Using these supernovae they have traced the expansion history of the universe with unprecedented accuracy and sharpened our knowledge of what it might be that is causing the mysterious acceleration of the expansion of the universe.
Background and outline
At the end of last century astronomers discovered the startling fact that the expansion of our universe is not slowing down, as all our previous understanding of gravity had predicted. Rather the expansion is speeding up. Nothing in conventional physics can explain such a result. It means that either the universe is made up of around 70% 'dark energy' (something that has a sort of anti-gravity) or our theory of gravity is flawed.
Now, as part of the international collaboration "ESSENCE", researchers at the Danish Dark Cosmology Centre have added a new piece to the puzzle. In two papers recently released they detail observations of supernovae (exploding stars) that allow them to trace the expansion history of the universe in unprecedented detail. ESSENCE is an extension of the original team that discovered the acceleration of the universe and these results push the limits of technology and knowledge, observing light from dying stars that was emitted almost half the age of the universe ago.
In a third paper, led by the Danish team and released this week, the many new theories that have been proposed to explain the acceleration of the universe are critically assessed in the face of this new data. Dr. Jesper Sollerman and Dr. Tamara Davis lead the team who show that despite the increased sophistication in cosmological models over the last century the best model to explain the acceleration remains one that was proposed by Einstein back in 1917. Although Einstein's reasoning at the time was flawed (he proposed the modification to his theory so it could support a static universe, because in those days everyone 'knew' the universe was not expanding, it may be that he was right all along.
The results include 60 new type Ia supernovae discovered on the Cerro-Tololo Interamerican Observatory 4m telescope in an ongoing survey that so far has lasted four years. In order to follow up these discoveries the team uses some of the biggest telescopes in the world: the 8.2m VLT (Very Large Telescope) run by the European Southern Observatory and the 6m Magellan telescope (both in Chile), the 8m Keck telescope and the 10m Gemini telescope (both in Hawaii). The ESSENCE team includes 38 top researchers from many different countries on four continents.
The primary aim of the experiment is to measure the 'dark energy' - the thing that is causing the acceleration of the universe - to better than 10%. The feature of this dark energy that we measure is its 'equation of state'. This also allows us to check whether our theory of gravity needs modification. So far it looks like our theory is correct and that the strange acceleration of the expansion of the universe can be explained by Einstein's 'cosmological constant'.
In modern terms the cosmological constant is viewed as a quantum mechanical phenomenon called the 'energy of the vacuum'. In other words, the energy of empty space. It is this energy that is causing the universe to accelerate. The new data shows that none of the fancy new theories that have been proposed in the last decade are necessary to explain the acceleration. Rather, vacuum energy is the most likely cause and the expansion history of the universe can be explained by simply adding this constant background of acceleration into the normal theory of gravity.
Gertie Skaarup | EurekAlert!
Midwife and signpost for photons
11.12.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
New research identifies how 3-D printed metals can be both strong and ductile
11.12.2017 | University of Birmingham
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
11.12.2017 | Information Technology