From ICRAR: “Scientists measure Slow Death of the Universe”

International Center for Radio Astronomy Research

International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

Aug 10, 2015

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A galaxy from the GAMA survey observed at different wavelengths from the far ultraviolet to the far infrared. Credit: ICRAR / GAMA.

An international team of astronomers studying 200,000 galaxies has measured the energy generated within a large portion of space more precisely than ever before, discovering that it’s only half what it was 2 billion years ago and fading – the Universe is slowly dying.

Researchers from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Western Australia used seven of the world’s most powerful telescopes to observe galaxies at 21 different wavelengths from the far ultraviolet to the far infrared.

Initial observations were conducted using the Anglo-Australian Telescope in New South Wales and supporting observations were made by two orbiting space telescopes operated by NASA and another belonging to the European Space Agency.

The research is part of the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project, the largest multi-wavelength survey ever put together.

“We used as many space and ground-based telescopes we could get our hands on, to measure the energy output of over 200,000 galaxies across as broad a wavelength range as possible,” says ICRAR Professor Simon Driver, who presented the findings at the International Astronomical Union’s General Assembly in Honolulu.

The survey data, released to astronomers around the world, includes 200,000 galaxies each measured at 21 wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the far infrared and will help scientists better understand how different types of galaxies form.

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Professor Driver, who heads up the GAMA team, says the study set out to map and model all of the energy generated within a set volume of space.

All energy in the Universe was created in the Big Bang with some portion locked up as mass. Stars shine by converting this mass into energy as described by [Albert] Einstein’s famous equation E=MC2″.

“While most of the energy sloshing around was created in the aftermath of the Big Bang, additional energy is constantly being released by stars as they fuse elements like hydrogen and helium together,” Professor Driver says.

“This newly released energy is either absorbed by dust as it travels through the host galaxy, or escapes into intergalactic space and travels until it hits something such as another star, planet, or very occasionally a telescope mirror.”

The fact that the Universe is slowly fading has been known since the late 1990s but this work shows that it’s happening across all wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the infrared, representing the most comprehensive assessment of the energy output of the nearby Universe.

“The Universe is fated to decline from here on in, like an old age that lasts forever. The Universe has basically plonked itself down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze,” Professor Driver says.

The team of researchers hope to expand the work to map energy production over the entire history of the Universe. To do this, they will use a swathe of new facilities including the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array, due to be built in Australia and South Africa in the next decade.

SKA Square Kilometer Array

Further Information:
Professor Driver will present this work at the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Honolulu on Monday, August 10.

The Galaxy and Mass Assembly Survey, or GAMA, is a collaboration involving nearly 100 scientists from more than 30 universities located in Australia, Europe and the United States.

ICRAR is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia with support and funding from the State Government of Western Australia.

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The distribution of galaxies as mapped by various Australia, US and European survey teams. In total we have mapped the locations of over 4million galaxies that can be used to study the evolution of mass, energy and structure in the Universe over the past few billion years. Credit ICRAR / GAMA.

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The distribution of galaxies as mapped by various Australia, US and European survey teams. In total we have mapped the locations of over 4million galaxies that can be used to study the evolution of mass, energy and structure in the Universe over the past few billion years. Credit ICRAR / GAMA.

From ESO on this project

Notes

[1] The telescopes and survey data used, in order of increasing wavelength, were: GALEX, SDSS, VST ) (KiDS survey, AAT, VISTA (VIKING survey)/UKIRT, WISE, Herschel (PACS/SPIRE).

NASA Galex telescope
NASA/GALEX

SDSS Telescope
SDSS at Apache Point, NM, USA

ESO VST telescope
ESO/VST

Anglo Australian Telescope Exterior
AAT

ESO Vista Telescope
ESO/VISTA

United Kingdom Infrared Telescope
UKIRT

NASA Wise Telescope
NASA/WISE

ESA Herschel
ESA/Herschel

This research will be presented in a paper entitled Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA): Panchromatic Data Release (far-UV—far-IR) and the low-z energy budget, by S. Driver et al., submitted to the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The team is composed of Simon P. Driver (ICRAR, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia [ICRAR]; University of St Andrews, United Kingdom), Angus H. Wright (ICRAR), Stephen K. Andrews (ICRAR), Luke J. Davies (ICRAR) , Prajwal R. Kafle (ICRAR), Rebecca Lange (ICRAR), Amanda J. Moffett (ICRAR) , Elizabeth Mannering (ICRAR), Aaron S. G. Robotham (ICRAR), Kevin Vinsen (ICRAR), Mehmet Alpaslan (NASA Ames Research Centre, Mountain View, California, United States), Ellen Andrae (Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, Heidelberg, Germany [MPIK]), Ivan K. Baldry (Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom), Amanda E. Bauer (Australian Astronomical Observatory, North Ryde, NSW, Australia [AAO]), Steve Bamford (University of Nottingham, United Kingdom), Joss Bland-Hawthorn (University of Sydney, NSW, Australia), Nathan Bourne (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, United Kingdom), Sarah Brough (AAO), Michael J. I. Brown (Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia), Michelle E. Cluver (The University of Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa), Scott Croom (University of Sydney, NSW, Australia), Matthew Colless (Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia), Christopher J. Conselice (University of Nottingham, United Kingdom), Elisabete da Cunha (Macquarie University, Sydney NSW, Australia), Roberto De Propris (University of Turku, Piikkiö, Finland), Michael Drinkwater (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia), Loretta Dunne (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom), Steve Eales (Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom), Alastair Edge (Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom), Carlos Frenk (Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom), Alister W. Graham (Macquarie University, Sydney NSW, Australia), Meiert Grootes (MPIK), Benne W. Holwerda (Leiden Observatory, University of Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands), Andrew M. Hopkins (AAO) , Edo Ibar (Universidad de Valparaso, Valparaiso, Chile), Eelco van Kampen (ESO, Garching, Germany), Lee S. Kelvin (Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom), Tom Jarrett (University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa), D. Heath Jones (Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia), Maritza A. Lara-Lopez (Universidad Nacional Automana de México, México), Angel R. Lopez-Sanchez (AAO), Joe Liske (Hamburger Sternwarte, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany), Jon Loveday (University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, United Kingdom), Steve J. Maddox (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom), Barry Madore (Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Pasadena, California, United States [OCIW]), Martin Meyer (ICRAR) , Peder Norberg (Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom), Samantha J. Penny (University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom), Stephen Phillipps (University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom), Cristina Popescu (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire), Richard J. Tuffs (MPIK), John A. Peacock (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, United Kingdom), Kevin A.Pimbblet (Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; University of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom), Kate Rowlands (University of St Andrews, United Kingdom), Anne E. Sansom (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire), Mark Seibert (OCIW), Matthew W.L. Smith (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia), Will J. Sutherland (Queen Mary University London, London, United Kingdom), Edward N. Taylor (The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia), Elisabetta Valiante (Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom), Lingyu Wang (Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom; SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Groningen, The Netherlands), Stephen M. Wilkins (University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, United Kingdom) and Richard Williams (Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom).

[2] Much of the Universe’s energy output comes from nuclear fusion in stars, when mass is slowly converted into energy. Another major source is the very hot discs around black holes at the centres of galaxies, where gravitational energy is converted to electromagnetic radiation in quasars and other active galactic nuclei. Much longer wavelength radiation comes from huge dust clouds that are re-radiating the energy from stars within them.

See the full article here.

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ICRAR is an equal joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia with funding support from the State Government of Western Australia. The Centre’s headquarters are located at UWA, with research nodes at both UWA and the Curtin Institute for Radio Astronomy (CIRA).
ICRAR has strong support from the government of Australia and is working closely with industry and the astronomy community, including CSIRO and the Australian Telescope National Facility, iVEC, and the international SKA Project Office (SPO), based in the UK.

ICRAR is:

Playing a key role in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, the world’s biggest ground-based telescope array.

SKA Square Kilometer Array
Attracting some of the world’s leading researchers in radio astronomy, who will also contribute to national and international scientific and technical programs for SKA and ASKAP.
Creating a collaborative environment for scientists and engineers to engage and work with industry to produce studies, prototypes and systems linked to the overall scientific success of the SKA, MWA and ASKAP.

SKA Murchison Widefield Array
A Small part of the Murchison Widefield Array

Enhancing Australia’s position in the international SKA program by contributing to the development process for the SKA in scientific, technological and operational areas.
Promoting scientific, technical, commercial and educational opportunities through public outreach, educational material, training students and collaborative developments with national and international educational organisations.
Establishing and maintaining a pool of emerging and top-level scientists and technologists in the disciplines related to radio astronomy through appointments and training.
Making world-class contributions to SKA science, with emphasis on the signature science themes associated with surveys for neutral hydrogen and variable (transient) radio sources.
Making world-class contributions to SKA capability with respect to developments in the areas of Data Intensive Science and support for the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.