Abstract The observed microwave background radiation (MBR) is commonly interpreted as the relic of an early hot universe, and its observed features (spectrum and anisotropy) are explained in terms of properties of the early universe. Here we describe a complementary, even possibly alternative, interpretation of MBR, first proposed in the early 20th century, and adapt it to modern observations. For example, the stellar Hipparcos data show that the energy density of starlight from the Milky Way, if suitably thermalized, yields a temperature of ~2.81 K. This and other arguments given here strongly suggest that the origin of MBR may lie, at least in a very large part, in re-radiation of thermalized galactic starlight. The strengths and weaknesses of this alternative radical explanation are discussed.
Keywords Galaxy: stellar content — (cosmology:) cosmic microwave background — cosmology: observations
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