Scientists get closer to understanding the fundamental constituents of the universe

December 7th, 2007 - 4:07 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 7 (ANI): After decades of intense research, scientists have come up with a complex computer code that could bring us a significant step closer to understanding the fundamental constituents of the universe.

The study was done using the help of a supercomputer, that crammed 2.5 percent of the visible universe insideit to model a region more than 1.5 billion light-yearsacross.

Among its many hypothesis, it suggests that much of the gaseous mass of the universe is bound up in a tangled webof cosmic filaments that stretch for hundreds of millions of light-years.

The study indicated a significant portion of the gas is in thefilaments, which connect galaxy clusters (hidden from directobservation) in enormous gas clouds in intergalactic space known asthe Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium, or WHIM, said Jack Burns, Professor from CU (University of Colorado), Boulder.

It took the researchers nearly a decade to produce theextraordinarily complex computer code that drove the simulation,which incorporated virtually all of the known physical conditions ofthe universe reaching back in time almost to the Big Bang, saidBurns.

The simulation, which uses advanced numerical techniques tozoom-in on interesting structures in the universe, modeled themotion of matter as it collapsed due to gravity and became denseenough to form cosmic filaments and galaxy structures.

“We see this as a real breakthrough in terms of technology and inscientific advancement,” said Burns.

According to the standard cosmological model, the universe consistsof about 25 percent dark matter and 70 percent dark energy around 5percent normal matter, said Burns.

Normal matter consists primarilyof baryons - hydrogen, helium and heavier elements. Observations show that about 40 percent of the baryons are currentlyunaccounted for.

Many astrophysicists believe the missing baryonsare in the WHIM, said Burns.

“In the coming years, I believe these filaments may be detectable inthe WHIM using new state-of-the-art telescopes,” said Burns. “We think that as we begin to see these filaments and understand their nature, we will learn more aboutthe missing baryons in the universe,” he added.

Two of the key telescopes that astrophysicists will use in their search for the WHIM are the 10-meter South Pole Telescope in Antarctica and the 25-meter Cornell-Caltech Atacama Telescope(CCAT), being built in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

The CCAT telescope will gather radiation from sub-millimeterwavelengths, which are longer than infrared waves but shorter thanradio waves. It will enable astronomers to peer back in time to whengalaxies first appeared (just a billion years or so after the BigBang),allowing them to probe the infancy of the objects and theprocess by which they formed, said Burns.

The South Pole Telescope looks at millimeter, sub-millimeter andmicrowave wavelengths of the spectrum and is used to search for,among other things, cosmic microwave background radiation, that are thecooled remnants of the Big Bang, said Burns.

Researchers hope to usethe telescopes to estimate heating of the cosmic background radiationas it travels through the WHIM, using the radiation temperaturechanges as a tracer of sorts for the massive filaments. (ANI)

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