A new study shows a way to use quasars to gauge distance in the early Universe.
The simple question of ‘how far?’ gets at the heart of the history of modern astronomy. Looking out across our galactic backyard into the primordial Universe, different yardsticks—often referred to as ‘standard candles’ —are used to gauge various distances, from near to far.
Continue reading “Using Quasars as a New Standard Candle to Define Distance”
Thanks to the most advanced telescopes, astronomers today can see what objects looked like 13 billion years ago, roughly 800 million years after the Big Bang. Unfortunately, they are still unable to pierce the veil of the cosmic Dark Ages, a period that lasted from 370,000 to 1 billion years after the Big Bang, where the Universe was shrowded with light-obscuring neutral hydrogen. Because of this, our telescopes cannot see when the first stars and galaxies formed – ca., 100 to 500 million years after the Big Bang.
This period is known as the Cosmic Dawn and represents the “final frontier” of cosmological surveys to astronomers. This November, NASA’s next-generation James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will finally launch to space. Thanks to its sensitivity and advanced infrared optics, Webb will be the first observatory capable of witnessing the birth of galaxies. According to a new study from the Université de Genève, Switzerland, the ability to see the Cosmic Dawn will provide answers to today’s greatest cosmological mysteries.
Continue reading “Cosmic Dawn Holds the Answers to Many of Astronomy’s Greatest Questions”
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?”
The Big Bang remains the best way to explain what happened at the beginning of the Universe. However, the incredible energies flowing during the early part of the bang are almost incomprehensive to our everyday experience. Luckily, computers aren’t so attached to normal human ways of thinking and have long been used to model the early universe right after the Bang. Now, a team from the University of Göttingen have created the most comprehensive model of what exactly happened in that very early stage of the universe – one trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.
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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”
Gravitational-wave astronomy is still in its youth. Because of this, the gravitational waves we can observe come from powerful cataclysmic events. Black holes consuming each other in a violent chirp of spacetime, or neutron stars colliding in a tremendous explosion. Soon we might be able to observe the gravitational waves of supernovae, or supermassive black holes merging billions of light-years away. But underneath the cacophony is a very different gravitational wave. But if we can detect them, they will help us solve one of the deepest cosmological mysteries.
Continue reading “Next Generation Gravitational Wave Detectors Should be Able to see the Primordial Waves From the Big Bang”
In the past few decades, astronomers have been able to look farther into the Universe (and also back in time), almost to the very beginnings of the Universe. In so doing, they’ve learned a great deal about some of the earliest galaxies in the Universe and their subsequent evolution. However, there are still some things that are still off-limits, like when galaxies with supermassive black holes (SMBHs) and massive jets first appeared.
According to recent studies from the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) and a team of astronomers from Japan and Taiwan provide new insight on how supermassive black holes began forming just 800 million years after the Big Bang, and relativistic jets less than 2 billion years after. These results are part of a growing case that shows how massive objects in our Universe formed sooner than we thought.
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Since the 1950s, astronomers have known of galaxies that have particularly bright centers – aka. Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs) or quasars. This luminosity is the result of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at their centers consuming matter and releasing electromagnetic energy. Further studies revealed that there are some quasars that appear particularly bright because their relativistic jets are directed towards Earth.
In 1978, astronomer Edward Speigel coined the term “blazar” to describe this particular class of object. Using the telescopes at the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory (LBTO) in Arizona, a research team recently observed a blazar located 13 billion light-years from Earth. This object, designated PSO J030947.49+271757.31 (or PSO J0309+27), is the most distant blazar ever observed and foretells the existence of many more!
Continue reading “Blazar Found Blazing When the Universe was Only a Billion Years Old”
Since the 1960s, astronomers have theorized that all the visible matter in the Universe (aka. baryonic or “luminous matter) constitutes just a small fraction of what’s actually there. In order for the predominant and time-tested theory of gravity to work (as defined by General Relativity), scientists have had to postulate that roughly 85% of the mass in the Universe consists of “Dark Matter”.
Despite many decades of study, scientists have yet to find any direct evidence of Dark Matter and the constituent particle and its origins remain a mystery. However, a team of physicists from the University of York in the UK has proposed a new candidate particle that was just recently discovered. Known as the d-star hexaquark, this particle could have formed the “Dark Matter” in the Universe during the Big Bang.
Continue reading “Is the “D-star Hexaquark” the Dark Matter Particle?”