Just when some of us were beginning to adapt to the notion that the Universe is just this really enormous… everything, scientists make this everything even more incomprehensibly enormous.
Using data provided by the Hubble Telescope, and by other observatories as well, astronomers have approximated that there are between 10 and 20 times more galaxies than they had previously thought. Considering that what they had previously thought amounted to around 100 billion, by doing a “simple” math, we realize that we’re surrounded by “just” one or two trillion galaxies.
And that’s not all of them. The Universe was born about 13.8 billion years ago and has been rapidly expanding ever since that Big Bang. Some galaxies are so far away that their light just hasn’t reached us yet. That’s why we can only observe a part of the Cosmos, which we call the Observable Universe. And, you guessed it, those two trillion galaxies are in the observable universe alone.
Christopher Conselice of the University of Nottingham in the UK led a team of astronomers in analyzing the data collected from the Hubble Space Telescope and the other sources. After converting the images into 3D, new mathematical models were used for calculations.
Scientists came to the conclusion that many more galaxies inhabited the Universe during its beginnings. They were, however, small and faint and were quick to merge with one another, until forming the giant star conglomerates that we can see today.
Well, not all of them. According to the astronomers, the mass of the observable Universe should account for 90% more galaxies that have still not been seen. Conselice and his team believe that future telescopes would help us detect more of these unseen galaxies, which are either too faint or too far away to be seen by Hubble.
“Who knows what interesting properties we will find when we discover these galaxies with future generations of telescopes?” Christopher Conselice said.
We might just do that with Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope. Its launching is scheduled for October 2018, so we’ve got exactly two years to wait and contemplate on this mind-altering astronomical discovery. But let’s not get used to the notion of two trillion galaxies too quickly. We’re already pretty sure that we only see the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.”
Image source: UCL