Scientists to uncover the mysteries of ‘Dark Energy’, and whether it even exists at all

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

The research could go one of two ways – both of which would fundamentally alter our understanding of the cosmos

This handout image of the giant, active galaxy NGC 1275, obtained August 21, 2008 was taken using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in July and August 2006 NASA/ESA via Getty Images

Scientists might be about to uncover one of the universe’s biggest mysteries.

A new experiment looks to use gravitational waves – tiny ripples in the fabric of spacetime – to unlock the truth of why the universe is expanding so quickly and so unexpectedly.

Astronomers discovered in the 90s that galaxies like our own Milky Way were flying apart super quickly. And they were even more shocked to find that they appeared to be accelerating, picking up speed as they were flung through the cosmos.

They theorised that an unknown and mysterious force, known as Dark Energy, was the cause of the strange behaviour.

Almost a century ago Albert Einstein conjured up a similar concept in his calculations – the Cosmological Constant – but then discarded it, believing he had made a mistake.

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View Sample Video – Cosmology – Universe – Dark Matter and Dark Energy

But there is another possibility – across intergalactic distances, gravity may not work the way it is supposed to.

Now scientists at the University of Edinburgh believe they have found how to resolve the puzzle by measuring the speed at which gravitational waves cross the universe.

If the space-time ripples are shown to propagate at the speed of light, it would rule out alternative gravity theories that exclude Dark Energy.

On the other hand, if their speed ever differs from that of light, the Dark Energy theory would have to be revised.

Such an experiment could be conducted at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (Ligo) in the US, whose twin detectors 2,000 miles apart confirmed the existence of gravitational waves for the first time two years ago.

Dr Lucas Lombriser, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Recent direct gravitational wave detection has opened up a new observational window to our universe.

“Our results give an impression of how this will guide us in solving one of the most fundamental problems in physics.”

The new research is published in the journal Physics Letters B.

Gravitational waves are generated by some of the most powerful events in the universe, such as colliding black holes or super-massive neutron stars.

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/dark-energy-gravitational-waves-albert-einstein-university-of-edinburgh-milky-way-a7574056.html

Light spotted in space might have spilled through from another universe, scientists say

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

Artist’s conception of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Planck observatory cruising to its orbit ESA/D. Ducros

Scientists might have spotted another universe, just next to ours.

Scientists have spotted a glow in space that might have come from another universe, outside of ours, that we were alongside when the matter that surrounds us first came into existence.

It has long been thought that our universe probably isn’t the only one that emerged from the Big Bang: our universe might just be one bit of an eternally inflating larger thing. Instead, it’s likely that a number of bubbles of different universes emerged — but we’re unlikely ever to be able to get to or know anything about them.

We might be able to get a peek at one if it had started out close enough that they were touching, with those collisions leaving “signatures” in our universe.

To find the traces, scientists compared a map of the cosmic microwave background of the universe — which is made up of light left over from the early universe — with a picture of the entire sky taken by the European Space Agency’s Planck telescope. When they subtracted one from the other, there was an eerie patch of light left in the sky, which could be left over from collisions with other universes.

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The findings — reported by Ranga-Ram Chary in a paper titled ‘Spectral Variations of the Sky: Constraints on Alternate Universes’ this month and reported by New Scientist — show that the universe would have to have a very different makeup to ours. But that is possible, since alternative universes could be wildly different from our own.

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/light-spotted-in-space-might-have-spilled-through-from-another-universe-scientists-say-a6713456.html

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to be Launched Spring 2019

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now is planning to launch between March and June 2019 from French Guiana, following a schedule assessment of the remaining integration and test activities. Previously Webb was targeted to launch in October 2018.

“The change in launch timing is not indicative of hardware or technical performance concerns,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington. “Rather, the integration of the various spacecraft elements is taking longer than expected.”

As part of an international agreement with the ESA (European Space Agency) to provide a desired launch window one year prior to launch, NASA recently performed a routine schedule assessment to ensure launch preparedness and determined a launch schedule change was necessary. The careful analysis took into account the remaining tasks that needed to be completed, the lessons learned from unique environmental testing of the telescope and science instruments at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the current performance rates of integrating the spacecraft element.

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Testing of the telescope and science instruments continues to go well and on schedule at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The spacecraft itself, comprised of the spacecraft bus and sunshield, has experienced delays during its integration and testing at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California.

The additional environmental testing time of the fully assembled observatory–the telescope and the spacecraft–will ensure that Webb will be fully tested before launching into space. All the rigorous tests of the telescope and the spacecraft to date show the mission is meeting its required performance levels.

Existing program budget accommodates the change in launch date, and the change will not affect planned science observations.

“Webb’s spacecraft and sunshield are larger and more complex than most spacecraft.  The combination of some integration activities taking longer than initially planned, such as the installation of more than 100 sunshield membrane release devices, factoring in lessons learned from earlier testing, like longer time spans for vibration testing, has meant the integration and testing process is just taking longer,” said Eric Smith, program director for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Considering the investment NASA has made, and the good performance to date, we want to proceed very systemmatically through these tests to be ready for a Spring 2019 launch.”

The launch window request has been coordinated with ESA, which is providing the Ariane 5 launch of Webb as part of its scientific collaboration with NASA.

The James Webb Space Telescope is NASA’s next great multi-purpose observatory and will be the world’s most powerful space telescope ever built, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. The 21-foot (6.5-meter) diameter infrared-optimized telescope is designed to study an extremely wide range of astrophysical phenomena: the first stars and galaxies that formed; the atmospheres of nearby planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets; and objects within our own solar system. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.

Last Updated: Sept. 29, 2017
Editor: Brian Dunbar