Far from the lingering glare of high, light pollution in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the secluded Atacama Cosmology Telescope is in prime position, searching the sky for answers. The question most recently in its mind? The age of the universe, a cosmic question that can be answered in various ways, depends on how you measure the accelerated expansion of the universe.
A recent paper Published in the journal Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics The rate of expansion that has been measured using the National Science Foundation’s telescope in Chile is called the Hubble constant.
The team found Hubble to be consistently 42 miles per second per megaprec – which means that every megaparsec, or 3.26 million light-years, the speed of expansion of the universe increases to 42 miles per second. After 730 days of observation from 2013 to 2016, the international team of astronomers and physicists found the number, which was reported in 2013 by the Planck satellite of the European Space Agency.
“Now we’ve come up with an answer where Planck and [Atacama Cosmology Telescope] Agree, “said Simon Aiola, researcher and co-author of the paper at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics. In a press release. “This speaks to the fact that these difficult measurements are reliable.”
There is a very large reason why it was constantly worth recalculating: There are some ways to measure the rate of expansion of the universe from which the age of the universe can be cut. You can measure the rate based on the stellar objects we have, such as pulsing safehide stars. You can also measure the expansion by looking at the polarized light of the cosmic microwave background of the universe, the farthest detectable radiation from the Big Bang, which the Atacama team did here. This fuzzy light differs in its polarization, enabling scientists to measure how far the light has traveled and the time it has taken to travel. Hence understanding the rate of expansion of the universe: it changes how far light has gone, and thus, the age of everything.
Here’s the rub: Those two methods of calculating Hubble’s constant have come up with very different rates –A 2019 study Came with about 46 miles per second per megapixel, while Another from the same year A number is found that divides the difference between the other two. Although the differences may seem small, different estimates mean that there is a limit of hundreds of millions of years in determining how old our universe is. (The higher the constant, the smaller the universe).
The Atacama team’s findings are about 13.77 billion years of age in the universe. Our solar system, for comparison, is about 4.57 billion years old, and Homo sapiens Emerged somewhere around 300,000 years ago.
The varying numbers so far do not mean either party is necessarily wrong (though the team behind the new paper, working with better-resolution imagery of cosmic microwave backgrounds than their predecessors in Planck , Confirmed that the mathematics of the earlier team was solid). All this definitely means that we are missing something when it comes to expanding the universe.
The disparity between local and distant measurements of the Hubble constant may mean that “there is a problem with one type of measurement that we are not interpreting correctly, and therefore some sort of systematic with one measurement or the other.” Problem, “said. Michael Neimac, an astrophysicist at Cornell University and co-author of a recent paper. “The more exciting possibility is that something is missing from our universe model.”
The best yet can come for the Atacama telescope, which had its first light in 2007 and has the advantage of being on the ground, making it easier to manage than a space-based telescope.
“We have yet to extract all the information from the data already collected with the Atacama Cosmology Telescope,” said Steve Choi, an astrophysicist at Cornell University and the paper’s lead author. “I hope we learn even more exciting physics about our universe, with upcoming experiments at CCAT-Prime and Simmons Observatory in Atacama,” referring to two upcoming high-altitude observatories in the desert. The telescope at CCAT-Prime was named the Fred Young Submilitator Telescope this September, and will see a set of cosmological features, while Simmons Observatory Cosrovus will focus its observational capability on the microwave background.
Perhaps one side assessing the age of the universe is looking at something in its mathematics – with many of the known unknowns of space science and completely unknown stuff, it is possible. But according to Nemac, there could easily be something else in the mix that would explain different numbers.
“This could be a sign that we are on the verge of discovering something new and exciting right now that we do not know beforehand how our universe works,” he said.