The universe contains an amazing two trillion galaxies, new research has found. The figure, obtained from Hubble Telescope images, has shocked scientists who estimated the number to be at least 10 times smaller.
The findings, to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, shed light on the evolution of the structure universe, and hint at the possible nature of dark matter.
“We now know that there are at least 10 times more galaxies in the universe than we had thought for the last 20 years, and before that we didn’t really have any idea,” said lead author Christopher Conselice, an astrophysicist at the University of Nottingham. “So the more we learn about the universe … the more interesting it becomes.”
For the number of galaxies we now see and their numbers to add up, the researchers concluded that there must be a further 90% of galaxies in the observable universe that are too faint and too far away to be seen.
“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 number we would like to know, and it boggles the mind that over 90 per cent of the galaxies in the universe have yet to be studied,” said Conselice.
“Who knows what interesting properties we will find when we study these galaxies with the next generation of telescopes. These galaxies will likely hold the clues to many outstanding astrophysical issues,” he said.
The researchers concluded that there is such an abundance of galaxies that every patch in the sky, in principle, contains part of a galaxy. However, starlight from the galaxies is invisible to the human eye and most modern telescopes.