A high-resolution image taken by the New Horizons spacecraft showing Pluto's thin atmosphere. Image Credit: New Horizons.

New Horizons could measure the true darkness of the cosmos

New Horizons detected a light almost double than what was anticipated from distant galaxies. This inexplicable glow has set astronomers on a new mission: to unveil the universe's darkest secrets.


From our own backyard to the edge of the solar system, humans search for the true face of the universe’s darkness.

Gaze upwards on a night without the moon, and you might think it’s dark. However, the subtle luminescence from streetlights, especially those bluish-white LEDs, saturates our atmosphere.

Many neighborhoods are so overwhelmed by light pollution that only the most luminous stars break through. The consequence? In regions like North America and Europe, only one in four children has ever witnessed the ethereal beauty of the Milky Way. (I wrote about how bad light pollution was in this article.)

Seeking Solace in Remote Skies

Venturing away from this urban glow requires a trek to some of the world’s most isolated places. A prime example? Chile’s Andean desert. Here, nestled among major observatories, one can experience the world’s most pristine skies. Under such conditions, the Milky Way is not just visible, but awe-inspiringly radiant, painting a vast celestial tapestry, even casting its own faint shadow on the right night.


However, even this breathtaking view isn’t absolute darkness. A subtle luminescence permeates our atmosphere, even on the most secluded nights, caused by ultraviolet sunlight and cosmic rays interacting with the Earth’s upper atmosphere. This ever-present ‘airglow’, though imperceptible directly above us, remains a bane for terrestrial telescopes.

Space Telescopes: A Clearer View?

Beyond Earth’s atmosphere, telescopes like Hubble and Webb promise an unobstructed vision of the universe. Their stunning captures, however, are not of complete darkness. Sunlight still has a role to play, scattering off interplanetary dust. This scattering is visible even from Earth as the zodiacal light. Space might be vast, but it isn’t void of this ambient glow.

For a true glimpse of undiluted darkness, our journey must extend farther, well beyond Pluto’s orbit. While iconic spacecrafts like Voyagers I and II, Pioneers 10 and 11, have journeyed this distance, it’s New Horizons that brings hope. Having sailed past Pluto in 2015, and later the Kuiper Belt Object Arrokoth, New Horizons now drifts in deeper space.

The Universe’s Darkest Essence

As revealed by Universe Today, the spacecraft recently tried capturing the universe’s darkest essence, aiming its lens away from any luminous object and comparing its results with Hubble. Intriguingly, New Horizons detected a light almost double than what was anticipated from distant galaxies. This inexplicable glow has set astronomers on a new mission: to unveil the universe’s darkest secrets.


Amidst the quest for the universe’s most profound darkness, perhaps what we’ll uncover is an ever-elusive, yet illuminating enigma.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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