Using 3.6-μm data from 2112 galaxies, we show that, contrary to widely held expectations of a continuous steep decline, radial surface brightness profiles of galaxies tend to flatten and form extended plateaus beyond 27–28 magAB
. This phenomenon could be explained by the presence of extended stellar populations dominated by low-mass stars in galactic outskirts. The flattening of radial brightness profiles questions the artificial exponential extrapolations of brightness data and the automatic assumption that light always declines considerably faster than mass density, presenting an empirical challenge for the dark matter hypothesis.
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