From our tiny blue dot, the universe appears inconceivably vast. In the grand cosmic scheme of things, all the light in the observable universe provides about as much illumination as a 60-watt bulb seen from 2.5 miles away, says Marco Ajello, an astrophysicist at Clemson University, who led a team in 2018 that has measured all of the starlight ever produced throughout the history of the observable universe.
In 2010, astronomers working with the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way that spans 50,000 light-years that may be the remnant of an eruption from the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. The structure spans more than half of the visible sky, a region roughly as large as the Milky Way itself, and it may be millions of years old, its origin an unsolved mystery.
“All of these things are way more weird than anyone had predicted,” says astrophysicist John Beacom of the Ohio State University who with colleagues, led by astrophysicist Tim Linden, sifted nearly 10 years of observations from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a NASA observatory that scans the sky from its outpost in low-Earth orbit showing that the sun’s gamma rays do a number of weird things. “And that means the magnetic fields must be way more weird than anyone had thought.”