Since it was first theorized in the 1970s, astrophysicists and cosmologists have done their best to resolve the mystery that is Dark Matter. This invisible mass is believed to make up 85% of the matter in the Universe and accounts for 27% of its mass-energy density. But more than that, it also provides the large-scale skeletal structure of the Universe (the cosmic web), which dictates the motions of galaxies and material because of its gravitational influence.
Unfortunately, the mysterious nature of Dark Matter means that astronomers cannot study it directly, thus prevented them from measuring its distribution. However, it is possible to infer its distribution based on the observable influence its gravity has on local galaxies and other celestial objects. Using cutting-edge machine-learning techniques, a team of Korean-American astrophysicists was able to produce the most detailed map yet of the local Universe that shows what the “cosmic web” looks like.
Continue reading “A Dark Matter map of our Local Cosmic Neighborhood”
It’s often said that in its earliest moments the universe was in a hot, dense state. While that’s a reasonably accurate description, it’s also quite vague. What exactly was it that was hot and dense, and what state was it in? Answering that question takes both complex theoretical modeling and high-energy experiments in particle physics. But as a recent study shows, we are learning quite a bit.
Continue reading “What Happened Moments After the Big Bang?”
Cosmologists love universe simulations. Even models covering hundreds of millions of light years can be useful for understanding fundamental aspects of cosmology and the early universe. There’s just one problem – they’re extremely computationally intensive. A 500 million light year swath of the universe could take more than 3 weeks to simulate.. Now, scientists led by Yin Li at the Flatiron Institute have developed a way to run these cosmically huge models 1000 times faster. That 500 million year light year swath could then be simulated in 36 minutes.
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After galaxies began to form in the early universe, the universe continued to expand. The gravitational attraction between galaxies worked to pull galaxies together into superclusters, while dark energy and its resulting cosmic expansion worked to drive these clusters apart. As a result, the universe is filled with tight clusters of galaxies separated by vast voids of mostly empty space.
Continue reading “11-Sigma Detection of Dark Energy Comes From Measuring Over a Million Extremely Distant Galaxies”
One of the biggest challenges to measuring the expansion of the universe is the fact that many of the methods we use are model-dependent. The most famous example is the use of distant supernovae, where we compare the standard brightness of a Type Ia supernova with their apparent brightness to find their distance. But knowing the standard brightness depends upon comparing them to the brightness of Cepheid variables which is in turn determined by measuring the distances of nearby stars via parallax. Every step of this cosmic distance ladder depends upon the step before it.
Continue reading “A new Technique Could use Quasars to Directly Measure the Expansion Rate of the Universe”
Astronomers are struggling to understand the discrepancies when measuring the expansion rate of the universe with different methods, and are desperate for any creative idea to break the tension. A new method involving some of the oldest stars in the universe could just do the trick.
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In the very earliest moments of the big bang, the universe experienced a period of rapid expansion known as inflation. That event planted the seeds that would eventually become galaxies and clusters. And now, a recent set of simulations is able to show us how that connection worked.
Continue reading “New Supercomputer Simulations Will Help pin Down Inflation”
How can you possibly use simulations to reconstruct the history of the entire universe using only a small sample of galaxy observations? Through big data, that’s how.
Continue reading “Simulations of the Universe are Getting Better and Better at Matching Reality”
Since time immemorial, philosophers and scholars have contemplated the beginning of time and even tried to determine when all things began. It’s only been in the age of modern astronomy that we’ve come close to answering that question with a fair degree of certainty. According to the most widely-accepted cosmological models, the Universe began with the Bang Bang roughly 13.8 billion years ago.
Even so, astronomers are still uncertain about what the early Universe looked like since this period coincided with the cosmic “Dark Ages.” Therefore, astronomers keep pushing the limits of their instruments to see when the earliest galaxies formed. Thanks to new research by an international team of astronomers, the oldest and most distant galaxy observed in our Universe to date (GN-z11) has been identified!
Continue reading “Astronomers set a new Record and Find the Farthest Galaxy. Its Light Took 13.4 Billion Years to Reach us”
Measuring the expansion of the universe is hard. For one thing, because the universe is expanding, the scale of your distance measurements affects the scale of the expansion. And since light from distant galaxies takes time to reach us, you can’t measure what the universe is, but rather what it was. Then there is the challenge of the cosmic distance ladder.
Continue reading “Astronomers Improve Their Distance Scale for the Universe. Unfortunately, it Doesn't Resolve the Crisis in Cosmology”