The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Ottawa Centre

Cos Bgd Rad COSMOLOGY Deep Field


by Donald Dunn

Cosmology is the study of the Universe as a whole and the natural laws that govern it.

Although our ideas of the Universe are just theories, in the past century we have gone from thinking that the entire Universe consisted of just our Galaxy to current theories that it has been expanding for 10 to 15 billion years and has a diameter of 20 to 30 billion light-years! On this page I want to discuss Cosmology as it relates to Amateur Astronomers. I want to inform and be informed about the ever changing theories of our Universe on a level that we can all understand and enjoy. What is your opinion of the state of the Universe? Please contact me at don.dunn@sympatico.ca with comments or suggestions for this page.


Cosmic Twist Challenges Big Bang and Realitivity

Dr. Borge Nodland of the University of Rochester, New York and Prof. John Rolston of the University of Kansas have discovered a directional bias in radio waves that have travelled from long in the Universe's past.

The team made measurements of the polarization in radio waves from 160 distant galaxies and found evidence of lopsidedness. They noticed a "corkscrew" effect that twisted the polarization of the light by one rotation every billion years of travel. One end of the axis is towards the constellation of Sextans and the other towards Aquila and Equuleus.

They discovered signs that the Universe has an axis that orients the Universe. This could affect the current Big Bang theory as it predicts an untheorized twist in the Big Bang. It hints at the exsistence of parallel universes with opposite twists. It also challenges Einstein's Theory of Special Realitivity and the theory of electromagnetism which theorizes that the speed of light is the same in all directions. Stay tuned for more.

Hot Topics

WHERE IS THE MISSING MASS? The gravatational interaction of galaxies and galaxy clusters shows us that there is more matter in the Universe than we can see. In fact visible matter accounts for only 10 % of the total mass! What is the missing mass?

WHAT IS THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSE? Nothing has caused more controvery lately than the determination of the age of the Universe. Mankind is driven to seek out the answer to "How old are we?".

IS THE BIG BANG THEORY IN TROUBLE? Most astronomers believe that time and space began with a cosmic explosion named the Big Bang.

Jupiter Sized Planets:
Jupiter sized planets may populate interstellar and intergalactic space. They are very difficult to observe because they are small and do not radiate their own light. One study is looking for these objects in our galactic halo by watching for lensing effects when the objects pass between our line of sight and other extragalactic stars. [Back up]
Dim or Burned Out Stars:
The missing mass could be a combination of:
Black Holes:
A black hole is an object whose gravity is so strong that the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light. Massive black holes are theorized to be at the center of most galaxies and black holes from collapsed massive stars surely populate galaxies. Since black holes are difficult to detect (they can only be found by the interaction with other matter around the black hole) and are extremely massive, they are a strong candidate to at least partially solve the missing mass problem.[Back up]
Exotic Massive Particles:
Exotic particles created in the Big Bang are another possibility for the missing mass. We probably haven't detected any yet because they don't interact with normal matter. Neutrinos, which are theorized to be massless, would need only a very tiny mass to account for a large part of the missing mass. There are on-going studies to "weigh" the neutrino. [Back up]
Hot Intergalactic Gas:
X-rays have been observed pouring out of intergalactic space between galaxies in rich galaxy clusters. This flow is evidence of large amounts of hot intergalactic gas. The mass of this gas is typically as great as the combined mass of all visible galaxies in the cluster.[Back up]
How is Age Measured?:
The Hubble Constant:
Factors Affecting the Rate of Expansion:
Big Bang:
This event signifies the creation of the Universe. Since we have determined that the Universe is expanding, there must have been a time long ago when the Universe was in a state of infinite density. This was not an explosion "into" space, but an explosion "of" space. The Universe has no center or edge because the Big Bang took place throughout the Universe and has been expanding ever since. [Back up]
Inflationary Epoch:
A brief period of extremely rapid expansion shortly after the Big Bang. Theorized by Alan Guth in the 1980's as a soultion to the flatness of the Universe and the smoothness of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. [Back up]
Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation:
In the 1960's theorists had been wondering why the Universe contains 25% helium. This could not be accounted for by the stellar production of elements. They put forward the theory that the abundance of Helium could be accounted for in the early Universe if the temperature then was hot enough for thermo-nuclear reactions. The early Universe would have been filled with high energy, short wavelength photons. As the Universe expanded these photons stretched so that now they have low energy and long wavelengths with a temperature of only a few degrees Kelvin. This was confirmed by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson in 1965 when thy detected the 3 degree Kelvin Microwave Background Radiation. This radiation is almost perfectly smooth in all directions because it is a remnant of the Big Bang. [Back up]
Problems with the Big Bang:
Stars Older than the Universe?: Current measurements of the age of the Universe show that it is 9 to 12 billion years old, but the galaxies oldest stars are 15 billion years old according to current stellar evolution theory. Something has to give, either the age measurements (determined by measuring the recession velocity of distant galaxies) or stellar theory or both are wrong. [Back up]
Cosmological Constant to the Rescue?:
This repulsive force would have made the Universe expand slower in the past making it older than determined with current Hubble Constant measurements. This could save the Big Bang theory, but, research of the gravitational lensing of Quasars indicates that the value of a cosmological constant is probably close to zero. [Back up]
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