An Infrared Look Behind Stars

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Science  14 Apr 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5464, pp. 281-283
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5464.281

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Most of the light in the universe was produced in the Big Bang, appearing today as background radiation coming almost perfectly evenly from all directions on the sky, at wavelengths of 0.8 to 3 millimeters. Light emitted since the Big Bang has come from various sources, such as stars, quasars, and clouds of hot gas. The sum of all of these sources blends to form an extra, nonprimordial background. In this Perspective, Hogan discusses recent advances in estimating the total cosmic light emission at infrared wavelengths, which carries valuable information about the epoch of greatest conversion of cosmic gas to stars.