Sloan survey unveils secrets of the universe
Washington, Jan 12 (ANI): Scientists have used galactic brightness to build a precision model of the cosmos and calculate what's in the Universe.
Berkeley Lab scientists and their Sloan Digital Sky Survey III colleagues surveyed 14,000 square degrees of the sky, more than a third of its total area, and delivered over a trillion pixels of imaging data.
Their image shows over a million luminous galaxies at redshifts indicating times when the universe was between seven and eleven billion years old, from which the sample in the current studies was selected.
Since 2000, the three Sloan Digital Sky Surveys (SDSS I, II, III) have surveyed well over a quarter of the night sky and produced the biggest colour map of the universe in three dimensions ever.
Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and their SDSS colleagues, working with DOE's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) based at Berkeley Lab, have used this visual information for the most accurate calculation yet of how matter clumps together - from a time when the universe was only half its present age until now.
"The way galaxies cluster together over vast expanses of the sky tells us how both ordinary visible matter and underlying invisible dark matter are distributed, across space and back in time," Shirley Ho, the study leader, said.
"The distribution gives us cosmic rulers to measure how the universe has expanded, and a basis for calculating what's in it: how much dark matter, how much dark energy, even the mass of the hard-to-see neutrinos it contains. What's left over is the ordinary matter and energy we're familiar with," she said.
For the present study Ho and her colleagues first selected 900,000 luminous galaxies from among over 1.5 million such galaxies gathered by the Baryon Oscillation Spectrographic Survey, or BOSS, the largest component of the still-ongoing SDSS III.
Most of these are ancient red galaxies, which contain only red stars because all their faster-burning stars are long gone, and which are exceptionally bright and visible at great distances.
The galaxies chosen for this study populate the largest volume of space ever used for galaxy clustering measurements. Their brightness was measured in five different colours, allowing the redshift of each to be estimated.
"By covering such a large area of sky and working at such large distances, these measurements are able to probe the clustering of galaxies on incredibly vast scales, giving us unprecedented constraints on the expansion history, contents, and evolution of the universe," Martin White from Berkeley Lab's Physics Division, said.
"The clustering we're now measuring on the largest scales also contains vital information about the origin of the structure we see in our maps, all the way back to the epoch of inflation, and it helps us to constrain - or rule out - models of the very early universe," he said.
After augmenting their study with information from other data sets, the team derived a number of such cosmological constraints, measurements of the universe's contents based on different cosmological models.
Among the results, in the most widely accepted model, the researchers found - to less than two percent uncertainty - that dark energy accounts for 73 percent of the density of the universe.
"The way mass clusters on the largest scales is graphed in an angular power spectrum, which shows how matter statistically varies in density across the sky," Ho said.
"The power spectrum gives a wealth of information, much of which is yet to be exploited," she said.
Closely related to the power spectrum are two "standard rulers," which can be used to measure the history of the expansion of the universe. One ruler has only a single mark - the time when matter and radiation were exactly equal in density.
"In the very early universe, shortly after the big bang, the universe was hot and dominated by photons, the fundamental particles of radiation," Ho said.
"But as it expanded, it began the transition to a universe dominated by matter. By about 50,000 years after the big bang, the density of matter and radiation were equal. Only when matter dominated could structure form," she added.
The study will be published in the Astrophysical Journal. (ANI)
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