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A diffuse cosmic glow is not primordial
A cumulative map of all photons ever emitted by any star or galaxy is a highly desirable historical record of the universe's evolution. For this reason, cosmologists have sought to measure this diffuse distribution of light: the extragalactic background light. Zemcov et al. sent up a rocket to measure the fluctuations in this faint background and found largescale fluctuations greater than known galaxies alone should produce (see the Perspective by Moseley). Stars tidally stripped from their host galaxies are the most likely culprit, rather than unknown primordial galaxies.
Extragalactic background light (EBL) anisotropy traces variations in the total production of photons over cosmic history and may contain faint, extended components missed in galaxy point-source surveys. Infrared EBL fluctuations have been attributed to primordial galaxies and black holes at the epoch of reionization (EOR) or, alternately, intrahalo light (IHL) from stars tidally stripped from their parent galaxies at low redshift. We report new EBL anisotropy measurements from a specialized sounding rocket experiment at 1.1 and 1.6 micrometers. The observed fluctuations exceed the amplitude from known galaxy populations, are inconsistent with EOR galaxies and black holes, and are largely explained by IHL emission. The measured fluctuations are associated with an EBL intensity that is comparable to the background from known galaxies measured through number counts and therefore a substantial contribution to the energy contained in photons in the cosmos.