April 3, 2012
New Data Supports Einstein’s Explanation For Dark Matter
New information obtained by scientists using a 10-meter telescope located in Antarctica has strengthened the most widely accepted explanation for the mysterious force that is behind the increasingly rapid expansion of the universe, according to a pair of press releases published this week.
According to a statement from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the most recent South Pole Telescope (SPT) data "strongly" supports Albert Einstein's cosmological constant, said to be the leading model to explain dark energy.
Furthermore, even though experts have only been able to analyze a "fraction" of the total data collected by the telescope, they also report that they are closer to being able to determine the microscopic mass of the neutrino, which is the most abundant type of particle in the universe and once believed to be massless.
"With the full SPT data set we will be able to place extremely tight constraints on dark energy and possibly determine the mass of the neutrinos," Bradford Benson, a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Chicago's Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, said in a statement
According to the university, the findings are based on a new method which combines measurements taken from both the SPT and from X-ray satellites, then extends those figures to greater distances by using galaxy clusters. Scientists strongly believe that dark energy results in "a pervasive force" that acts at all times and in all places throughout the universe, and they believe that said force could be "the manifestation of Einstein's cosmological constant."
"Einstein introduced the cosmological constant into his theory of general relativity to accommodate a stationary universe, the dominant idea of his day. He later considered it to be his greatest blunder after the discovery of an expanding universe," they said. "In the late 1990s, astronomers discovered that the expansion of the universe appeared to be accelerating, according to cosmic distance measurements based on the brightness of exploding stars. Gravity should have been slowing the expansion, but instead it was speeding up."
"Einstein's cosmological constant is one explanation of the observed acceleration of the expanding universe, now supported by countless astronomical observations. Others hypothesize that gravity could operate differently on the largest scales of the universe. In either case, the astronomical measurements are pointing to new physics that have yet to be understood," the University added.
Benson presented the research during a meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) in Atlanta on Sunday, and multiple studies detailing his team's findings have been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal.
The SPT, which stands 75 feet tall and weighs approximately 280 tons, is said to be the largest astronomical telescope ever created in Antarctica. It is stationed at the NSF Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, resting at an elevation of over 9000 feet, and was built five years ago specifically in order to collect data related to dark energy, according to representatives from the NSF's Office of Polar Programs.
Vladimir Papitashvili, Antarctic Astrophysics and Geospace Sciences program director at that facility, said that the telescope "has proven to be a crown jewel of astrophysical research," resulting in nearly two-dozen papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals since February 2007. The SPT, which is managed by a group of international universities and organizations spearheaded by the University of Chicago, is able to conduct long-term observations because of its location at the planet's axis, the foundation added.
Image Caption: NSF-funded 10-meter South Pole Telescope in Antarctica provides new support for the most widely accepted explanation of dark energy, the source of the mysterious force that is responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe. Credit: Daniel Luong-Van, National Science Foundation