Breakthrough in measuring universe's rate of expansion could help explain dark energy
Researchers have found a new way of using quasars to track the expanding universe, which the claim is the most precise measurement yet.
The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), the largest component of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), pioneered the use of quasars to map density variations in intergalactic gas at high redshifts, tracing the structure of the young universe.
BOSS charts the history of the universe's expansion in order to illuminate the nature of dark energy, and new measures of large-scale structure have yielded the most precise measurement of expansion since galaxies first formed.
The latest quasar results combine two separate analytical techniques. A new kind of analysis, led by physicist Andreu Font-Ribera of the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and his team, was published late last year. Analysis using a tested approach, but with far more data than before, has just been published by Timothee Delubac, of EPFL Switzerland and France's Centre de Saclay, and his team.
The two analyses together establish the expansion rate at 68 kilometers per second per million light years at redshift 2.34, with an unprecedented accuracy of 2.2 percent.
BOSS employs both galaxies and distant quasars to measure baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO), a signature imprint in the way matter is distributed, resulting from conditions in the early universe. While also present in the distribution of invisible dark matter, the imprint is evident in the distribution of ordinary matter, including galaxies, quasars, and intergalactic hydrogen.
The BAO imprint corresponds to an excess of about five percent in the clustering of matter at a separation known as the BAO scale.
BAO directly descends from pressure waves (sound waves) moving through the early universe, when particles of light and matter were inextricably entangled; 380,000 years after the big bang, the universe had cooled enough for light to go free. The cosmic microwave background radiation preserves a record of the early acoustic density peaks; these were the seeds of the subsequent BAO imprint on the distribution of matter.
(Posted on 08-04-2014)