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The Daily Galaxy: News from Planet Earth & Beyond

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      The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel: Sci, Space, Tech The Daily Galaxy: News from Planet Earth & Beyond ________________________________ The Dark
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 1, 2013


      The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel: Sci, Space, Tech

      The Daily Galaxy: News from Planet Earth & Beyond

      Posted: 01 Jun 2013 10:33 AM PDT
      Is our universe merely one of billions? Evidence of the existence of 'multiverse' revealed for the first time by a cosmic map of background radiation data gathered by Planck telescope. This past week, the first 'hard evidence' that other universes exist has been claimed to have been found by cosmologists studying the Planck data. They have concluded that it shows anomalies that can only have been caused by the gravitational pull of other universes.
      "Such ideas may sound wacky now, just like the Big Bang theory did three generations ago," says George Efstathiou, professor of astrophysics at Cambridge University."But then we got evidence and now it has changed the whole way we think about the universe."
      Scientists had predicted that it should be evenly distributed, but the map shows a stronger concentration in the south half of the sky and a 'cold spot' that cannot be explained by current understanding of physics. Laura Mersini-Houghton, theoretical physicist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Richard Holman, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, predicted that anomalies in radiation existed and were caused by the pull from other universes in 2005. Mersini-Houghton will be in Britain soon promoting this theory and, we expect, the hard evidence at the Hay Festival on May 31 and at Oxford on June 11.
      Dr Mersini-Houghton believes her hypothesis has been proven from the Planck data that data has been used to create a map of light from when the universe was just 380,000 years old. "These anomalies were caused by other universes pulling on our universe as it formed during the Big Bang," she says. "They are the first hard evidence for the existence of other universes that we have seen."
      Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit writes in his blog, "Not Even Wrong," that in recent years there have been many claims made for “evidence” of a multiverse, supposedly found in the CMB data. "Such claims often came with the remark that the Planck CMB data would convincingly decide the matter. When the Planck data was released two months ago, I looked through the press coverage and through the Planck papers for any sign of news about what the new data said about these multiverse evidence claims. There was very little there; possibly the Planck scientists found these claims to be so outlandish that it wasn’t worth the time to look into what the new data had to say about them.
      "One exception," Woit adds, "was this paper, where Planck looked for evidence of 'dark flow'. They found nothing, and a New Scientist article summarized the situation: 'The Planck team’s paper appears to rule out the claims of Kashlinsky and collaborators,' says David Spergel of Princeton University, who was not involved in the work. If there is no dark flow, there is no need for exotic explanations for it, such as other universes, says Planck team member Elena Pierpaoli at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. “You don’t have to think of alternatives.'"
      "Dark Flow" sounds like a new SciFi Channel series. It's not! The dark flow is controversial because the distribution of matter in the observed universe cannot account for it. Its existence suggests that some structure beyond the visible universe -- outside our "horizon" -- is pulling on matter in our vicinity. 
      Back in the Middle Ages, maps showed terrifying images of sea dragons at the boundaries of the known world. Today, scientists have observed strange new motion at the very limits of the known universe - kind of where you'd expect to find new things, but they still didn't expect this. A huge swath of galactic clusters seem to be heading to a cosmic hotspot and nobody knows why.
      Cosmologists regard the microwave background -- a flash of light emitted 380,000 years after the universe formed -- as the ultimate cosmic reference frame. Relative to it, all large-scale motion should show no preferred direction. A 2010 study tracked the mysterious cosmic 'dark flow' to twice the distance originally reported. The study was led by Alexander Kashlinsky at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
      "This is not something we set out to find, but we cannot make it go away," Kashlinsky said. "Now we see that it persists to much greater distances - as far as 2.5 billion light-years away," he added.
      Dark flow describes a possible non-random component of the peculiar velocity of galaxy clusters. The actual measured velocity is the sum of the velocity predicted by Hubble's Law plus a small and unexplained (or dark) velocity flowing in a common direction. According to standard cosmological models, the motion of galaxy clusters with respect to the cosmic microwave background should be randomly distributed in all directions. However, analyzing the three-year WMAP data using the kinematic Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect, the authors of the study found evidence of a "surprisingly coherent" 600–1000 km/s flow of clusters toward a 20-degree patch of sky between the constellations of Centaurus and Vela.
      The clusters appear to be moving along a line extending from our solar system toward Centaurus/Hydra, but the direction of this motion is less certain. Evidence indicates that the clusters are headed outward along this path, away from Earth, but the team cannot yet rule out the opposite flow.
      "We detect motion along this axis, but right now our data cannot state as strongly as we'd like whether the clusters are coming or going," Kashlinsky said.
      The unexplained motion has hundreds of millions of stars dashing towards a certain part of the sky at over eight hundred kilometers per second. Not much speed in cosmic terms, but the preferred direction certainly is: most cosmological models have things moving in all directions equally at the extreme edges of the universe. Something that could make things aim for a specific spot on such a massive scale hasn't been imagined before. The scientists are keeping to the proven astrophysical strategy of calling anything they don't understand "dark", terming the odd motion a "dark flow".
      A black hole can't explain the observations - objects would accelerate into the hole, while the NASA scientists see constant motion over a vast expanse of a billion light-years. You have no idea how big that is. This is giant on a scale where it's not just that we can't see what's doing it; it's that the entire makeup of the universe as we understand it can't be right if this is happening.
      The hot X-ray-emitting gas within a galaxy cluster scatters photons from the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Because galaxy clusters don't precisely follow the expansion of space, the wavelengths of scattered photons change in a way that reflects each cluster's individual motion.
      This results in a minute shift of the microwave background's temperature in the cluster's direction. The change, which astronomers call the kinematic Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (KSZ) effect, is so small that it has never been observed in a single galaxy cluster.
      But in 2000, Kashlinsky, working with Fernando Atrio-Barandela at the University of Salamanca, Spain, demonstrated that it was possible to tease the subtle signal out of the measurement noise by studying large numbers of clusters.
      In 2008, armed with a catalog of 700 clusters assembled by Harald Ebeling at the University of Hawaii and Dale Kocevski, now at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the researchers applied the technique to the three-year WMAP data release. That's when the mystery motion first came to light.
      The new study builds on the previous one by using the five-year results from WMAP and by doubling the number of galaxy clusters.
      "It takes, on average, about an hour of telescope time to measure the distance to each cluster we work with, not to mention the years required to find these systems in the first place," Ebeling said. "This is a project requiring considerable followthrough."
      According to Atrio-Barandela, who has focused on understanding the possible errors in the team's analysis, the new study provides much stronger evidence that the dark flow is real. For example, the brightest clusters at X-ray wavelengths hold the greatest amount of hot gas to distort CMB photons. "When processed, these same clusters also display the strongest KSZ signature -- unlikely if the dark flow were merely a statistical fluke," he said.
      In addition, the team, which now also includes Alastair Edge at the University of Durham, England, sorted the cluster catalog into four "slices" representing different distance ranges. They then examined the preferred flow direction for the clusters within each slice. While the size and exact position of this direction display some variation, the overall trends among the slices exhibit remarkable agreement.
      The researchers are currently working to expand their cluster catalog in order to track the dark flow to about twice the current distance. Improved modeling of hot gas within the galaxy clusters will help refine the speed, axis, and direction of motion.
      Future plans call for testing the findings against newer data released from the WMAP project and the European Space Agency's Planck mission, which is also currently mapping the microwave background.
      Which is fantastic! Such discoveries force a whole new set of ideas onto the table which, even if they turn out to be wrong, are the greatest ways to advance science and our understanding of everything. One explanation that's already been offered is that our universe underwent a period of hyper-inflation early in its existence, and everything we think of as the vast and infinite universe is actually a small corner under the sofa of the real expanse of reality. Which would be an amazing, if humbling, discovery.
      The Daily Galaxy via Peter Woit, New Scientist, and JPL.
      Posted: 01 Jun 2013 08:56 AM PDT
      The image above shows the Cygnus Loop supernova shockwave, created some 15,000 years ago a star in the constellation of Cygnus exploded.  The Cygnus Loop is an example of the shock wave from a supernova explosion that may have triggered the formation of our Solar System. According to this theory, the shock wave also injected material from the exploding star into a cloud of dust and gas, and the newly polluted cloud collapsed to form the Sun and its surrounding planets. The Cygnus Loop image shows a portion of a shockwave from this supernova explosion still expanding past nearby stars. The collision of this gaseous shockwave with a stationary gas cloud has heated the gas causing it to glow in a spectacular array of colors. This picture was taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 on board the Hubble Space Telescope.
      Traces of the pollution from the supernova that truggered the birth of our Solar System can be found in meteorites in the form of short-lived radioactive isotopes, or SLRIs. SLRIs—versions of elements with the same number of protons, but a different number of neutrons—found in primitive meteorites decay on time scales of millions of years and turn into different, so-called daughter, elements. A million years may sound like a long time, but it is actually considered short when compared to other radioactive isotopes studied by geochemists and cosmochemists, which have half-lives measured in billions of years.
      The Carnegie Institute's Alan Boss and Sandra Keiser provided the first fully three-dimensional (3-D) models for how this process could have happened. When scientists find the daughter elements distributed in telltale patterns in primitive meteorites, this means that the parent SLRIs had to be created just before the meteorites themselves were formed. This presents a timing problem, as the SLRIs must be formed in a supernova, injected into the presolar cloud, and trapped inside the meteoritic precursors, all in less than a million years.
      The telltale patterns prove that the relevant daughter elements were not the ones that were injected. This is because the abundances of these daughters in different mineral phases in the meteorite are correlated with the abundances of a stable isotope of the parent element. Different elements have different chemical behaviors during the formation of these first solids, and the fact that the daughter elements correlate with the parent elements means that those daughters had to be derived from the decay of unstable parent elements after those solids were crystallized.
      One of these SLRIs, iron-60, is only created in significant amounts by nuclear reactions in massive stars. The iron-60 must have come from a supernova, or from a giant star called an AGB star. Boss and Keiser's previous modeling showed that it was likely that a supernova triggered our Solar System's formation, as AGB star shocks are too thick to inject the iron-60 into the cloud. Supernova shocks are hundreds of times thinner, leading to more efficient injection.
      Boss and Keiser have extended those models to 3-D, so they can see the shock wave striking the gas cloud, compressing it and forming a parabolic shock front that envelopes the cloud, creating finger-like indentations in the cloud's surface. The fingers inject the SLRI pollution from the supernova. Less than 0.1 million years later, the cloud collapses and forms the core of the protostar that became the Sun and its surrounding planets. The 3-D models show that only one or two fingers are likely to have caused the SLRI pollution found in primitive meteorites.
      "The evidence leads us to believe that a supernova was indeed the culprit," said Boss. However, more detective work needs to be done: Boss and Keiser still need to find the combination of cloud and shock wave parameters that will line up perfectly with observations of exploding supernovae.
      The Daily Galaxy via Carnegie Institute
      Image Credit: NASA, HST, WFPC2, Jeff Hester

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