It turns out there are 10 times more galaxies than we realised
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If you find the immense size of the universe humbling, prepare to feel even more insignificant. Scientists have calculated that the observable universe contains at least two trillion galaxies – 10 times more than previously thought. A British-led team of international astronomers came to the conclusion after converting images from the Hubble Space Telescope and observatories around the world into 3D maps. These were used to calculate the density of galaxies as well as the volume of separate small regions of space. When the pieces of the cosmic jigsaw were put together, it produced a surprise. Until now, it had been thought that the observable universe – the part of the cosmos we can see because light from distant objects has had time to reach us – contained up to 200 billion galaxies. But the new study suggests that significantly more galaxies existed during earlier epochs of the universe’s history. When it was only a few billion years old, 10 times more galaxies filled a given volume of space than is the case today. The total number of galaxies was expanded to an estimated two trillion. Lead scientist Professor Christopher Conselice, from the University of Nottingham, said: “Finding more galaxies in the past implies that significant evolution must have occurred to reduce their number through extensive merging of systems.” He added: “We are missing the vast majority of galaxies because they are very faint and far away. “The number of galaxies in the universe is a fundamental question in astronomy, and it boggles the mind that over 90% of the galaxies in the cosmos have yet to be studied. “Who knows what interesting properties we will find when we study these galaxies with the next generation of telescopes?” The research, co-funded by the Royal Astronomical Society, appears in the Astrophysical Journal.
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