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R Soc Open Sci. 2016 Mar 9;3(3):150555. doi: 10.1098/rsos.150555. eCollection 2016 Mar.

Extragalactic background light measurements and applications.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy , University of California , Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


This review covers the measurements related to the extragalactic background light intensity from γ-rays to radio in the electromagnetic spectrum over 20 decades in wavelength. The cosmic microwave background (CMB) remains the best measured spectrum with an accuracy better than 1%. The measurements related to the cosmic optical background (COB), centred at 1 μm, are impacted by the large zodiacal light associated with interplanetary dust in the inner Solar System. The best measurements of COB come from an indirect technique involving γ-ray spectra of bright blazars with an absorption feature resulting from pair-production off of COB photons. The cosmic infrared background (CIB) peaking at around 100 μm established an energetically important background with an intensity comparable to the optical background. This discovery paved the way for large aperture far-infrared and sub-millimetre observations resulting in the discovery of dusty, starbursting galaxies. Their role in galaxy formation and evolution remains an active area of research in modern-day astrophysics. The extreme UV (EUV) background remains mostly unexplored and will be a challenge to measure due to the high Galactic background and absorption of extragalactic photons by the intergalactic medium at these EUV/soft X-ray energies. We also summarize our understanding of the spatial anisotropies and angular power spectra of intensity fluctuations. We motivate a precise direct measurement of the COB between 0.1 and 5 μm using a small aperture telescope observing either from the outer Solar System, at distances of 5 AU or more, or out of the ecliptic plane. Other future applications include improving our understanding of the background at TeV energies and spectral distortions of CMB and CIB.


cosmology; galaxies: galaxy evolution

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