The Blind Side of the Universe

26 Jan

GalaxyMankind has managed to look into the farthest corners of the universe. But until we know only a small part of it, and to reveal the other side of the universe, scientists first need to find a way to see her.

At the dawn of cosmology – the science that studies the universe – it was assumed that scientists are often wrong in the details, but never in doubt globally. In our time calculation errors could be reduced to a minimum, but doubts have grown to the size of the object being studied.

For decades, cosmologists have built new telescopes come up with ingenious detectors involved supercomputers and as a result can confidently assert that the universe originated 13.82 billion years ago from a tiny bubble in space, comparable in size with the atom. For the first time scientists to the nearest tenth of a percent created a map of the cosmic microwave background – the microwave background radiation that came through 380,000 years after the Big Bang.

Dark matter – not just mask the ordinary baryonic (consisting of protons and neutrons) matter: in outer space, it is simply too small. Of course, there are plenty of heavenly bodies, do not emit: black holes, dim dwarf stars, cold gas accumulation and Rogue planet, for some reason pushed out beyond the family of stellar systems. However, their total weight cannot exceed more than five times the mass of ordinary visible matter. This gives scientists reason to believe that the dark matter consists of some more exotic particles are not observed in experiments. Scientists involved in the construction of super symmetric quantum theory, suggested the existence of different particles, which may well be suitable for the role of dark matter cherished.

Evidence of how little dark matter interacts not only with the baryon, but also with itself, cosmologists have discovered three billion light-years from Earth in the cluster bullet are actually two colliding with each other galaxy clusters. Astronomers have found massive clouds of hot gas in the center of the cluster, which are usually formed in the collision of clouds of baryonic matter. For further study, researchers created a map of the gravitational field of the cluster bullet and identified two areas with a high concentration of mass at a distance from the collision zone – one in each of the colliding galaxy clusters. Observations showed that in contrast to the baryonic matter, reacts violently when in direct contact, their heavier loads of dark matter calmly pass by the crash intact, does not interact with the reigning chaos in the county.

Engineered by scientists detectors to search for dark matter is incredibly elegant from an engineering point of view – here they are somewhat similar to Faberge eggs from one look at that even jewelers breathtaking. One of these detectors – Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer worth two billion dollars, mounted on the International Space Station, is collecting data on possible collisions of dark matter particles with each other. Most detectors are aimed at finding traces of the interaction between the particles of dark and baryonic matter, and attempts to fix them taken already on the ground, or rather, under the earth: to minimize the noise introduced arrives from outer space high-energy cosmic-ray particles, research facilities have to be placed deep under the earth’s surface. Detectors are arrays of crystals cooled to very low temperatures, the other looks like a huge container filled with liquid xenon or argon, surrounded by sensors and packed into a sandwich onion – the wrapper from a wide range (from polyethylene to lead and copper) shielding materials. Interesting fact: newly smelted lead has little radioactivity, which is unacceptable in the construction of highly sensitive detectors. In experiments using remelted lead ballast, which was raised from the sunken ships of the Roman Empire. For two millennia, that metal lay on the seabed, its radioactivity is significantly decreased.

You think about the dark matter is full of questions? A trifle compared with our ideas about the mysterious dark energy! Nobel Prize in Physics 1979 Steven Weinberg believes its central problem of modern physics. Astrophysicist Michael Turner coined the term dark energy, after two groups of astronomers in 1998 announced the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe. They came to this conclusion in the study of supernovae of type Ia, having the same maximum luminosity, so that they can be used to measure the distances to distant galaxies. The gravitational interaction between the galaxies in the clusters they should limit expansion of the universe, and astronomers expect to see a slowdown in the rate of change of distances between star clusters. Imagine their surprise when they found out that just the opposite: the universe is expanding, and the rate of expansion increases with time. And the beginning of this process, as scientists assume, five to six billion years ago.

In recent years, astronomers are busy thorough mapping of the universe with unprecedented precision. This will help to get more information about the precise moment of occurrence of dark energy and determine whether it remains constant or varies with time. But the possibility of telescopes and digital detectors are not infinite, and thus to bring more accurate cosmological theory, it is necessary to design and build new tools – the principle remains unchanged since the dawn of astronomy.

To construct such a map is running several projects such as spectroscopic survey of baryonic oscillations (BOSS, Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey), in which using the 2.5-meter telescope in the American Apache Point Observatory conducted measure distances in space with ultra-high (up to percent ) accuracy. Project Overview of dark energy┬╗ (DES, Dark Energy Survey) has been collecting and studying information about 300 million (!) Of galaxies, observations are made on a 4-meter telescope at the Victor Blanco, located in the Chilean Andes. The European Space Agency ESA in 2020 plans to launch a space telescope Euclid, which will look into the past and understand how to change the dynamics of the expansion of the universe over billions of years. And with the launch of the Big Survey Telescope (LSST, Large Synoptic Survey Telescope), is being built a few kilometers away from the telescope Blanco, cosmologists will massive amounts of unique data. Relatively small (diameter mirror – 8.4 meters), but fast enough for shooting, LSST will be equipped with ultra-modern digital camera 3.2 gigapixel, allowing time to reach a fair portion of the sky.

With this arsenal of technically sophisticated tools, scientists hope to measure the rate of expansion of the universe, to find out whether it has changed since the emergence of dark energy, and understand what the last place in the structure of the universe.

This will make the findings neither more nor less than that the universe is waiting in the future and how we can continue to study it. If it will expand at an ever increasing speed, completely being dominated by dark energy, most of the galaxy would be thrown out of sight of each other, leaving astronomers of the future is no object of observation, except for the nearest neighbors and the yawning abyss of space.

In order to understand the nature of dark energy, we have to rethink the fundamental concepts of the space. For a long time the cosmic expanses between stars and planets were considered absolutely empty, even though Isaac Newton said that it is extremely difficult to imagine how gravity can hold the Earth orbits around the Sun, if among them there is nothing but a vacuum. In the XX century, quantum field theory shows that in fact the space is not empty, but on the contrary, everywhere permeated quantum fields. Basic building blocks that make up matter – protons, electrons and other particles – in fact, are only perturbations of quantum fields. When the energy of the field is at a minimum, the space looks empty. But if the field is perturbed, everything comes to life, filling the visible matter and energy. Mathematician Luciano Boi space compares with the surface of the water in the pond Alpine she becomes noticeable when swoops breeze, covering trembling pond ripples. The empty space is not really empty, – said the American physicist John Archibald Wheeler – it hides the real physics, full of surprises.

Dark energy may well confirm the profound prophetic power of words Wheeler. In an effort to understand the mechanisms responsible for the continued inflation of the universe – which, as it turned out, also continues to accelerate – scientists rely on Einstein’s general theory of relativity, there were hundreds of years ago. It works great on large-scale facilities, but stumbles on the micro level, where the ball is ruled by quantum theory, and where the solution lies constantly accelerating expansion of space. To explain dark energy may need something new – something like a quantum theory of gravity and space.

Modern science is struggling with the seemingly simple task: how much energy – dark or any other – is contained in a given bounded region of space? If the calculations rely on quantum theory, it turns incredibly important. And if you bring the problem to the astronomers, their assessment, based on observations of dark energy would be immeasurably small. The difference between the two numbers is staggering: 10 in the 121-degree! A unit with 121 zero – more than the number of stars in the observable universe and all the grains of sand on the planet.

This is the most significant bias in the history of science, caused by the inconsistency of the theory and actual observations. Obviously, we are missing some important fundamental property of space and, therefore, and all that surrounds us and is part of it – galaxies, stars, planets and ourselves. Scientists just have to figure out how big the gap in our knowledge.

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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Galaxy


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