3rd Law work?
            Or do you say that Newton's 3rd Law implies that there is a wall there?

            I mean you might as well say that the existence of the Sun is a fudge to make electromagnetic and gravitational equations work.

            I'm not trying to rag on you or anything (I mean you said 'thank you' for evidence after all), just trying to clear up a misconception that I think has lead to a lot of unnecessary skepticism of dark matter.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by wealthychef (584778)
          So dark gas has no dark pressure?
          • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:57PM (#31617530)

            Dark matter isn't just matter that isn't lit up (that was one of the original theories, but has since fallen to the wayside), it is matter that is fundamentally different and doesn't appear to interact with regular matter at all, except gravitationally.

            • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @05:42PM (#31618142) Homepage

              it is matter that is fundamentally different and doesn't appear to interact with regular matter at all, except gravitationally.

              More specifically, it doesn't appear to interact electromagnetically. Which just happens to exclude all of our direct detection methods (i.e. telescopes).

              One candidate for dark matter is the neutralino, which is predicted by Supersymetric Theory and is basically a neutrino but heavier, and like a neutrino interacts through the Weak Interaction which allowed us to find neutrinos, and maybe even actual dark matter [arstechnica.com].

          • Well, since the whole idea of "dark matter" is matter that interacts primarily with gravity and very, very weakly through the other forces; yes.
        • I watch Futurama so I don't need to read science articles, you insensitive clod!
        • Absolutely wrong. TFA even states this means nothing for dark matter, we knew that these galaxies were out there, we just hadn't spotted them yet. Besides, we've seen dark matter much closer to home. When galaxies collide, the gas pressure stops the regular matter, while the dark matter keeps moving along at the same speed. The dark matter has mass, so it creates a gravatic lens. We have seen these lenses, with no visible matter to create them, when galaxies collide.

          That article gave me flashbacks on studying Boltzman distributions and the hydrogen atom. Strangely enough, if was only painful at first, I may have to go back review them.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      The first thing TFA tells you is that it doesn't.

    • by Mab_Mass (903149) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:33PM (#31617140) Homepage Journal

      Anyone got any idea how this impacts our estimates of dark matter?

      From TFA:

      "I'll note: this has nothing to do with dark matter. As it happens, 90% of the matter in the Universe is in a form that emits no light, but affects other matter through gravity. We know it exists ... locally, in nearby galaxies and clusters of galaxies, too. This new result doesn't affect that, since the now un-hidden galaxies are very far away, like many billions of light years away. They can't possibly affect nearby galaxies, so they don't account for dark matter."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The Bad Astronomy post talks about dark matter: [Note: before you ask, this has nothing to do with dark matter. See below!] I’ll note: this has nothing to do with dark matter. As it happens, 90% of the matter in the Universe is in a form that emits no light, but affects other matter through gravity. We know it exists, and you can find out why here [discovermagazine.com]. We know it exists locally, in nearby galaxies and clusters of galaxies, too. This new result doesn’t affect that, since the now un-hidden galaxies
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sunspot42 (455706)

        90% of the matter in the Universe is in a form that emits no light, but affects other matter through gravity.

        Do we know for certain that the "dark matter" itself - whatever it proves to be - is actually in our universe? Is it possible that "dark matter" is just regular matter in some other universe(s) whose gravity is bleeding into our own?

  • by popo (107611) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:25PM (#31616960) Homepage

    ... you are even less significant.

  • Seeing them all? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If we only saw 10% of them before, how do we know we're seeing all of them this time?

  • I RTFA... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Torrance (1599681) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:27PM (#31617024)
    ...and this isn't the conclusion that I immediately jumped to - the discovery of dark matter. It's merely the discovery of the visible matter that they though should always be there.
  • by Spazntwich (208070) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:28PM (#31617050)

    Scientists on earth were said to be embarrassed by overlooking what had been there all along, and promised to never again take what they have for granted.

    "It's like some crappy teen drama, and we just had to wait for the prom scene to realize how beautiful our soft-spoken nerdy friend is."

    90% of the universe could not be reached for comment, as it decided itself too good for its unappreciative inattentive "friends" and went to the football players' afterparty.

  • by Neon Aardvark (967388) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:28PM (#31617052) Homepage

    Merely 90% of the Visible Universe that we couldn't see before.

    The Visible Universe probably constitutes a very small (perhaps even infinitesimally small) fraction of the actual physical Universe. The rest will, according to Relativity, always be hidden.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by elnyka (803306)

      Merely 90% of the Visible Universe that we couldn't see before.

      The Visible Universe probably constitutes a very small (perhaps even infinitesimally small) fraction of the actual physical Universe. The rest will, according to Relativity, always be hidden.

      Not if we develop FTL traveler, it wont, you physics philistine!!! </shakes trekkie fist in anger>

    • The Visible Universe probably constitutes a very small (perhaps even infinitesimally small) fraction of the actual physical Universe. The rest will, according to Relativity, always be hidden.

      Or it may be that the visible universe is smaller than the actual universe. This paper [arxiv.org] estimates the minimum possible diameter of the universe to be 24 gigaparsecs, which is four gigaparsecs less than the diameter of the observable universe. It's not likely, but if it were true it would mean we could look a billion lightyears in one direction and see a region of space, or we could look 77 billion lightyears in the opposite direction and see how that same region looked 76 billion years earlier, by seeing li

  • ...the SETI people will announce the discovery that numerous alien civilizations have been busily communicating back and forth using optical links operating in the UV region.
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

      Unfortunately, it has taken us until now to realize, because they were using ... (wait for it) ... darknets.

  • by danwesnor (896499) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:43PM (#31617324)
    I found one sitting on my sofa when I got home last night, eating Cheetos and watching Oprah. Damn thing was in my spot, too!
    • by tool462 (677306)

      The last time I called the thing on my couch a galaxy, she called me a gaseous nebula.

  • Redshift? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rsborg (111459) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:51PM (#31617438) Homepage
    My first thought was, did they compensate for redshift? Apparently they did, the article didn't explain, but a commenter did:

    30. TMB Says: March 24th, 2010 at 7:02 pm To everyone who's asking "why didn't they look at this before?" - it's a lot harder. In the rest frame, Lyman-alpha is in the far-UV and H-alpha (what physicists call Balmer-alpha) is in the optical. But out at these redshifts, Lyman-alpha is redshifted into the optical (which is easy to observe) and H-alpha is redshifted out into the infrared (which is harder to observe).

  • Moon Glasses, Moon screen, anyone, cheap!

  • who shutdown the galaxie force fled?

  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @05:05PM (#31617636) Journal

    I thought most of the missing mass of the Universe was tied up in the packing peanuts that are used in shipping the equipment scientists use to search for the missing mass in the universe.

  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @05:08PM (#31617690) Journal

    "Hidden in plain view"? So what they are saying is that the universe exhibits the same behavior as my car keys.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @05:11PM (#31617708) Journal

    Since we just got a 10 fold increase in galaxies.

    I think that moves us from 0.006 to 0.06, (plus one obviously)

  • Scientists can't see the universe through the galaxies.
  • So.... once we see the remaining 10% we will have reached the "end" of the universe?
  • I'm guessing that this telescope in Chile only looks at the southern part of the sky. Does this mean that 90% of the universe is not visible to northern hemisphere telescopes?
    No, I didn't RTFA, this is Slasdot after all.

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