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Cosmic Spectrum

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NPR article “The Latest News on Space”, September 8th, 2010.

And the Color of the Universe Is …

Pale turquoise. Errrr, make that beige.

Earlier this year, astronomers at Johns Hopkins University made a splash at the American Astronomical Society meeting when they announced that the average light from the universe is turquoise.

Ivan Baldry and his collaborators amassed detailed light measurements from more than 200,000 galaxies. They then constructed a “cosmic spectrum,” which represents all the energy in the local universe emitted at different optical wavelengths of light. They realized that if they simply summed up those measurements, they might be able to deduce something about the average wavelength, or color, of the light coming from their huge sample of objects. So they applied their idea, and they came up with a color that’s just a few shades greener than pale turquoise.

Turns out, they were wrong, and the universe isn’t turquoise after all. The astronomers in Baltimore say they found an error in the calculation. They had reached their initial conclusion using a piece of free software they had downloaded off the Web. With that software, the average color ended up appearing turquoise.

But the astronomers didn’t realize that the program used an unusual representation for white. They’ve now recalculated the color using a more standard color of white. So the universe now is, alas, a lot less interesting. Instead of having a turqouise cast, it’s actually closer to boring old beige.

NPR : ‘THE LOCAL NEWS ON SPACE’ : http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/features/2002/jan/aas/020110.aas.html


Written by James Thomas

21/09/2010 at 20:47

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