About 370,000 years after the Big Bang, the Universe experienced a period that cosmologists refer to as the “Cosmic Dark Ages.” During this period, the Universe was obscured by pervasive neutral gas that obscured all visible light, making it invisible to astronomers. As the first stars and galaxies formed over the next few hundred millions of years, the radiation they emitted ionized this plasma, making the Universe transparent.
One of the biggest cosmological mysteries right now is when “cosmic reionization” began. To find out, astronomers have been looking deeper into the cosmos (and farther back in time) to spot the first visible galaxies. Thanks to new research by a team of astronomers from University College London (UCL), a luminous galaxy has been observed that was reionizing the intergalactic medium 13 billion years ago.
Continue reading “A Giant Galaxy Seen Lighting Up the Universe Shortly After the Big Bang”
According to the most widely accepted cosmological theories, the first stars in the Universe formed a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. Unfortunately, astronomers have been unable to “see” them since their emergence coincided during the cosmological period known as the “Dark Ages.” During this period, which ended about 13 billion years ago, clouds of gas filled the Universe that obscured visible and infrared light.
However, astronomers have learned that light from this era can be detected as faint radio signals. It’s for this reason that radio telescopes like the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) were built. Using data obtained by this array last year, an international team of researchers is scouring the most precise radio data to date from the early Universe in an attempt to see exactly when the cosmic “Dark Ages” ended.
Continue reading “Searching for the End of the Universe’s “Dark Age””
Once again a new measurement of cosmic expansion is encouraging astronomers to reconsider the standard cosmological model. The problem is the Hubble constant and dark energy. While we have a broad understanding of dark energy, pinning down the value of the Hubble constant has been a problem, since different measurements keep getting different results. Now a new study has been published which further complicates things.
Continue reading “Evidence is Building that the Standard Model of the Expansion of the Universe Needs some new Ideas”
Back in 2015, construction began on a new telescope called the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI). Later this year, it will begin its five-year mission. Its goal? To create a 3D map of the Universe with unprecedented detail, showing the distribution of matter.
That detailed map will allow astronomers to investigate important aspects of cosmology, including dark energy and its role in the expansion of the Universe.
Continue reading “A New Telescope is Ready to Start Searching for Answers to Explain Dark Energy”
In the standard model of cosmology, dark energy fills the universe. It causes the universe to expand at an ever-increasing rate, and it makes up more than 70% of the cosmos. But there’s a problem. When we measure the rate of cosmic expansion in different ways, we get results that disagree with each other.
Continue reading “A New Test Confirms Dark Energy and the Expansion of the Universe”
Almost everything in the universe spins. Planets rotate on their axis, stars spin around black holes, and galaxies spin in great spiral structures. But what about the universe as a whole?
Continue reading “Study of 200,000 Galaxies Reveals the Entire Universe Might Have Been Spinning in One Direction Early On”
If you look out on the sky on a nice clear dark night, you’ll see thousands of intense points of light. Those stars are incredibly far away, but bright enough to be seen with the naked eye from that great distance – a considerable feat. But what you don’t see are all the small stars, the red dwarfs, too small and dim to be seen at those same distances.
Continue reading “In the far future, the universe will be mostly invisible”
The world we see around us seems to be rooted in scientific laws. Theories and equations that are absolute and universal. Central to these are fundamental physical constants. The speed of light, the mass of a proton, the constant of gravitational attraction. But are these constants really constant? What would happen to our theories if they changed?
Continue reading “Could The Physical Constants Change? Possibly, But Probably Not”
The weight of the universe (technically the mass of the universe) is a difficult thing to measure. To do it you need to count not just stars and galaxies, but dark matter, diffuse clouds of dust and even wisps of neutral hydrogen in intergalactic space. Astronomers have tried to weigh the universe for more than a century, and they are still finding ways to be more accurate.
Continue reading “How Do You Weigh The Universe?”
The universe is filled with matter, and we don’t know why. We know how matter was created, and can even create matter in the lab, but there’s a catch. Every time we create matter in particle accelerators, we get an equal amount of antimatter. This is perfectly fine for the lab, but if the big bang created equal amounts of matter and antimatter, the two would have destroyed each other early on, leaving a cosmic sea of photons and no matter. If you are reading this, that clearly didn’t happen.
Continue reading “Why was there more matter than antimatter in the Universe? Neutrinos might give us the answer”