back to article New Brit Hubble analysis finds 2,000 billion galaxies, 10x previous count

Douglas Adams was right. Space is really big. New analysis of data from the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories suggests there are ten times more galaxies out there than previously thought. The theory is advanced in a paper (PDF) titled “The Evolution of Galaxy Number Density at Z < 8 and its implications” that …

  1. The_Idiot

    So...

    ... and a genuine question, since I know bugger all about the field - what, if anything, does deciding there's ten times as much baryonic 'stuff' out there as we previously thought imply for the need/ calculations in respect of dark matter/ energy?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So...

      I'd hazard there's no change; That dark matter and energy are increased by an amount proportional to baryons, so that we are stuck with the current intractable cosmology difficulties, alas. Not going to get out of it THAT easy!

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Re: So...

        "That dark matter and energy are increased by an amount proportional to baryons, so that we are stuck with the current intractable cosmology difficulties, alas. Not going to get out of it THAT easy!"

        But that raises a produces a really nasty problem.

        If we have 10x the mass of matter, that would mean the gravity would (given current theory) certainly cause universal deceleration and gravitational collapse producing the inevitable big crunchie. However that motion is not what is being observed by cosmologists - we think it's an accelerating system. Thus this new set of observations, if corroborated, may add a super-size can of worms to current theory ...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So...

          "If we have 10x the mass of matter, that would mean the gravity would (given current theory) certainly cause universal deceleration and gravitational collapse producing the inevitable big crunchie."

          It depends upon whether this increases the overall density of matter in the universe. The article says "there must be a further 90 percent of galaxies in the observable universe that are too faint and too far away to be seen with present-day telescopes.” (my emphasis)

          What is slightly unclear about that is that in the context of the observable universe 'too faint' == 'too far away'. Given that we know the resolving power of the telescopes we currently have, we already know that there should be a large number of galaxies that we can't see, and current estimates of the overall density will take this in to account.

          Making things more complicated though, is that we're also looking back in time, which should mean that there should be many more smaller galaxies and very few large galaxies, simply because, at the time we are seeing, there shouldn't have been enough time for large galaxies to form. So although the overall density throughout the universe should be roughly the same everywhere, we wouldn't be able to see that same amount of matter at extreme distances because that matter is bound up in lots of small galaxies that are currently too faint to see.

          The James Webb telescope is to operate primarily in the Infra Red, which should allow it to see both fainter objects and further back in time.

          1. Asterix the Gaul

            Re: So...

            "If we have 10x the mass of matter, that would mean the gravity would (given current theory) certainly cause universal deceleration and gravitational collapse producing the inevitable big crunchie."

            No, it doesn't mean that at all.

            Think about it, this changes nothing, for the 'reality' is what we see & observe.

            In this case, as Hubble himself observed, the universe expansion is ACCELERATING.

            I would bet, on my own logic, that there are theoretical physicist out there that do not have a clue

            what they are talking about.

            I have the 'logic' to know what the conditions were in the early moments of the universe, one of those

            conditions is that the expansion that began back then has never stopped, for one simple reason.

            There was nothing external to the material to make it slow down, which is why it kept expanding & there is\was no 'vacuum' effect pulling back on it despite the knowledge that there were Black Holes early, these being formed in other ways beside the collapse of early massive stars.

            The expansion was not uniform, it could not be, because the formation of Baryonic matter is testament to that fact, though it does give provision to early development of Black Holes, at least that is my thinking.

    2. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: So...

      I wondered that myself. No word on that AFAIK

    3. bazza Silver badge

      Re: So...

      I'll hazard a guess! It depends on the distribution or this new mass. It sounds like it's beyond the previously observed universe. If it's a concentrated shell of mass then it may be enough to explain the accelerating expansion of the universe. What we're seeing is simply the bits we can see being drawn to a lot of mass that's already out there.

      It'll also push the age of the universe back some what further.

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Might not push the age of the universe back, more likely to change the time of matter cooling and star formation.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So...

        "If it's a concentrated shell of mass then it may be enough to explain the accelerating expansion of the universe."

        Afraid not: the net gravitational force experienced anywhere within a hollow sphere of matter is zero.

      3. illiad

        Re: So...

        Nope! the background radiation is still there, showing its age...

        as for 'mass' , well....

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: So...

      I wondered the same thing but for a different reason: could this be the missing mass we've heard about?

    5. Doc Ock

      Re: So...

      Our universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding,

      In all of the directions it can whiz;

      As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,

      Twelve million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is.

      So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,

      How amazingly unlikely is your birth;

      And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space,

      'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!

    6. TitterYeNot

      Re: So...

      "does deciding there's ten times as much baryonic 'stuff' out there as we previously thought imply for the need/ calculations in respect of dark matter/ energy?"

      As far as I'm aware (and I'm no expert either) it probably doesn't.

      One of the reasons that we think dark matter exists is that the outer regions of spiral galaxies rotate faster than they should given the number of stars we can see in them (i.e. visible mass.) Rather than rotating in a similar fashion to our solar system, where outer bodies have a much lower angular velocity than inner bodies (i.e. much longer solar year), spiral galaxies rotate more like a solid disc, with the outer stars rotating around the galactic centre with an angular velocity not that much slower than inner stars. This implies that there is much more mass 'holding the galaxy together' than can be accounted for just by adding up the total mass of all the galaxy's stars.

      So basically, more galaxies probably means more dark matter, not less, so the proportion of the universe that's estimated to be made up of dark matter will stay the same.

    7. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: So...

      The earliest indications of dark matter related to rotation rates within our own galaxy and other specific galaxies, rather than the whole visible universe. So those dark masses must still exist.

      [Edit] I have just seen the comment above from titter-ye-not, who actually explains it as opposed to my bare claim.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: So...

        TitterYeNot - just a quick question - since they're now saying that we can only see 10% of the actual galaxies out there, can we make the assumption that it is probably something similar within galaxies (i.e lots of very low brightness stars, brown dwarfs, dust clouds, etc.). So would that account for the missing "dark" matter?

        Just thinking out loud...

    8. Faux Science Slayer

      97% of the Universe is composed of math particles and hyperdense equations....

      The Father of Big Bang said it was a hoax in Dec 14, 1936 interview "Shift on Shift" in Time magazine.

      "Mysterious Dr X says, Universe is NOT Expanding" at CanadaFreePress

  2. Magani
    Pint

    Do you know?

    The universe might be bigger than we thought, but to a really hoopy frood, you need to know where your towel is.

    I raise one to you, Douglas. --->

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is 2000 Billion not the same as 2 Trillion?

    1. Unep Eurobats

      Re: 2,000 billion

      Avoids confusion with Trillian.

    2. Ragarath

      Short scale yes. Long scale no :)

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Boffin

      Can we just have it in SI, eg "2x10^12 galaxies"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Shouldn't that be 2x10^15 ?

        A UK and I believe astronomical billion is 10^12

    4. Richard Jones

      If you're in the UK, yes it's 2 trillion. Ever since the official adoption of the short scale in 1974.

      Obviously some people can't accept this, much like they can't accept the death of Gordon in Khartoum.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        GORDON'S ALIVE?

      2. Asterix the Gaul

        If your in the UK,you might be forgiven for thinking that the figure expressed was the approximation of the National Debt & we haven't even got to the issue of the 'Black Hole' that we are in.

  4. 27escape

    Less dark matter/energy

    If there is more real stuff, then there must be less of the unreal stuff then?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Less dark matter/energy

      The calculations of how much dark matter there must be are based on the Milky Way and other nearby galaxies. Having galaxies we didn't know about at the edge of the observable universe doesn't change that. The calculations of how much dark energy there must be are based on the expansion of the universe increasing. Having more galaxies at the edge of the observable universe can't cause that.

      If we have 10x more galaxies, unless there's a reason to believe those galaxies have a different concentration of dark matter than the ones we've observed, there will be 10x more dark matter. If there are 10x more galaxies, unless there's a reason to believe the dark energy observations are a localized phenomena, there will be 10x more dark energy affecting those galaxies.

  5. Scott Broukell

    So would 10x more galaxies mean, in all probability, that there would be that many more black holes to accompany them?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Yes. Eventually at least. Since these galaxies are at the edge of the observable universe, they would be very young. The big black hole in the galactic center probably is 'born' when the galaxy is, but all the little black holes born from collapsing stars take time to evolve, so there would be fewer of those there if we were able to zoom in enough to see those galaxies because they are so young to us "now".

  6. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Ours is better than yours ...

    "The James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirrors will have a diameter of 6.5 meters, dwarfing Hubble's 2.4m. The new 'scope will also do its work at the L2 point way out past the orbit of the moon, a far better spot than Hubble's orbit just 570km from Earth. The Webb 'scope will also include shields that block light and make it a better observer of infrared light."

    Whilst lovely stats! But it would probably be more accurate, if less Top Trumps, to write "it's a "better observer of infra red light because it's actually designed as a short wavelength infra red telescope. as opposed to primarily optical wavelengths of Hubble."

    The masses are expecting pretty pictures and, whilst there will hopefully be false colour ones released, the JW is certainly a science instrument to deliver data rather than images so may be a bit of a disappointment for the press.

  7. Clive Galway

    Heard of this new thing called Proof-reading?

    I have heard it is rather good.

    10x previous count.Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is Douglas Adams was right. Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is

    Plus messed up HTML at the end.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Heard of this new thing called Proof-reading?

      What Clive said.

      Please proof read before posting. It doesn't take long, and stops you looking like a right twat.

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Heard of this new thing called Proof-reading?

      I fear the bank manager has also heard of it. Big problem.

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Heard of this new thing called Proof-reading?

      To the left of the comments button, there's an email link for corrections. I guess it's easier for the staff to monitor one mailbox, rather than checking every comment on every article. I've found they're usually pretty quick to respond if you send them a polite email.

  8. Paul J Turner

    Not long now...

    Until we can cross off Anti-Phlogisten / Dark Matter and Mana / Dark energy mysticism and get back to actual science in Astrophysics.

    1. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: Not long now...

      If you have a better explaination of why the outer discs of galaxies are rotating at the same rate as the inner discs without flying off into space then I hear there's a Nobel prize waiting for you. Until then Dark Matter/Energy is the best guess there is. Just because they haven't proven it exists yet doesn't mean it doesn't. In the same manner you can't observe my lunch, but that doesn't mean you've disproven that my lunch exists (although it's currently existing in it's consumed state).

      1. Uffish

        Alt. Astronomy

        Look, it's complicated enough already doing the maintenance on the giant universal orrery in the sky without having to have a separate gear ratio for every bleeding star in a galaxy!

        It's only there for the aesthetic anyway so stop doing all the fancy maths.

  9. Drat

    Fairy Cake

    If you thought you were insignificant before, you are now 10x as insignificant. Better eat that piece of fairy cake before you get some perspective

    1. Adair

      Re: Fairy Cake

      Unless 'size' is what does it for you 'size' does not correlate to 'significance'.

      For example: instead of 'size' let's say 'complexity', in which case at a stroke your 'significance' just went through the roof because a human being is one of, if not the most, complex thing we know about (galaxies, in comparison, are relatively simple).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe we should stop building bigger and bigger telescopes before we discover that space is full.

    1. The March Hare

      Is it too late to say.. My God, it's full of stars!

      the cashmere one please...

  11. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Pint

    Space truly is the final frontier. With discoveries like this, it just gets more and more fascinating. Well done, boffins. Kick back, have a cold one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Space truly is the final frontier."

      That's pretty boring. You mean, once we learn all about space, that's it?

      I was hoping for something even bigger and more challenging for humanity after space...

      1. Captain DaFt

        "That's pretty boring. You mean, once we learn all about space, that's it?"

        Considering 'space', ie, the Universe is all there is, I'd say yes.

        But don't despair just yet. As far as exploring the Cosmos goes, we're barely at the 'knapping flint' level.

        There'll be unanswered mysteries out there long after this little rock is gone.

  12. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "University of Nottingham"

    Oh good. Brady Haran won't have far to walk to interview these guys.

    Hopefully this topic will be on one or more of his excellent YouTube channels shortly.

    I can't wait.

  13. Werner Heisenberg

    I find your lack of faith disturbing

    So, this light originated a long time ago, in a galaxy* far, far away?

    *Ok, many galaxies... Taxi!

  14. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Number of comments

    42.

    Oops, I just ruined it. Sorry.

  15. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Are some here misinterpreting this finding?

    Explanation from link: "...found that 10 times as many galaxies were packed into a given volume of space in the early universe than found today. Most of these galaxies were relatively small and faint, with masses similar to those of the satellite galaxies surrounding the Milky Way. As they merged to form larger galaxies the population density* of galaxies in space dwindled."

    * Note: POPULATION density. Count per unit volume. But 'relatively small'.

    I read that as stating that the distant (=early) Universe is (=was) populated by lots of cute little baby galaxies that slowly merged to become fewer larger galaxies over time. The number of galaxies in earlier times (=far away) is larger, but they're smaller. The little ones merged to make fewer but larger ones as time went on.

    So, no. The Universe isn't any bigger. They've not discovered any new mass. The early Universe is more interesting than expected. The evolution of galaxies is different than had been assumed. The galaxy count is higher, but compensated by smaller average size.

    Am I reading it right?

    The real impact is that astronomers will obviously need some even bigger instruments, please and thank you. Which is okay by me. And the JWT IR Space Telescope is just about perfectly timed.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
      Coat

      Re: Are some here misinterpreting this finding?

      Yes. Obviously a lot additional holes were punched into the big velvet cloth draped above us.

    2. Axman

      Re: Are some here misinterpreting this finding?

      Yep.

      It is, however, the author's* fault as it seems it was he/she/it that first misrepresented what the scientific article had to say.

      [* I was fairly certain that authors' names used to be supplied. When did that end?]

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, how big was it? In billions of light years?

    I hazard a niave question, people keep saying the further out you see the further back in time. But if we are seeing already hundreds of millions of years after the big bang, and these things are so much further out, wouldn't that put them before galaxies were, even further?

    1. Asterix the Gaul

      No matter where you are in the universe, rewind back to the Big Bang & everything was at that exact point where that event started.

      Space itself was created as a consequence of that event(Cosmic Background Radiation-CMB)& space has been expanding ever since that event.

      That's why everything appears to be moving away from everything else.

      Cosmologist look for Dark Matter-Energy to explain why galaxies are accelerating away from each other,they have yet to prove that either exist.

      Another possibility is that the CMB may be pulling all bodies apart?

      I don't(personally)believe that even if DM is proved to exist,that it is of any real universal significance to the expansion rate of the universe.

      I also don't believe professor Brian COX's explanation regarding the ultimate fate of the universe.

      Yes, it will continue for all of time to expand by moving over the De Sitter horizon beyond the sight of observers in another galaxy or other body, but the idea that the total radiation of all bodies will eventually equal that of the space environment is, IMHO wrong.

      I suggest(I may be wrong)that,as long as TWO or more bodies are orbitting each other,bound by tidal forces or gravity, they will exert forces that generate radiation through their motions in space around each other.

      As long as there is no other influence,such as another body,or aquiring more mass by one or other of the two bodies, there is nothing to stop heat (radiation)being generated perpetually.

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