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Hubble has detected a ghostly glow around the solar system

Scientists believe that this may serve as an occasion for a new element in the architecture of the solar system.
Scientists believe that this may serve as an occasion for a new element in the architecture of the solar system.

Astronomers have discovered a strange afterglow in the sky. To do this, they had to analyze 200,000 archival images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and make tens of thousands of measurements as part of the ambitious SKYSURF project. Ultimately, scientists ruled out light from stars, galaxies, planets and other objects, but a faint, barely noticeable glow remained.

What is causing this ghostly glow throughout our solar system? One hypothesis is that sunlight reflects off a layer of dust. Because of its uniform distribution, numerous small comets are the most likely source. As they approach the Sun from all directions, the heat from the Sun causes the ice to sublimate (go from solid to gas without going through liquid), releasing a cloud of dust in the process.

Scientists believe that this is a completely new part of the architecture of the solar system, if the hypothesis is confirmed. The ghostly glow remained invisible until it became possible to look into it with the help of the Hubble telescope. Last year, another group of astronomers measured the background of the sky using information obtained from NASA’s New Horizons probe. It recently entered interstellar space after passing Pluto in 2015 and a small Kuiper belt object in 2018. At the time of the observation, New Horizons was at a distance of 4 to 5 billion kilometers from the Sun. The device detected a very faint glow, and it, apparently, belonged to a more distant source.

Now scientists agree that this could be a new element of the content of the solar system.