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The observable universe is a ball-shaped region of the universe comprising all matter that can be observed from Earth or its space-based telescopes and exploratory probes at the present time; the electromagnetic radiation from these objects has had time to reach the Solar System and Earth since the beginning of the cosmological expansion. Initially, it was estimated that there may be 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe, although that number was reduced in 2021 to only several hundred billion based on data from New Horizons. Assuming the universe is isotropic, the distance to the edge of the observable universe is roughly the same in every direction. That is, the observable universe is a spherical region centered on the observer. Every location in the universe has its own observable universe, which may or may not overlap with the one centered on Earth.
|Diameter||8.8×1026 m or 880 Ym (28.5 Gpc or 93 Gly)|
|Mass (ordinary matter)||1.5×1053 kg|
|Density (of total energy)||9.9×10−27 kg/m3 (equivalent to 6 protons per cubic meter of space)|
|Age||13.787±0.020 billion years|
|Average temperature||2.72548±0.00057 K|
The word observable in this sense does not refer to the capability of modern technology to detect light or other information from an object, or whether there is anything to be detected. It refers to the physical limit created by the speed of light itself. No signal can travel faster than light; hence there is a maximum distance (called the particle horizon) beyond which nothing can be detected, as the signals could not have reached us yet. Sometimes astrophysicists distinguish between the visible universe, which includes only signals emitted since recombination (when hydrogen atoms were formed from protons and electrons and photons were emitted)—and the observable universe, which includes signals since the beginning of the cosmological expansion (the Big Bang in traditional physical cosmology, the end of the inflationary epoch in modern cosmology).
According to calculations, the current comoving distance to particles from which the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) was emitted, which represents the radius of the visible universe, is about 14.0 billion parsecs (about 45.7 billion light-years); the comoving distance to the edge of the observable universe is about 14.3 billion parsecs (about 46.6 billion light-years), about 2% larger. The radius of the observable universe is therefore estimated to be about 46.5 billion light-years. Using the critical density and the diameter of the observable universe, the total mass of ordinary matter in the universe can be calculated to be about 1.5×1053 kg. In November 2018, astronomers reported that extragalactic background light (EBL) amounted to 4×1084 photons.
As the universe's expansion is accelerating, all currently observable objects, outside the local supercluster, will eventually appear to freeze in time, while emitting progressively redder and fainter light. For instance, objects with the current redshift z from 5 to 10 will remain observable for no more than 4–6 billion years. In addition, light emitted by objects currently situated beyond a certain comoving distance (currently about 19 billion parsecs) will never reach Earth.