Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity

15.08.2018

Team led by UC Riverside astronomer George Becker used the Subaru telescope to make the discovery

A team of astronomers led by George Becker at the University of California, Riverside, has made a surprising discovery: 12.5 billion years ago, the most opaque place in the universe contained relatively little matter.


Computer simulation of a region of the universe wherein a low-density "void" (dark blue region at top center) is surrounded by denser structures containing numerous galaxies (orange/white). The research done by Becker and his team suggests that early in cosmic history, these void regions would have been the murkiest places in the universe even though they contained the least amount of dark matter and gas.

Credit: TNG Collaboration

It has long been known that the universe is filled with a web-like network of dark matter and gas. This "cosmic web" accounts for most of the matter in the universe, whereas galaxies like our own Milky Way make up only a small fraction. Today, the gas between galaxies is almost totally transparent because it is kept ionized-- electrons detached from their atoms--by an energetic bath of ultraviolet radiation.

Over a decade ago, astronomers noticed that in the very distant past -- roughly 12.5 billion years ago, or about 1 billion years after the Big Bang -- the gas in deep space was not only highly opaque to ultraviolet light, but its transparency varied widely from place to place, obscuring much of the light emitted by distant galaxies.

Then a few years ago, a team led by Becker, then at the University of Cambridge, found that these differences in opacity were so large that either the amount of gas itself, or more likely the radiation in which it is immersed, must vary substantially from place to place.

"Today, we live in a fairly homogeneous universe," said Becker, an expert on the intergalactic medium, which includes dark matter and the gas that permeates the space between galaxies. "If you look in any direction you find, on average, roughly the same number of galaxies and similar properties for the gas between galaxies, the so-called intergalactic gas. At that early time, however, the gas in deep space looked very different from one region of the universe to another."

To find out what created these differences, the team of University of California astronomers from the Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles campuses turned to one of the largest telescopes in the world: the Subaru telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Using its powerful camera, the team looked for galaxies in a vast region, roughly 300 million light years in size, where they knew the intergalactic gas was extremely opaque.

For the cosmic web more opacity normally means more gas, and hence more galaxies. But the team found the opposite: this region contained far fewer galaxies than average. Because the gas in deep space is kept transparent by the ultraviolet light from galaxies, fewer galaxies nearby might make it murkier.

"Normally it doesn't matter how many galaxies are nearby; the ultraviolet light that keeps the gas in deep space transparent often comes from galaxies that are extremely far away. That's true for most of cosmic history, anyway," said Becker, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. "At this very early time, it looks like the UV light can't travel very far, and so a patch of the universe with few galaxies in it will look much darker than one with plenty of galaxies around."

This discovery, reported in the August 2018 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, may eventually shed light on another phase in cosmic history. In the first billion years after the Big Bang, ultraviolet light from the first galaxies filled the universe and permanently transformed the gas in deep space.

Astronomers believe that this occurred earlier in regions with more galaxies, meaning the large fluctuations in intergalactic radiation inferred by Becker and his team may be a relic of this patchy process, and could offer clues to how and when it occurred.

"There is still a lot we don't know about when the first galaxies formed and how they altered their surroundings," Becker said.

By studying both galaxies and the gas in deep space, astronomers hope to get closer to understanding how this intergalactic ecosystem took shape in the early universe.

###

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Becker was joined in the research by Frederick B. Davies of UC Santa Barbara; Steven R. Furlanetto and Matthew A. Malkan of UCLA; and Elisa Boera and Craig Douglass of UCR.

The University of California, Riverside is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment is now nearly 23,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

Media Contact

Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050

 @UCRiverside

http://www.ucr.edu 

Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://dx.doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/aacc73

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Broadband achromatic metalens focuses light regardless of polarization
21.01.2019 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

nachricht Lifting the veil on the black hole at the heart of our Galaxy
21.01.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Energizing the immune system to eat cancer

Abramson Cancer Center study identifies method of priming macrophages to boost anti-tumor response

Immune cells called macrophages are supposed to serve and protect, but cancer has found ways to put them to sleep. Now researchers at the Abramson Cancer...

Im Focus: Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III

The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research

Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI

The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...

Im Focus: Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech

World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles

The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Mechanical engineers develop process to 3D print piezoelectric materials

22.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

Energizing the immune system to eat cancer

22.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

Early Prediction of Alzheimer’s Progression in Blood

22.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>