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  • richardmitnick 9:33 am on October 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Baryons, , , , ESA/Planck, ,   

    From New Scientist: “Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found” 

    NewScientist

    New Scientist

    9 October 2017
    Leah Crane

    1
    Discoveries seem to back up many of our ideas about how the universe got its large-scale structure
    Andrey Kravtsov (The University of Chicago) and Anatoly Klypin (New Mexico State University). Visualisation by Andrey Kravtsov

    The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe – protons, neutrons and electrons – unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space.

    Two separate teams found the missing matter – made of particles called baryons rather than dark matter – linking galaxies together through filaments of hot, diffuse gas.

    “The missing baryon problem is solved,” says Hideki Tanimura at the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Orsay, France, leader of one of the groups. The other team was led by Anna de Graaff at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

    Because the gas is so tenuous and not quite hot enough for X-ray telescopes to pick up, nobody had been able to see it before.

    “There’s no sweet spot – no sweet instrument that we’ve invented yet that can directly observe this gas,” says Richard Ellis at University College London. “It’s been purely speculation until now.”

    So the two groups had to find another way to definitively show that these threads of gas are really there.

    Both teams took advantage of a phenomenon called the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect that occurs when light left over from the big bang passes through hot gas. As the light travels, some of it scatters off the electrons in the gas, leaving a dim patch in the cosmic microwave background [CMB] – our snapshot of the remnants from the birth of the cosmos.

    CMB per ESA/Planck

    ESA/Planck

    Stack ‘em up

    In 2015, the Planck satellite created a map of this effect throughout the observable universe. Because the tendrils of gas between galaxies are so diffuse, the dim blotches they cause are far too slight to be seen directly on Planck’s map.

    Universe map Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey

    Both teams selected pairs of galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey that were expected to be connected by a strand of baryons. They stacked the Planck signals for the areas between the galaxies, making the individually faint strands detectable en masse.

    Tanimura’s team stacked data on 260,000 pairs of galaxies, and de Graaff’s group used over a million pairs. Both teams found definitive evidence of gas filaments between the galaxies. Tanimura’s group found they were almost three times denser than the mean for normal matter in the universe, and de Graaf’s group found they were six times denser – confirmation that the gas in these areas is dense enough to form filaments.

    “We expect some differences because we are looking at filaments at different distances,” says Tanimura. “If this factor is included, our findings are very consistent with the other group.”

    Finally finding the extra baryons that have been predicted by decades of simulations validates some of our assumptions about the universe.

    “Everybody sort of knows that it has to be there, but this is the first time that somebody – two different groups, no less – has come up with a definitive detection,” says Ralph Kraft at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts.

    “This goes a long way toward showing that many of our ideas of how galaxies form and how structures form over the history of the universe are pretty much correct,” he says.

    Journal references: arXiv, 1709.05024
    A Search for Warm/Hot Gas Filaments Between Pairs of SDSS Luminous Red Galaxies

    and 1709.10378v1
    Missing baryons in the cosmic web revealed by the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:21 pm on August 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESA/Planck, ,   

    From Quanta: “Scientists Unveil a New Inventory of the Universe’s Dark Contents” 

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    August 3, 2017
    Natalie Wolchover

    In a much-anticipated analysis of its first year of data, the Dark Energy Survey (DES) telescope experiment has gauged the amount of dark energy and dark matter in the universe by measuring the clumpiness of galaxies — a rich and, so far, barely tapped source of information that many see as the future of cosmology.

    Dark Energy Survey


    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL


    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile, housing DECam at an altitude of 7200 feet

    The analysis, posted on DES’s website today and based on observations of 26 million galaxies in a large swath of the southern sky, tweaks estimates only a little. It draws the pie chart of the universe as 74 percent dark energy and 21 percent dark matter, with galaxies and all other visible matter — everything currently known to physicists — filling the remaining 5 percent sliver.

    The results are based on data from the telescope’s first observing season, which began in August 2013 and lasted six months. Since then, three more rounds of data collection have passed; the experiment begins its fifth and final planned observing season this month. As the 400-person team analyzes more of this data in the coming years, they’ll begin to test theories about the nature of the two invisible substances that dominate the cosmos — particularly dark energy, “which is what we’re ultimately going after,” said Joshua Frieman, co-founder and director of DES and an astrophysicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and the University of Chicago. Already, with their first-year data, the experimenters have incrementally improved the measurement of a key quantity that will reveal what dark energy is.

    Both terms — dark energy and dark matter — are mental place holders for unknown physics. “Dark energy” refers to whatever is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate, as astronomers first discovered it to be doing in 1998. And great clouds of missing “dark matter” have been inferred from 80 years of observations of their apparent gravitational effect on visible matter (though whether dark matter consists of actual particles or something else, nobody knows).

    The balance of the two unknown substances sculpts the distribution of galaxies. “As the universe evolves, the gravity of dark matter is making it more clumpy, but dark energy makes it less clumpy because it’s pushing galaxies away from each other,” Frieman said. “So the present clumpiness of the universe is telling us about that cosmic tug-of-war between dark matter and dark energy.”

    2
    The Dark Energy Survey uses a 570-megapixel camera mounted on the Victor M. Blanco Telescope in Chile (left). The camera is made out of 74 individual light-gathering wafers.

    A Dark Map

    Until now, the best way to inventory the cosmos has been to look at the Cosmic Microwave Background [CMB]: pristine light from the infant universe that has long served as a wellspring of information for cosmologists, but which — after the Planck space telescope mapped it in breathtakingly high resolution in 2013 — has less and less to offer.

    CMB per ESA/Planck

    ESA/Planck

    Cosmic microwaves come from the farthest point that can be seen in every direction, providing a 2-D snapshot of the universe at a single moment in time, 380,000 years after the Big Bang (the cosmos was dark before that). Planck’s map of this light shows an extremely homogeneous young universe, with subtle density variations that grew into the galaxies and voids that fill the universe today.

    Galaxies, after undergoing billions of years of evolution, are more complex and harder to glean information from than the cosmic microwave background, but according to experts, they will ultimately offer a richer picture of the universe’s governing laws since they span the full three-dimensional volume of space. “There’s just a lot more information in a 3-D volume than on a 2-D surface,” said Scott Dodelson, co-chair of the DES science committee and an astrophysicist at Fermilab and the University of Chicago.

    To obtain that information, the DES team scrutinized a section of the universe spanning an area 1,300 square degrees wide in the sky — the total area of 6,500 full moons — and stretching back 8 billion years (the data were collected by the half-billion-pixel Dark Energy Camera mounted on the Victor M. Blanco Telescope in Chile). They statistically analyzed the separations between galaxies in this cosmic volume. They also examined the distortion in the galaxies’ apparent shapes — an effect known as “weak gravitational lensing” that indicates how much space-warping dark matter lies between the galaxies and Earth. These two probes — galaxy clustering and weak lensing — are two of the four approaches that DES will eventually use to inventory the cosmos. Already, the survey’s measurements are more precise than those of any previous galaxy survey, and for the first time, they rival Planck’s.

    4

    “This is entering a new era of cosmology from galaxy surveys,” Frieman said. With DES’s first-year data, “galaxy surveys have now caught up to the cosmic microwave background in terms of probing cosmology. That’s really exciting because we’ve got four more years where we’re going to go deeper and cover a larger area of the sky, so we know our error bars are going to shrink.”

    For cosmologists, the key question was whether DES’s new cosmic pie chart based on galaxy surveys would differ from estimates of dark energy and dark matter inferred from Planck’s map of the cosmic microwave background. Comparing the two would reveal whether cosmologists correctly understand how the universe evolved from its early state to its present one. “Planck measures how much dark energy there should be” at present by extrapolating from its state at 380,000 years old, Dodelson said. “We measure how much there is.”

    The DES scientists spent six months processing their data without looking at the results along the way — a safeguard against bias — then “unblinded” the results during a July 7 video conference. After team leaders went through a final checklist, a member of the team ran a computer script to generate the long-awaited plot: DES’s measurement of the fraction of the universe that’s matter (dark and visible combined), displayed together with the older estimate from Planck. “We were all watching his computer screen at the same time; we all saw the answer at the same time. That’s about as dramatic as it gets,” said Gary Bernstein, an astrophysicist at the University of Pennsylvania and co-chair of the DES science committee.

    Planck pegged matter at 33 percent of the cosmos today, plus or minus two or three percentage points. When DES’s plots appeared, applause broke out as the bull’s-eye of the new matter measurement centered on 26 percent, with error bars that were similar to, but barely overlapped with, Planck’s range.

    “We saw they didn’t quite overlap,” Bernstein said. “But everybody was just excited to see that we got an answer, first, that wasn’t insane, and which was an accurate answer compared to before.”

    Statistically speaking, there’s only a slight tension between the two results: Considering their uncertainties, the 26 and 33 percent appraisals are between 1 and 1.5 standard deviations or “sigma” apart, whereas in modern physics you need a five-sigma discrepancy to claim a discovery. The mismatch stands out to the eye, but for now, Frieman and his team consider their galaxy results to be consistent with expectations based on the cosmic microwave background. Whether the hint of a discrepancy strengthens or vanishes as more data accumulate will be worth watching as the DES team embarks on its next analysis, expected to cover its first three years of data.

    If the possible discrepancy between the cosmic-microwave and galaxy measurements turns out to be real, it could create enough of a tension to lead to the downfall of the “Lambda-CDM model” of cosmology, the standard theory of the universe’s evolution. Lambda-CDM is in many ways a simple model that starts with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, then bolts on dark energy and dark matter. A replacement for Lambda-CDM might help researchers uncover the quantum theory of gravity that presumably underlies everything else.

    What Is Dark Energy?

    According to Lambda-CDM, dark energy is the “cosmological constant,” represented by the Greek symbol lambda Λ in Einstein’s theory; it’s the energy that infuses space itself, when you get rid of everything else. This energy has negative pressure, which pushes space away and causes it to expand. New dark energy arises in the newly formed spatial fabric, so that the density of dark energy always remains constant, even as the total amount of it relative to dark matter increases over time, causing the expansion of the universe to speed up.

    The universe’s expansion is indeed accelerating, as two teams of astronomers discovered in 1998 by observing light from distant supernovas. The discovery, which earned the leaders of the two teams the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics, suggested that the cosmological constant has a positive but “mystifyingly tiny” value, Bernstein said. “There’s no good theory that explains why it would be so tiny.” (This is the “cosmological constant problem” that has inspired anthropic reasoning and the dreaded multiverse hypothesis.)

    On the other hand, dark energy could be something else entirely. Frieman, whom colleagues jokingly refer to as a “fallen theorist,” studied alternative models of dark energy before co-founding DES in 2003 in hopes of testing his and other researchers’ ideas. The leading alternative theory envisions dark energy as a field that pervades space, similar to the “inflaton field” that most cosmologists think drove the explosive inflation of the universe during the Big Bang. The slowly diluting energy of the inflaton field would have exerted a negative pressure that expanded space, and Frieman and others have argued that dark energy might be a similar field that is dynamically evolving today.

    DES’s new analysis incrementally improves the measurement of a parameter that distinguishes between these two theories — the cosmological constant on the one hand, and a slowly changing energy field on the other. If dark energy is the cosmological constant, then the ratio of its negative pressure and density has to be fixed at −1. Cosmologists call this ratio w. If dark energy is an evolving field, then its density would change over time relative to its pressure, and w would be different from −1.

    Remarkably, DES’s first-year data, when combined with previous measurements, pegs w’s value at −1, plus or minus roughly 0.04. However, the present level of accuracy still isn’t enough to tell if we’re dealing with a cosmological constant rather than a dynamic field, which could have w within a hair of −1. “That means we need to keep going,” Frieman said.

    The DES scientists will tighten the error bars around w in their next analysis, slated for release next year; they’ll also measure the change in w over time, by probing its value at different cosmic distances. (Light takes time to reach us, so distant galaxies reveal the universe’s past). If dark energy is the cosmological constant, the change in w will be zero. A nonzero measurement would suggest otherwise.

    Larger galaxy surveys might be needed to definitively measure w and the other cosmological parameters. In the early 2020s, the ambitious Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will start collecting light from 20 billion galaxies and other cosmological objects, creating a high-resolution map of the universe’s clumpiness that will yield a big jump in accuracy.

    LSST


    LSST Camera, built at SLAC



    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    The data might confirm that we occupy a Lambda-CDM universe, infused with an inexplicably tiny cosmological constant and full of dark matter whose nature remains elusive. But Frieman doesn’t discount the possibility of discovering that dark energy is an evolving quantum field, which would invite a deeper understanding by going beyond Einstein’s theory and tying cosmology to quantum physics.

    “With these surveys — DES and LSST that comes after it — the prospects are quite bright,” Dodelson said. “It is more complicated to analyze these things because the cosmic microwave background is simpler, and that is good for young people in the field because there’s a lot of work to do.”

    See the full article here .

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    Formerly known as Simons Science News, Quanta Magazine is an editorially independent online publication launched by the Simons Foundation to enhance public understanding of science. Why Quanta? Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Our goal is to “illuminate science.” At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. All of our articles are meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:01 pm on July 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESA/Planck, How big is the universe?, ,   

    From COSMOS: “How big is the universe?” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS

    17 July 2017
    Cathal O’Connell

    Universe map Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey

    “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” – Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

    In one sense the edge of the universe is easy to mark out: it’s the distance a beam of light could have travelled since the beginning of time. Anything beyond is impossible for us to observe, and so outside our so-called ‘observable universe’. You might guess that the distance from the centre of the universe to the edge is simply the age of the universe (13.8 billion years) multiplied by the speed of light: 13.8 billion light years.

    But space has been stretching all this time; and just as an airport walkway extends the stride of a walking passenger, the moving walkway of space extends the stride of light beams. It turns out that in the 13.8 billion years since the beginning of time, a light beam could have travelled 46.3 billion light years from its point of origin in the Big Bang. If you imagine this beam tracing a radius, the observable universe is a sphere whose diameter is double that: 92.6 billion light years.

    “Since nothing is faster than light, absolutely anything could in principle happen outside the observable universe,” says Andrew Liddle, an astronomer at the University of Edinburgh. “It could end and we’d have no way of knowing.”

    But we have good reasons to suspect the entire Universe (capitalised now to distinguish from the merely observable universe) goes on a lot further than the part we can observe – and that it is possibly infinite. So how can we know what goes on beyond the observable universe?

    Imagine a bacterium swimming in a fishbowl. How could it know the true extent of its seemingly infinite world? Well, distortions of light from the curvature of the glass might give it a clue. In the same way, the curvature of the universe tells us about its ultimate size.

    “The geometry of the universe can be of three different kinds,” says Robert Trotta, an astrophysicist at Imperial College London. It could be closed (like a sphere), open (like a saddle) or flat (like a table).

    2
    Universal geometry: the universe could be closed like sphere, open like a saddle or flat like a table. The first option would make it finite; the other two, infinite.
    Cosmos Magazine.

    The key to measuring its curvature is the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation – a wash of light given out by the fireball of plasma that pervaded the universe 400,000 years after the Big Bang. It’s our snapshot of the universe when it was very young and about 1,000 times smaller than it is today.

    Cosmic Infrared Background, Credit: Michael Hauser (Space Telescope Science Institute), the COBE/DIRBE Science Team, and NASA

    NASA/COBE

    Cosmic Microwave Background NASA/WMAP

    NASA/WMAP satellite

    CMB per ESA/Planck

    ESA/Planck

    Just as ancient geographers once used the curviness of the Earth’s horizon to work out the size of our planet, astronomers are using the curvinesss of the CMB at our cosmic horizon to estimate the size of the universe.

    The key is to use satellites to measure the temperature of different features in the CMB. The way these features distort across the CMB landscape is used to calculate its geometry. “So determining the size and geometry, of the Universe helps us determine what happened right after its birth,” Trotta says.

    Since the late 1980s, three generations of satellites have mapped the CMB with ever improving resolution, generating better and better estimates of the universe’s curvature. The latest data, released in March 2013, came from the European Space Agency’s Planck telescope. It estimated the curvature to be completely flat, at least to within a measurement certainty of plus or minus 0.4%.

    The extreme flatness of the universe supports the theory of cosmic inflation. This theory holds that in a fraction of a second (10−36 second to be precise) just after its birth, the universe inflated like a balloon, expanding many orders of magnitude while stretching and flattening its surface features.

    Perfect flatness would mean the universe is infinite, though the plus or minus 0.4% margin of error means we can’t be sure. It might still be finite but very big. Using the Planck data, Trotta and his colleagues worked out the minimum size of the actual Universe would have to be at least 250 times greater than the observable universe.

    The next generation of telescopes should improve on the data from the Planck telescope. Whether they will give us a definitive answer about the size of the universe remains to be seen. “I imagine that we will still treat the universe as very nearly flat and still not know well enough to rule out open or closed for a long time to come,” says Charles Bennet, head of the new CLASS array of microwave telescopes in Chile.

    As it turns out, owing to background noise there are fundamental limits to how well we can ever measure the curvature, no matter how good the telescopes get. In July 2016, physicists at Oxford worked out we cannot possibly measure a curvature below about 0.01%. So we still have a ways to go, though measurements so far, and the evidence from inflation theory, has most physicists weighing toward the view the universe is probably infinite. An impassioned minority, however, have had a serious problem with that.

    Getting rid of infinity, the great British physicist Paul Dirac said, is the most important challenge in physics. “No infinity has ever been observed in nature,” notes Columbia University astrophysicist Janna Levin in her 2001 memoir How the Universe got its Spots. “Nor is infinity tolerated in a scientific theory.”

    So how come physicists keep allowing that the universe itself may be infinite? The idea goes back to the founding fathers of physics. Newton, for example, reasoned that the universe must be infinite based on his law of gravitation. It held that everything in the universe attracted everything else. But if that were so, eventually the universe would be pulled towards a single point, in the way that a star eventually collapses under its own weight. This was at odds with his firm belief the universe had always existed. So, he figured, the only explanation was infinity – the equal pull in all directions would keep the universe static, and eternal.

    Albert Einstein, 250 years later at the start of the 20th century, similarly envisioned an eternal and infinite universe. General relativity, his theory of the universe on the grandest scales, plays out on an infinite landscape of spacetime.

    Mathematically speaking, it is easier to propose a universe that goes on forever than to have to deal with the edges. Yet to be infinite is to be unreal – a hyperbole, an absurdity.

    In his short story The Library of Babel, Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges imagines an infinite library containing every possible book of exactly 410 pages: “…for every sensible line of straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal jumbles and incoherences.” Because there are only so many possible arrangements of letters, the possible number of books is limited, and so the library is destined to repeat itself.

    An infinite Universe leads to similar conclusions. Because there are only so many ways that atoms can be arranged in space (even within a region 93 billion light years across), an infinite Universe requires that there must be, out there, another huge region of space identical to ours in every respect. That means another Milky Way, another Earth, another version of you and another of me.

    Physicist Max Tegmark, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has run the numbers. He estimates that, in an infinite Universe, patches of space identical to ours would tend to come along about every 1010115 metres (an insanely huge number, one with more zeroes after it than there are atoms in the observable universe). So no danger of bumping into your twin self down at the shops; but still Levin does not accept it: “Is it arrogance or logic that makes me believe this is wrong? There’s just one me, one you. The universe can’t be infinite.”

    Levin was one of the first theorists to approach general relativity from a new perspective. Rather than thinking about geometry, which describes the shape of space, she looked at its topology: the way it was connected.

    All those assumptions about flat, closed or open universes were only valid for huge, spherical universes, she argued. Other shapes could be topologically ‘flat’ and still finite.

    “Your idea of a donut-shaped universe is intriguing, Homer,” says Stephen Hawking in a 1999 episode of The Simpsons. “I may have to steal it.” Actually, the show’s writers had already stolen the idea from Levin—who published her analysis of a donut-shaped universe in 1998.

    A donut, she noted, actually had – “topologically speaking” – zero curvature because the negative curvature on the inside is balanced by the positive curvature on the outside. The (near) zero curvature measured in the CMB was therefore as consistent with a donut as with a flat surface.

    5
    One ring theory to rule them all: CMB data doesn’t rule out a donut-shape, but it would be an awfully big one. Mehau Kulyk / Getty Images.

    In such a universe, Levin realised, you might cross the cosmos in a spaceship, the way sailors crossed the globe, and find yourself back where you started. This idea inspired Australian physicist Neil Cornish, now based at Montana State University, to think about how the very oldest light, from the CMB, might have circumnavigated the cosmos. If the donut universe were below a threshold size, that would create a telltale signature, which Cornish called “circles in the sky”. Alas, when CMB data came back from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) in 2001, no such signatures were found. That doesn’t rule out the donut theory entirely; but it does mean that the universe, if it is a donut, is an awfully big one.

    Attempts to directly prove or disprove the infinity of the universe seem to lead us to a dead-end, at least with current technology. But we might do it by inference, Cornish believes. Inflation theory does a compelling job of explaining the key features of our universe; and one of the offshoots of inflation is the multiverse theory.

    It’s the kind of theory that, when you first hear it, seems to have sprung from the mind of a science-fiction author indulging in mind-expanding substances. Actually it was first proposed by influential Stanford physicist Andrei Linde in the 1980s. Linde – together with Alan Guth at MIT and Alexei Starobinsky at Russia’s Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics – was one of the architects of inflation theory.

    Guth and Starobinsky’s original ideas had inflation petering out in the first split second after the big bang; Linde, however, had it going on and on, with new universes sprouting off like an everlasting ginger root.

    Linde has since showed that “eternal inflation” is probably an inevitable part of any inflation model. This eternal inflation, or multiverse, model is attractive to Linde because it solves the greatest mystery of all: why the laws of physics seem fine-tuned to allow our existence.

    The strength of gravity is just enough to allow stable stars to form and burn, the electromagnetic and nuclear forces are just the right strength to allow atoms to form, for complex molecules to evolve, and for us to come to be.

    In each newly sprouted universe these constants get assigned randomly. In some, gravity might be so strong that the universe recollapses immediately after its big bang. In others, gravity would be so weak that atoms of hydrogen would never condense into stars or galaxies. With an infinite number of new universes sprouting into and out of existence, by chance one will pop up that is fit for life to evolve.

    6
    Infinite variety: in the the eternal inflation model, new universes sprout off like an everlasting ginger root. Andrei Linde.

    The multiverse theory has its critics, notably another co-founder of inflation theory, Paul Steinhardt. who told Scientific American in 2014: “Scientific ideas should be simple, explanatory, predictive. The inflationary multiverse as currently understood appears to have none of those properties.” Meanwhile Paul Davies at the University of Arizona wrote in The New York Times that “invoking an infinity of unseen universes to explain the unusual features of the one we do see is just as ad hoc as invoking an unseen creator”.

    But in another sense the multiverse is the simpler of the two inflation models. In a few lines of equations, or just a few sentences of speech, the multiverse gives us a mechanism to explain the origin of our universe, just as Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection explained the origin of species. As Max Tegmark puts it: “Our judgment therefore comes down to which we find more wasteful and inelegant: many worlds or many words.”

    To settle the issue, we will need to know more about what went down in the first split-second of the universe. Perhaps gravitational waves will be the answer, a way to ‘hear’ the vibrations of the big bang itself.

    Whether infinite or finite, stand-alone or one of an endless multitude, the universe is surely a mindbending place. Which brings us back to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “If there’s any real truth, it’s that the entire multidimensional infinity of the Universe is almost certainly being run by a bunch of maniacs.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:11 am on July 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESA/Planck,   

    From astrobites: “What’s your Cosmology? Ask CMB Maps” 

    Astrobites bloc

    Astrobites

    July 12, 2017
    Gourav Khullar

    Title: Cosmological-parameter determination with Microwave Background Maps
    Authors: G. Jungman, M. Kamionkowski, A. Kosowsky and D. N. Spergel
    First Author’s Institution: Dept. of Physics, Syracuse University, New York, USA

    Status: Physical Review D (1996), [open access]

    There are papers that talk of groundbreaking discoveries. There are papers which review the current status of the field, akin to bringing you up-to-date with what’s going on. And then there are papers that open up portals to new sub-fields, with the clarity of their message and the precision of the questions they pose. Today’s paper is one such publication, which in 1996 started an interesting journey in the world of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) and Observational Cosmology.

    The Beginning

    Discovered for the first time in the 1970s, CMB studies have relied on measuring the temperature of this relic radiation today, which has sent photons to us from the era when the universe was essentially a plasma of matter and radiation. This era of the universe is where we can see the earliest ‘CMB photons’, a surface aptly called the surface of last scattering. Measuring its temperature gives us an idea about the energy content of the universe at that surface, which decreases as the photons travel towards us and lose energy in an ever-expanding universe.

    2
    Fig 1. The CMB Temperature map of the entire sky, observed by WMAP (as of 2012). The different colors correspond to different temperatures, at the minute scale of micro-Kelvins.

    NASA/WMAP satellite

    It was discovered in 1992 by the Nobel prize-winning satellite COBE that this radiation was isotropic to one parts in 100000, i.e. the uniformity of the CMB temperature across two points in the sky was only different by 10^-5!

    NASA/COBE

    Following this, studies were undertaken to discuss what these anisotropies, or non-uniformities actually meant. Today, we know of several mechanisms that answer this question – mechanisms that have gained credence with results from CMB telescopes like WMAP, PLANCK, the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, and the South Pole Telescope.

    CMB per ESA/Planck


    ESA/Planck

    3
    The Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) is a six-metre telescope on Cerro Toco in the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile, near the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory.

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL

    But back in 1996, these programs did not exist. The authors of our paper undertook the task of figuring out the theory of a future mission that could conclusively tell us about the nature of the universe back at the last CMB surface. This in turn, would help us characterize the early universe as well as the evolution of the universe between us and the surface of last scattering. What is the study of the evolution of universe since the big bang, but observational cosmology!

    Cosmological Parameters

    Observational cosmology is a game of measuring the following parameters with utmost accuracy and precision:

    Total Density of the universe Ω – baryonic matter, dark matter, radiation, curvature/space
    Hubble Constant H0, acceleration of the universe
    The Cosmological Constant Λ, responsible for the accelerated expansion of the current universe
    Inflation parameters, to constrain the perturbations of pre-CMB and near-CMB era universe
    Mass of neutrino species, that affect structure formation in the universe
    Ionization history of the universe

    Where do CMB observations come into the picture here? CMB is mostly measured in the form of temperature maps, a representation of the energy of the CMB photons across the sky (now, and by extrapolation back in the early universe). This information is best displayed as temperature differences as a function of angular scales in the sky, or ell’s as they are called. The term ell (or l) comes from the fact that on a 3-D sphere like the universe, the best way to compare two different points is to expand the temperature using spherical harmonics (which have ell’s or l in them), just as we expand points on a 2-D surface in terms of sine and cosine. If ell’s are hard to imagine, angular scales are more intuitive (check top axis on Figure 2)!

    3
    Fig 2. Anisotropies as a function of angular scale (or ell’s) in the sky, as observed by different telescopes e.g. WMAP, Boomerang. The solid line is a theoretical model that fits the observations.

    A better resolution of the telescope allows us to distinguish between temperatures in nearby regions, i.e. at smaller scales (or higher ell, in CMB lingo). A better sensitivity allows us to capture minute differences in this temperature. The authors in today’s paper assume a sensitivity and resolution better than COBE, and talk about their projections of a future experiment (which turned out to be WMAP)!

    CMB Anisotropies: Predictions

    The authors go about their predictions by describing the basic accepted theory (at the time) surrounding CMB generation, and what could have possibly caused the width and peaks of the anisotropies look the way they do (seen in Fig 2). Let’s see if we can capture a few of the ideas put forward here.

    4
    Fig 3. Different predictions of cosmological parameters as a function of ell’s (or angular scale), from today’s paper. Each solid line in each panel is a prediction of the CMB map for a specific value of that parameter, keeping the other three parameters constant.

    1.If the cosmological constant is too high in the universe, it increases the distance between us and the surface of last scattering, and subsequently in the anisotropy map.
    2.Moreover, if there is more structure between us and the CMB because of the evolution of the universe(e.g. galaxy clusters), that would make the photons scatter more off this structure, and hence increase the peaks (or strengths) of these anisotropies.
    3.If more perturbations were going on when the CMB was a plasma(at a time when the universe was tiny and most of the points in the sky were in close proximity with each other), the anisotropies seen at large scale NOW (that used to be close by back then) would be larger. Hence, this would mean higher peaks at lower ell, or higher angular scales.
    4.The biggest peak in Figure 2, is seen at an angular scale (or ell) of the horizon at surface of last scattering. We call this a horizon, because that is literally the edge of the universe that could communicate with each other back in the CMB era. This was a fixed physical scale, but what it looks to us today depends entirely on whether our universe is flat, closed or open. For example, in an open universe (like a sphere), the subtended angular scale would look wider than in a flat universe. Hence, the spectrum would move to a lower ell (or higher scales).

    What has happened since?

    5
    Fig 4.The three squares are 10-square degree patches of the sky. The difference in colors are displaying the different resolution and sensitivities of the three generations of CMB telescopes. COBE kickstarted the field of CMB anistropies, while Planck clearly sets the current standards.

    Predictions like these form the core content of this paper, which led to several anisotropy studies in the future. WMAP, the natural all-sky successor to COBE, put amazing constraints on CMB anisotropies in temperature in 2001 (Fig 1). The Planck satellite is the current standard for CMB studies at low-ell (large angular scales e.g. across the sky), with SPT and ACT contributing to high-ell (smaller angular scale e.g. galaxy clusters) studies. The future is even brighter for CMB (literally, and metaphorically), as we look forward to higher sensitivities, and resolution that helps with smaller and smaller angular scales in the sky.

    As John Carlstrom – astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and a pioneer in CMB studies – rightly says, “CMB is a gift that keeps on giving!”

    See the full article here .

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    Why read Astrobites?

    Reading a technical paper from an unfamiliar subfield is intimidating. It may not be obvious how the techniques used by the researchers really work or what role the new research plays in answering the bigger questions motivating that field, not to mention the obscure jargon! For most people, it takes years for scientific papers to become meaningful.
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  • richardmitnick 11:27 am on June 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , D.O.E. Office of Science, , , ESA/Planck, Lambda-Cold Dark Matter Accelerated Expansion of the Universe, ,   

    From US D.O.E. Office of Science: “Our Expanding Universe: Delving into Dark Energy” 

    DOE Main

    Department of Energy Office of Science

    06.21.17
    Shannon Brescher Shea
    shannon.shea@science.doe.gov

    Space is expanding ever more rapidly and scientists are researching dark energy to understand why.

    1
    This diagram shows the timeline of the universe, from its beginnings in the Big Bang to today. Image courtesy of NASA/WMAP Science Team.

    The universe is growing a little bigger, a little faster, every day.

    And scientists don’t know why.

    If this continues, almost all other galaxies will be so far away from us that one day, we won’t be able to spot them with even the most sophisticated equipment. In fact, we’ll only be able to spot a few cosmic objects outside of the Milky Way. Fortunately, this won’t happen for billions of years.

    But it’s not supposed to be this way – at least according to theory. Based on the fact that gravity pulls galaxies together, Albert Einstein’s theory predicted that the universe should be expanding more slowly over time. But in 1998, astrophysicists were quite surprised when their observations showed that the universe was expanding ever faster. Astrophysicists call this phenomenon “cosmic acceleration.”

    “Whatever is driving cosmic acceleration is likely to dominate the future evolution of the universe,” said Josh Frieman, a researcher at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fermilab [FNAL] and director of the Dark Energy Survey.


    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL


    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile, housing DECam

    While astrophysicists know little about it, they often use “dark energy” as shorthand for the cause of this expansion. Based on its effects, they estimate dark energy could make up 70 percent of the combined mass and energy of the universe. Something unknown that both lies outside our current understanding of the laws of physics and is the major influence on the growth of the universe adds up to one of the biggest mysteries in physics. DOE’s Office of Science is supporting a number of projects to investigate dark energy to better understand this phenomenon.

    The Start of the Universe

    Before scientists can understand what is causing the universe to expand now, they need to know what happened in the past. The energy from the Big Bang drove the universe’s early expansion. Since then, gravity and dark energy have engaged in a cosmic tug of war. Gravity pulls galaxies closer together; dark energy pushes them apart. Whether the universe is expanding or contracting depends on which force dominates, gravity or dark energy.

    Just after the Big Bang, the universe was much smaller and composed of an extremely high-energy plasma. This plasma was vastly different from anything today. It was so dense that it trapped all energy, including light. Unlike the current universe, which has expanses of “empty” space dotted by dense galaxies of stars, this plasma was nearly evenly distributed across that ancient universe.

    As the universe expanded and became less dense, it cooled. In a blip in cosmic time, protons and electrons combined to form neutral hydrogen atoms. When that happened, light was able to stream out into the universe to form what is now known as the “cosmic microwave background [CMB].”

    CMB per ESA/Planck


    ESA/Planck

    Today’s instruments that detect the cosmic microwave background provide scientists with a view of that early universe.

    Back then, gravity was the major force that influenced the structure of the universe. It slowed the rate of expansion and made it possible for matter to coalesce. Eventually, the first stars appeared about 400 million years after the Big Bang. Over the next several billion years, larger and larger structures formed: galaxies and galaxy clusters, containing billions to quadrillions (a million billion) of stars. While these cosmic objects formed, the space between galaxies continued to expand, but at an ever slower rate thanks to gravitational attraction.

    Lambda-Cold Dark Matter, Accelerated Expansion of the Universe, Big Bang-Inflation (timeline of the universe) Date 2010 Credit: Alex MittelmannColdcreation

    But somewhere between 3 and 7 billion years after the Big Bang, something happened: instead of the expansion slowing down, it sped up. Dark energy started to have a bigger influence than gravity. The expansion has been accelerating ever since.

    Scientists used three different types of evidence to work out this history of the universe. The original evidence in 1998 came from observations of a specific type of supernova [Type 1a]. Two other types of evidence in the early 2000s provided further support.

    “It was this sudden avalanche of results through cosmology,” said Eric Linder, a Berkeley Lab researcher and Office of Science Cosmic Frontier program manager.

    Now, scientists estimate that galaxies are getting 0.007 percent further away from each other every million years. But they still don’t know why.

    What is Dark Energy?

    “Cosmic acceleration really points to something fundamentally different about how the forces of the universe work,” said Daniel Eisenstein, a Harvard University researcher and former director of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. “We know of four major forces: gravity, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong forces. And none of those forces can explain cosmic acceleration.”

    So far, the evidence has spurred two competing theories.

    The leading theory is that dark energy is the “cosmological constant,” a concept Albert Einstein created in 1917 to balance his equations to describe a universe in equilibrium. Without this cosmological constant to offset gravity, a finite universe would collapse into itself.

    Today, scientists think the constant may represent the energy of the vacuum of space. Instead of being “empty,” this would mean space is actually exerting pressure on cosmic objects. If this idea is correct, the distribution of dark energy should be the same everywhere.

    All of the observations fit this idea – so far. But there’s a major issue. The theoretical equations and the physical measurements don’t match. When researchers calculate the cosmological constant using standard physics, they end up with a number that is off by a huge amount: 1 X 10^120 (1 with 120 zeroes following it).

    “It’s hard to make a math error that big,” joked Frieman.

    That major difference between observation and theory suggests that astrophysicists do not yet fully understand the origin of the cosmological constant, even if it is the cause of cosmic acceleration.

    The other possibility is that “dark energy” is the wrong label altogether. A competing theory posits that the universe is expanding ever more rapidly because gravity acts differently at very large scales from what Einstein’s theory predicts. While there’s less evidence for this theory than that for the cosmological constant, it’s still a possibility.

    The Biggest Maps of the Universe

    To collect evidence that can prove or disprove these theories, scientists are creating a visual history of the universe’s expansion. These maps will allow astrophysicists to see dark energy’s effects over time. Finding that the structure of the universe changed in a way that’s consistent with the cosmological constant’s influence would provide strong evidence for that theory.

    There are two types of surveys: imaging and spectroscopic. The Dark Energy Survey and Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) are imaging surveys, while the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey), eBOSS, and the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument are spectroscopic.


    LSST Camera, built at SLAC



    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    BOSS Supercluster Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS)

    LBNL/DESI Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument for the Nicholas U. Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz, USA

    Imaging surveys use giant cameras – some the size of cars – to take photos of the night sky. The farther away the object, the longer the light has taken to reach us. Taking pictures of galaxies, galaxy clusters, and supernovae at various distances shows how the distribution of matter has changed over time. The Dark Energy Survey, which started collecting data in 2013, has already photographed more than 300 million galaxies. By the time it finishes in 2018, it will have taken pictures of about one-eighth of the entire night sky. The LSST will further expand what we know. When it starts in 2022, the LSST will use the world’s largest digital camera to take pictures of 20 billion galaxies.

    “That is an amazing number. It could be 10% of all of the galaxies in the observable universe,” said Steve Kahn, a professor of physics at Stanford and LSST project director.

    However, these imaging surveys miss a key data point – how fast the Milky Way and other galaxies are moving away from each other. But spectroscopic surveys that capture light outside the visual spectrum can provide that information. They can also more accurately estimate how far away galaxies are. Put together, this information allows astrophysicists to look back in time.

    The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), part of the larger Sloan Digital Sky Survey, was one of the biggest projects to take, as the name implies, a spectroscopic approach. It mapped more than 1.2 million galaxies and quasars.

    Universe map Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey

    However, there’s a major gap in BOSS’s data. It could measure what was going on 5 billion years ago using bright galaxies and 10 billion years ago using bright quasars. But it had nothing about what was going on in-between. Unfortunately, this time period is most likely when dark energy started dominating.

    “Seven billion years ago, dark energy starts to really dominate and push the universe apart more rapidly. So we’re making these maps now that span that whole distance. We start in the backyard of the Milky Way, our own galaxy, and we go out to 7 billion light years,” said David Schlegel, a Berkeley Lab researcher who is the BOSS principal investigator. That 7 billion light years spans the time from when the light was originally emitted to it reaching our telescopes today.

    Two new projects are filling that gap: the eBOSS survey and the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI). eBOSS will target the missing time span from 5 to 7 billion years ago.

    4
    SDSS eBOSS.

    DESI will go back even further – 11 billion light years. Even though the dark energy was weaker then relative to gravity, surveying a larger volume of space will allow scientists to make even more precise measurements. DESI will also collect 10 times more data than BOSS. When it starts taking observations in 2019, it will measure light from 35 million galaxies and quasars.

    “We now realize that the majority of … the universe is stuff that we’ll never be able to directly measure using experiments here on Earth. We have to infer their properties by looking to the cosmos,” said Rachel Bean, a researcher at Cornell University who is the spokesperson for the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration. Solving the mystery of the galaxies rushing away from each other, “really does present a formidable challenge in physics. We have a lot of work to do.”

    See the full article here .

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    Science Programs Organization

    The Office of Science manages its research portfolio through six program offices:

    Advanced Scientific Computing Research
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    The Science Programs organization also includes the following offices:

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  • richardmitnick 4:57 pm on May 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , ESA/Planck,   

    From Universe Today: “What Was Cosmic Inflation? The Quest to Understand the Earliest Universe” 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    30 May, 2017
    Fraser Cain

    The Big Bang. The discovery that the Universe has been expanding for billions of years is one of the biggest revelations in the history of science. In a single moment, the entire Universe popped into existence, and has been expanding ever since.

    We know this because of multiple lines of evidence: the cosmic microwave background radiation, the ratio of elements in the Universe, etc. But the most compelling one is just the simple fact that everything is expanding away from everything else. Which means, that if you run the clock backwards, the Universe was once an extremely hot dense region.

    2
    A billion years after the big bang, hydrogen atoms were mysteriously torn apart into a soup of ions. Credit: NASA/ESA/A. Felid (STScI)).

    Let’s go backwards in time, billions of years. The closer you get to the Big Bang, the closer everything was, and the hotter it was. When you reach about 380,000 years after the Big Bang, the entire Universe was so hot that all matter was ionized, with atomic nuclei and electrons buzzing around each other.

    Keep going backwards, and the entire Universe was the temperature and density of a star, which fused together the primordial helium and other elements that we see to this day.

    Continue to the beginning of time, and there was a point where everything was so hot that atoms themselves couldn’t hold together, breaking into their constituent protons and neutrons. Further back still and even atoms break apart into quarks. And before that, it’s just a big question mark. An infinitely dense Universe cosmologists called the singularity.

    When you look out into the Universe in all directions, you see the cosmic microwave background radiation. That’s that point when the Universe cooled down so that light could travel freely through space.

    And the temperature of this radiation is almost exactly the same in all directions that you look. There are tiny tiny variations, detectable only by the most sensitive instruments.

    3
    Cosmic microwave background seen by Planck. Credit: ESA

    ESA/Planck

    When two things are the same temperature, like a spoon in your coffee, it means that those two things have had an opportunity to interact. The coffee transferred heat to the spoon, and now their temperatures have equalized.

    When we see this in opposite sides of the Universe, that means that at some point, in the ancient past, those two regions were touching. That spot where the light left 13.8 billion years ago on your left, was once directly touching that spot on your right that also emitted its light 13.8 billion years ago.

    This is a great theory, but there’s a problem: The Universe never had time for those opposite regions to touch. For the Universe to have the uniform temperature we see today, it would have needed to spend enough time mixing together. But it didn’t have enough time, in fact, the Universe didn’t have any time to exchange temperature.

    Imagine you dipped that spoon into the coffee and then pulled it out moments later before the heat could transfer, and yet the coffee and spoon are exactly the same temperature. What’s going on?

    To address this problem, the cosmologist Alan Guth proposed the idea of cosmic inflation in 1980. That moments after the Big Bang, the entire Universe expanded dramatically.

    4
    Alan Guth, Highland Park High School and M.I.T., who first proposed cosmic inflation

    HPHS Owls

    Lambda-Cold Dark Matter, Accelerated Expansion of the Universe, Big Bang-Inflation (timeline of the universe) Date 2010 Credit: Alex MittelmannColdcreation

    5
    Alan Guth’s notes. http://www.bestchinanews.com/Explore/4730.html

    And by “moments”, I mean that the inflationary period started when the Universe was only 10^-36 seconds old, and ended when the Universe was 10^-32 seconds old.

    And by “expanded dramatically”, I mean that it got 10^26 times larger. That’s a 1 followed by 26 zeroes.

    Before inflation, the observable Universe was smaller than an atom. After inflation, it was about 0.88 millimeters. Today, those regions have been stretched 93 billion light-years apart.

    This concept of inflation was further developed by cosmologists Andrei Linde, Paul Steinhardt, Andy Albrecht and others.

    Inflation resolved some of the shortcomings of the Big Bang Theory.

    The first is known as the flatness problem. The most sensitive satellites we have today measure the Universe as flat. Not like a piece-of-paper-flat, but flat in the sense that parallel lines will remain parallel forever as they travel through the Universe. Under the original Big Bang cosmology, you would expect the curvature of the Universe to grow with time.

    4
    The horizon problem in Big Bang cosmology. How is it that distant parts of the universe possess such similar physical properties? Credit: Addison Wesley.

    The second is the horizon problem. And this is the problem I mentioned above, that two regions of the Universe shouldn’t have been able to see each other and interact long enough to be the same temperature.

    The third is the monopole problem. According to the original Big Bang theory, there should be a vast number of heavy, stable “monopoles”, or a magnetic particle with only a single pole. Inflation diluted the number of monopoles in the Universe so don’t detect them today.

    Although the cosmic microwave background radiation appears mostly even across the sky, there could still be evidence of that inflationary period baked into it.

    5
    The Big Bang and primordial gravitational waves. Credit: bicepkeck.org

    In order to do this, astronomers have been focusing on searching for primordial gravitational waves. These are different from the gravitational waves generated through the collision of massive objects. Primordial gravitational waves are the echoes from that inflationary period which should be theoretically detectable through the polarization, or orientation, of light in the cosmic microwave background radiation.

    A collaboration of scientists used an instrument known as the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (or BICEP2) to search for this polarization, and in 2014, they announced that maybe, just maybe, they had detected it, proving the theory of cosmic inflation was correct.

    Gravitational Wave Background from BICEP 2 which ultimately failed to be correct. The Planck team determined that the culprit was cosmic dust.

    Unfortunately, another team working with the space-based Planck telescope posted evidence that the fluctuations they saw could be fully explained by intervening dust in the Milky Way.


    Bicep 2 Collaboration Steffen Richter Harvard

    6
    Planck’s view of its nine frequencies. Credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration

    The problem is that BICEP2 and Planck are designed to search for different frequencies. In order to really get to the bottom of this question, more searches need to be done, scanning a series of overlapping frequencies. And that’s in the works now.

    BICEP2 and Planck and the newly developed South Pole Telescope as well as some observatories in Chile are all scanning the skies at different frequencies at the same time.

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL

    Distortion from various types of foreground objects, like dust or radiation should be brighter or dimmer in the different frequencies, while the light from the cosmic microwave background radiation should remain constant throughout.

    There are more telescopes, searching more wavelengths of light, searching more of the sky. We could know the answer to this question with more certainty shortly.

    One of the most interesting implications of cosmic inflation, if proven, is that our Universe is actually just one in a vast multiverse. While the Universe was undergoing that dramatic expansion, it could have created bubbles of spacetime that spawned other universes, with different laws of physics.

    In fact, the father of inflation, Alan Guth, said, “It’s hard to build models of inflation that don’t lead to a multiverse.”

    And so, if inflation does eventually get confirmed, then we’ll have a whole multiverse to search for in the cosmic microwave background radiation.

    The Big Bang was one of the greatest theories in the history of science. Although it did have a few problems, cosmic inflation was developed to address them. Although there have been a few false starts, astronomers are now performing a sensitive enough search that they might find evidence of this amazing inflationary period. And then it’ll be Nobel Prizes all around.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 3:21 pm on January 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESA/Planck,   

    From USRA: “Arecibo Observatory casts new light on cosmic microwave background observed by WMAP and PLANCK spacecraft” 

    usra-bloc

    USRA

    January 4, 2017
    PR Contact: Suraiya Farukhi
    sfarukhi@usra.edu
    Universities Space Research Association
    410-740-6224 (o)
    443-812-6945 (c)

    Technical Contact: Joan Schmelz
    jschmelz@usra.edu
    Universities Space Research Association
    787-878-2612 x603

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA
    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

    Arecibo Observatory observations of galactic neutral hydrogen structure confirm the discovery of an unexpected contribution to the measurements of the cosmic microwave background observed by the WMAP and Planck spacecraft.

    NASA WMAP satellite
    NASA WMAP satellite

    ESA/Planck
    “ESA/Planck

    An accurate understanding of the foreground (galactic) sources of radiation observed by these two spacecraft is essential for extracting information about the small-scale structure in the cosmic microwave background believed to be indicative of events in the early universe.

    Cosmic Microwave Background WMAP
    Cosmic Microwave Background WMAP

    CMB per ESA/Planck
    CMB per ESA/Planck

    The new source of radiation in the 22 to 100 GHz range observed by WMAP and Planck appears to be emission from cold electrons (known as free-free emission). While cosmologists have corrected for this type of radiation from hot electrons associated with galactic nebulae where the source temperatures are thousands of degrees, the new model requires electron temperatures more like a few 100 K.

    The spectrum of the small-scale features observed by WMAP and Planck in this frequency range is very nearly flat — a finding consistent with the sources being associated with the Big Bang. At first glance it appears that the spectrum expected from the emission by cold galactic electrons, which exist throughout interstellar space, would be far too steep to fit the data. However, if the sources of emission have a small angular size compared with the beam width used in the WMAP and Planck spacecraft, the signals they record would be diluted. The beam widths increase with lower frequency, and the net result of this “beam dilution” is to produce an apparently flat spectrum in the 22 to 100 GHz range.

    “It was the beam dilution that was the key insight,” noted Dr. Gerrit Verschuur, astronomer emeritus at the Arecibo Observatory and lead author on the paper. “Emission from an unresolved source could mimic the flat spectrum observed by WMAP and Planck.”

    The model invoking the emission from cold electrons not only gives the observed flat spectrum usually attributed to cosmic sources but also predicts values for the angular scale and temperature for the emitting volumes. Those predictions can then be compared with observations of galactic structure revealed in the Galactic Arecibo L-Band Feed Array (GALFA) HI survey.

    “The interstellar medium is much more surprising and important than we have given it credit for,” noted Dr. Joshua Peek, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute and a co-investigator on the GALFA-HI survey. “Arecibo, with its combination of large area and high resolution, remains a spectacular and cutting edge tool for comparing ISM maps to cosmological data sets.”

    The angular scales of the smallest features observed in neutral hydrogen maps made at Arecibo and the temperature of the apparently associated gas both match the model calculations extremely well. So far only three well-studied areas have been analyzed in such detail, but more work is being planned.

    “It was the agreement between the model predictions and the GALFA-HI observations that convinced me that we might be onto something,” noted Dr. Joan Schmelz, Director, Universities Space Research Association (USRA) at Arecibo Observatory and a coauthor on the paper. “We hope that these results help us understand the true cosmological nature of Planck and WMAP data.”

    The data suggest that the structure and physics of diffuse interstellar matter, in particular of cold hydrogen gas and associated electrons, may be more complex than heretofore considered. Such complexities need to be taken into account in order to produce better foreground masks for application to the high-frequency continuum observations of Planck and WMAP in the quest for a cosmologically significant signal.

    USRA’s Dr. Joan Schmelz will present these findings on January 4, 2017, at a press conference at the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) meeting at Grapevine, Texas.

    The results were published in the Astrophysical Journal, December 1, 2016, in a paper entitled On the Nature of Small-Scale Structure in the Cosmic Microwave Background Observed by Planck and WMAP by G. L. Verschuur and J. T. Schmelz.

    See the full article here .

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    USRA is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology.

    SIGNIFICANCE & PURPOSE

    USRA was founded in 1969, near the beginning of the Space Age, driven by the vision of two individuals, James Webb (NASA Administrator 1961-1968) and Frederick Seitz (National Academy of Sciences President 1962-1969). They recognized that the technical challenges of space would require an established research base to develop novel concepts and innovative technologies. Together, they worked to create USRA to satisfy not only the ongoing need for innovation in space, but also the need to involve society more broadly so the benefits of space activities would be realized.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:38 am on December 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , DDM hypothesis, , ESA/Planck, , Institute for Nuclear Research in Moscow, , The Universe is losing dark matter and researchers have finally measured how much   

    From Science Alert: “The Universe is losing dark matter, and researchers have finally measured how much” 

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    28 DEC 2016
    JOSH HRALA

    1
    MIPT

    Researchers from Russia have, for the first time, been able to measure the amount of dark matter the Universe has lost since the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago, and calculate that as much as 5 percent of dark matter could have deteriorated.

    The finding could explain one of the biggest mysteries in physics – why our Universe appears to function in a slightly different way than it did in the years just after the Big Bang, and it could also shed insight into how it might continue to evolve in future.

    “The discrepancy between the cosmological parameters in the modern Universe and the Universe shortly after the Big Bang can be explained by the fact that the proportion of dark matter has decreased,” said co-author Igor Tkachev, from the Institute for Nuclear Research in Moscow.

    “We have now, for the first time, been able to calculate how much dark matter could have been lost, and what the corresponding size of the unstable component would be.”

    The mystery surrounding dark matter was first brought up way back in the 1930s, when astrophysicists and astronomers observed that galaxies moved in weird ways, appearing to be under the effect of way more gravity than could be explained by the visible matter and energy in the Universe.

    This gravitational pull has to come from somewhere. So, researchers came up with a new type of ‘dark matter’ to describe the invisible mass responsible for the things they were witnessing.

    As of right now, the current hypothesis states that the Universe is made up of 4.9 percent normal matter – the stuff we can see, such as galaxies and stars – 26.8 percent dark matter, and 68.3 percent dark energy, a hypothetical type of energy that’s spread throughout the Universe, and which might be responsible for the Universe’s expansion.

    But even though the majority of matter predicted to be in the Universe is actually dark, very little is known about dark matter – in fact, scientists still haven’t been able to prove that it actually exists.

    One of the ways scientists study dark matter is by examining the cosmic microwave background (CMB), which some call the ‘echo of the Big Bang’.

    CMB per ESA/Planck
    CMB per ESA/Planck

    The CMB is the thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang, making it somewhat of an astronomical time capsule that researchers can use to understand the early, newly born Universe.

    The problem is that the cosmological parameters that govern how our Universe works – such as the speed of light and the way gravity works – appear to differ ever so slightly in the CMB compared to the parameters we know to exist in the modern Universe.

    “This variance was significantly more than margins of error and systematic errors known to us,” Tkachev explains. “Therefore, we are either dealing with some kind of unknown error, or the composition of the ancient universe is considerably different to the modern Universe.”

    One of the hypotheses that might explain why the early Universe was so different is the ‘decaying dark matter‘ [Nature] (DDM) hypothesis – the idea that dark matter has slowly been disappearing from the Universe.

    And that’s exactly what Tkachev and his colleagues set out to analyse on a mathematical level, looking for just how much dark matter might have decayed since the creation of the Universe.

    The study’s lead author, Dmitry Gorbunov, also from the Institute for Nuclear Research, explains:

    “Let us imagine that dark matter consists of several components, as in ordinary matter (protons, electrons, neutrons, neutrinos, photons). And one component consists of unstable particles with a rather long lifespan.

    In the era of the formation of hydrogen, hundreds of thousands of years after the Big Bang, they are still in the Universe, but by now (billions of years later), they have disappeared, having decayed into neutrinos or hypothetical relativistic particles. In that case, the amount of dark matter in the era of hydrogen formation and today will be different.”

    To come up with a figure, the team analysed data taken from the Planck Telescope observations on the CMB, and compared it to different dark matter models like DDM.

    ESA/Planck
    ESA/Planck

    They found that the DDM model accurately depicts the observational data found in the modern Universe over other possible explanations for why our Universe looks so different today compared to straight after the Big Bang.

    The team was able to take the study a step further by comparing the CMB data to the modern observational studies of the Universe and error-correcting for various cosmological effects – such as gravitational lensing, which can amplify regions of space thanks to the way gravity can bend light.

    In the end, they suggest that the Universe has lost somewhere between 2 and 5 percent of its dark matter since the Big Bang, as a result of these hypothetical dark matter particles decaying over time.

    “This means that in today’s Universe, there is 5 percent less dark matter than in the recombination era,” Tkachev concludes.

    “We are not currently able to say how quickly this unstable part decayed; dark matter may still be disintegrating even now, although that would be a different and considerably more complex model.”

    These findings suggest that dark matter decays over time, making the Universe move in different ways than it had in the past, though the findings call for more outside research before anything is said for certain.

    Even so, this research is another step closer to potentially understanding the nature of dark matter, and solving one of science’s greatest mysteries – why the Universe looks the way it does, and how it will evolve in the future.

    The team’s work was published in Physical Review D.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:39 pm on August 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA/Planck,   

    From Astronomy: “When did the lights turn on in the universe?” 

    Astronomy magazine

    Astronomy.com

    August 08, 2016
    Nola Taylor Redd

    1
    A map showing the history of the universe, including the shift from neutral to ionized hydrogen resulting in the universe we see today.
    NAOJ

    The early universe hides behind the cloak of its Dark Ages, a period of time light can’t seem to pierce. Even the length of those unseen years remains uncertain. As part of its efforts to probe the secrets of those hidden years, the European Space Agency’s Planck Satellite recently announced the most precise constraints on the universe’s evasive era, for the first time revealing that the first stars and their galaxies are enough to light up the darkness.

    ESA/Planck
    ESA/Planck

    Trying to pierce the veil of darkness has been a decades-long struggle to look back in time nearly 14 billion years. After the Big Bang, the hot universe quickly cooled down, and the simplest atomic particles formed. The protons and electrons of the early universe constantly collided, creating a hot soup that kept light from passing. The Dark Ages had begun.

    As the gas cooled down, and the expanding galaxy stretched space-time, the particles recombined to form neutral hydrogen. Like the rising dawn, the universe grew gradually more transparent, its gradual glow imprinted on the radio noise scientists recognize as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The universe remained dark, however, because nothing produced visible light.

    Cosmic Microwave Background per ESA/Planck
    Cosmic Microwave Background per ESA/Planck

    Gravity worked hard to change that. It didn’t take long for the force to begin pulling material together, forming the first stars and galaxies. Bright galaxies know as quasars, whose central supermassive black holes produce powerful jets of light and matter, also populated the early universe. Heat from the young objects broke the neutral hydrogen apart over time in the process known as reionization, with slow-sweeping bubbles of light spreading outward from the bright objects. As the bubbles grew and overlapped, the universe once again became visible, and the Dark Age ended. (The change of state in hydrogen that allowed a visible universe is called the Epoch of Reionization.)

    Perhaps one of the most challenging attributes of the Dark Age is the difficulty inherent in nailing down just when it ended and how long it lasted. Because light didn’t shine from the start of the Dark Age, scientists must rely on the glow from the CMB to provide them with clues to when recombination brought particles together to make the universe gradually more transparent. Observations of early galaxies and quasars, the brightest objects in the universe, help narrow down how long the lights were off.

    Planck’s most recent results suggest that the time of reionization, when light from the first objects began to break apart molecules once again, occurred about 55 million years later than previous studies placed it.

    “It is certainly clear that we are now measuring a later onset of reionization,” says Planck Project Scientist Jan Tauber said by email.

    Planck Scientist Graca Rocha, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, stresses that Planck’s measurements have become more precise over time. Rocha, who presented a portion of the research at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego, California in June, pointed to the error bar in the calculations, a number that has grown smaller over time. The most recent results have an error of less than nine-thousandanths.

    “We are narrowing the range of reionization, when the first stars start to form,” Rocha told Astronomy. “People are thrilled about the shift down.”

    Strange objects begone

    The first early estimates suggested that reionization wrapped up extremely fast, requiring unusual astronomical bodies to clear the darkness. Tension mounted as the scientists sought to reconcile multiple forms of observation. Planck’s new numbers helped to relieve some of the pressure as the more precise calculations suggested that novel things were unnecessary after all.

    “Those early measurements required ‘strange objects’ to reionize the universe, but those concerns have now been dissipated by Planck,” Tauber says.

    “We now know that the first galaxies that we can already observe are enough to reionize the universe at the time shown by the [Cosmic Microwave Background].”

    Since its launch in 2009, Planck has probed the early universe, seeking to learn more about when the Dark Ages started and ended. Over three quarters of a decade, the spacecraft has helped to improve the understanding of the unseen era by penetrating the veil of darkness around it.

    The more sophisticated analysis reveals that the first objects didn’t begin to separate the fog of particles until “quite late,” Tauber says. Planck reveals that the universe was no more than 10 percent ionized by the time the universe was 475 million years old. It also demonstrated that the process wrapped up quickly, within about 250 million years.

    “This model is very consistent with observations of the earliest galaxies,” Tauber says.

    These galaxies allow scientists to estimate the total amount of light available to the early universe to split the particles once again.

    “So the Planck- and CMB-based estimates are now in full agreement with direct observations.”

    See the full article here .

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