Skip to comments.Evidence for Universe Expansion Found
Posted on 03/16/2006 11:31:54 AM PST by The_Victor
Physicists announced Thursday that they now have the smoking gun that shows the universe went through extremely rapid expansion in the moments after the big bang, growing from the size of a marble to a volume larger than all of observable space in less than a trillion-trillionth of a second.
The discovery which involves an analysis of variations in the brightness of microwave radiation is the first direct evidence to support the two-decade-old theory that the universe went through what is called inflation.
It also helps explain how matter eventually clumped together into planets, stars and galaxies in a universe that began as a remarkably smooth, superhot soup.
"It's giving us our first clues about how inflation took place," said Michael Turner, assistant director for mathematics and physical sciences at theNational Science Foundation. "This is absolutely amazing."
Brian Greene, a Columbia University physicist, said: "The observations are spectacular and the conclusions are stunning."
Researchers found the evidence for inflation by looking at a faint glow that permeates the universe. That glow, known as the cosmic microwave background, was produced when the universe was about 300,000 years old long after inflation had done its work.
But just as a fossil tells a paleontologist about long-extinct life, the pattern of light in the cosmic microwave background offers clues about what came before it. Of specific interest to physicists are subtle brightness variations that give images of the microwave background a lumpy appearance.
Physicists presented new measurements of those variations during a news conference at Princeton University. The measurements were made by a spaceborne instrument called the Wilkinson Microwave Anistropy Probe, or WMAP, launched byNASA in 2001.
Earlier studies of WMAP data have determined that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, give or take a few hundred thousand years. WMAP also measured variations in the cosmic microwave background so huge that they stretch across the entire sky. Those earlier observations are strong indicators of inflation, but no smoking gun, said Turner, who was not involved in the research.
The new analysis looked at variations in the microwave background over smaller patches of sky only billions of light-years across, instead of hundreds of billions.
Without inflation, the brightness variations over small patches of the sky would be the same as those observed over larger areas of the heavens. But the researchers found considerable differences in the brightness variations.
"The data favors inflation," said Charles Bennett, a Johns Hopkins University physicist who announced the discovery. He was joined by two Princeton colleagues, Lyman Page and David Spergel, who also contributed to the research.
Bennett added: "It amazes me that we can say anything at all about what transpired in the first trillionth of a second of the universe."
The physicists said small lumps in the microwave background began during inflation. Those lumps eventually coalesced into stars, galaxies and planets.
The measurements are scheduled to be published in a future issue of the Astrophysical Journal.
That's one heck of an expansion rate.
It's all trying to get away from Chuck Norris.
What is it expanding into?..........
Well, that might even be faster than the speed of light. Is that possible?
"....growing from the size of a marble to a volume larger than all of observable space in less than a trillion-trillionth of a second."
Doesn't that break the "speed limit"?
I was hoping someone would post this article. WMAP is providing a great deal of info for cosmologists and now it seems to back a version of inflation. Interesting to think of our entire local galactic cluster as a former microscopic quantum fluctuation.
Chuck Norris ping
The speed of light is not involved in inflation.
The space itself has no mass, so it's not subject to the "limit."
Valid question. We seem to be in a universe with no center, or with infinite numbers of centers everywhere.
Chuck NOrris is expanding?
You sure that's a "valid" reason?
Photons don't have any mass, doo they? And they still obey the limit.
Plus - and admittedly I'm sketchy on this - when they talk about "space" expanding, it seems like what they really mean is "the extent of matter" expanding. Otherwise, like someone else here asked, "expanding into what?".
Why would imply some kind of decision. It was decided that the speed of light would be immaterial when space itself inflates. When space itself moves, deforms, contracts, expands, the physics of our day-to-day world does not apply because there is no reference, although relativity attempts to address some of the observations.
Good question. You just rediscovered the "redshift." Objects at a distance are moving away from us, and the further away they are the faster away they are moving, everything near us moves away slower. It's like blowing up a balloon. If you put dots with a marker on the surface and then blow it up, the distance between the dots increases, even though the dots don't move. And the further away the dots are to start with, the faster they move apart.
OK, what on Earth (excuse the pun) is that supposed to mean? Variations so huge that they what?