Dark energy

In physical cosmology and astronomy, dark energy is an unknown form of energy which is hypothesized to permeate all of space, tending to accelerate the expansion of the universe.[1][2] Dark energy is the most accepted hypothesis to explain the observations since the 1990s indicating that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate.[3]

Assuming that the standard model of cosmology is correct, the best current measurements indicate that dark energy contributes 68% of the total energy in the present-day observable universe. The mass–energy of dark matter and ordinary (baryonic) matter contribute 27% and 5%, respectively, and other components such as neutrinos and photons contribute a very small amount.[4][5][6][7] The density of dark energy is very low (~ 7 × 10−30 g/cm3) much less than the density of ordinary matter or dark matter within galaxies. However, it dominates the mass–energy of the universe because it is uniform across space.[8][9][10]

Two proposed forms for dark energy are the cosmological constant,[11][12] representing a constant energy density filling space homogeneously, and scalar fields such as quintessence or moduli, dynamic quantities whose energy density can vary in time and space. Contributions from scalar fields that are constant in space are usually also included in the cosmological constant. The cosmological constant can be formulated to be equivalent to the zero-point radiation of space i.e. the vacuum energy.[13] Scalar fields that change in space can be difficult to distinguish from a cosmological constant because the change may be extremely slow.

History of discovery and previous speculation

Einstein's cosmological constant

The "cosmological constant" is a constant term that can be added to Einstein's field equation of general relativity. If considered as a "source term" in the field equation, it can be viewed as equivalent to the mass of empty space (which conceptually could be either positive or negative), or "vacuum energy".

The cosmological constant was first proposed by Einstein as a mechanism to obtain a solution of the gravitational field equation that would lead to a static universe, effectively using dark energy to balance gravity.[14] Einstein gave the cosmological constant the symbol Λ (capital lambda). Einstein stated that the cosmological constant required that 'empty space takes the role of gravitating negative masses which are distributed all over the interstellar space'.[15][16]

The mechanism was an example of fine-tuning, and it was later realized that Einstein's static universe would not be stable: local inhomogeneities would ultimately lead to either the runaway expansion or contraction of the universe. The equilibrium is unstable: if the universe expands slightly, then the expansion releases vacuum energy, which causes yet more expansion. Likewise, a universe which contracts slightly will continue contracting. These sorts of disturbances are inevitable, due to the uneven distribution of matter throughout the universe. Further, observations made by Edwin Hubble in 1929 showed that the universe appears to be expanding and not static at all. Einstein reportedly referred to his failure to predict the idea of a dynamic universe, in contrast to a static universe, as his greatest blunder.[17]

Inflationary dark energy

Alan Guth and Alexei Starobinsky proposed in 1980 that a negative pressure field, similar in concept to dark energy, could drive cosmic inflation in the very early universe. Inflation postulates that some repulsive force, qualitatively similar to dark energy, resulted in an enormous and exponential expansion of the universe slightly after the Big Bang. Such expansion is an essential feature of most current models of the Big Bang. However, inflation must have occurred at a much higher energy density than the dark energy we observe today and is thought to have completely ended when the universe was just a fraction of a second old. It is unclear what relation, if any, exists between dark energy and inflation. Even after inflationary models became accepted, the cosmological constant was thought to be irrelevant to the current universe.

Nearly all inflation models predict that the total (matter+energy) density of the universe should be very close to the critical density. During the 1980s, most cosmological research focused on models with critical density in matter only, usually 95% cold dark matter and 5% ordinary matter (baryons). These models were found to be successful at forming realistic galaxies and clusters, but some problems appeared in the late 1980s: in particular, the model required a value for the Hubble constant lower than preferred by observations, and the model under-predicted observations of large-scale galaxy clustering. These difficulties became stronger after the discovery of anisotropy in the cosmic microwave background by the COBE spacecraft in 1992, and several modified CDM models came under active study through the mid-1990s: these included the Lambda-CDM model and a mixed cold/hot dark matter model. The first direct evidence for dark energy came from supernova observations in 1998 of accelerated expansion in Riess et al.[18] and in Perlmutter et al.,[19] and the Lambda-CDM model then became the leading model. Soon after, dark energy was supported by independent observations: in 2000, the BOOMERanG and Maxima cosmic microwave background experiments observed the first acoustic peak in the CMB, showing that the total (matter+energy) density is close to 100% of critical density. Then in 2001, the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey gave strong evidence that the matter density is around 30% of critical. The large difference between these two supports a smooth component of dark energy making up the difference. Much more precise measurements from WMAP in 2003–2010 have continued to support the standard model and give more accurate measurements of the key parameters.

The term "dark energy", echoing Fritz Zwicky's "dark matter" from the 1930s, was coined by Michael Turner in 1998.[20]

Change in expansion over time

Dark Energy
Diagram representing the accelerated expansion of the universe due to dark energy.

High-precision measurements of the expansion of the universe are required to understand how the expansion rate changes over time and space. In general relativity, the evolution of the expansion rate is estimated from the curvature of the universe and the cosmological equation of state (the relationship between temperature, pressure, and combined matter, energy, and vacuum energy density for any region of space). Measuring the equation of state for dark energy is one of the biggest efforts in observational cosmology today. Adding the cosmological constant to cosmology's standard FLRW metric leads to the Lambda-CDM model, which has been referred to as the "standard model of cosmology" because of its precise agreement with observations.

As of 2013, the Lambda-CDM model is consistent with a series of increasingly rigorous cosmological observations, including the Planck spacecraft and the Supernova Legacy Survey. First results from the SNLS reveal that the average behavior (i.e., equation of state) of dark energy behaves like Einstein's cosmological constant to a precision of 10%.[21] Recent results from the Hubble Space Telescope Higher-Z Team indicate that dark energy has been present for at least 9 billion years and during the period preceding cosmic acceleration.

Nature

The nature of dark energy is more hypothetical than that of dark matter, and many things about it remain in the realm of speculation.[22] Dark energy is thought to be very homogeneous and not very dense, and is not known to interact through any of the fundamental forces other than gravity. Since it is quite rarefied and un-massive — roughly 10−27 kg/m3 — it is unlikely to be detectable in laboratory experiments. The reason dark energy can have such a profound effect on the universe, making up 68% of universal density in spite of being so dilute, is that it uniformly fills otherwise empty space.

Independently of its actual nature, dark energy would need to have a strong negative pressure (repulsive action), like radiation pressure in a metamaterial,[23] to explain the observed acceleration of the expansion of the universe. According to general relativity, the pressure within a substance contributes to its gravitational attraction for other objects just as its mass density does. This happens because the physical quantity that causes matter to generate gravitational effects is the stress–energy tensor, which contains both the energy (or matter) density of a substance and its pressure and viscosity. In the Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker metric, it can be shown that a strong constant negative pressure in all the universe causes an acceleration in the expansion if the universe is already expanding, or a deceleration in contraction if the universe is already contracting. This accelerating expansion effect is sometimes labeled "gravitational repulsion".

Technical definition

In standard cosmology, there are three components of the universe: matter, radiation, and dark energy. Matter is anything whose energy density scales with the inverse cube of the scale factor, i.e., ρ ∝ a−3, while radiation is anything which scales to the inverse fourth power of the scale factor (ρ ∝ a−4). This can be understood intuitively: for an ordinary particle in a square box, doubling the length of a side of the box decreases the density (and hence energy density) by a factor of eight (23). For radiation, the decrease in energy density is greater, because an increase in spatial distance also causes a redshift.[24]

The final component, dark energy, is an intrinsic property of space, and so has a constant energy density regardless of the volume under consideration (ρ ∝ a0). Thus, unlike ordinary matter, it does not get diluted with the expansion of space.

Evidence of existence

The evidence for dark energy is indirect but comes from three independent sources:

  • Distance measurements and their relation to redshift, which suggest the universe has expanded more in the last half of its life.[25]
  • The theoretical need for a type of additional energy that is not matter or dark matter to form the observationally flat universe (absence of any detectable global curvature).
  • Measures of large-scale wave-patterns of mass density in the universe.

Supernovae

SN1994D
A Type Ia supernova (bright spot on the bottom-left) near a galaxy

In 1998, the High-Z Supernova Search Team[18] published observations of Type Ia ("one-A") supernovae. In 1999, the Supernova Cosmology Project[19] followed by suggesting that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.[26] The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam G. Riess for their leadership in the discovery.[27][28]

Since then, these observations have been corroborated by several independent sources. Measurements of the cosmic microwave background, gravitational lensing, and the large-scale structure of the cosmos, as well as improved measurements of supernovae, have been consistent with the Lambda-CDM model.[29] Some people argue that the only indications for the existence of dark energy are observations of distance measurements and their associated redshifts. Cosmic microwave background anisotropies and baryon acoustic oscillations serve only to demonstrate that distances to a given redshift are larger than would be expected from a "dusty" Friedmann–Lemaître universe and the local measured Hubble constant.[30]

Supernovae are useful for cosmology because they are excellent standard candles across cosmological distances. They allow researchers to measure the expansion history of the universe by looking at the relationship between the distance to an object and its redshift, which gives how fast it is receding from us. The relationship is roughly linear, according to Hubble's law. It is relatively easy to measure redshift, but finding the distance to an object is more difficult. Usually, astronomers use standard candles: objects for which the intrinsic brightness, or absolute magnitude, is known. This allows the object's distance to be measured from its actual observed brightness, or apparent magnitude. Type Ia supernovae are the best-known standard candles across cosmological distances because of their extreme and consistent luminosity.

Recent observations of supernovae are consistent with a universe made up 71.3% of dark energy and 27.4% of a combination of dark matter and baryonic matter.[31]

Cosmic microwave background

WMAP 2008 universe content
Estimated division of total energy in the universe into matter, dark matter and dark energy based on five years of WMAP data.[32]

The existence of dark energy, in whatever form, is needed to reconcile the measured geometry of space with the total amount of matter in the universe. Measurements of cosmic microwave background (CMB) anisotropies indicate that the universe is close to flat. For the shape of the universe to be flat, the mass-energy density of the universe must be equal to the critical density. The total amount of matter in the universe (including baryons and dark matter), as measured from the CMB spectrum, accounts for only about 30% of the critical density. This implies the existence of an additional form of energy to account for the remaining 70%.[29] The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) spacecraft seven-year analysis estimated a universe made up of 72.8% dark energy, 22.7% dark matter, and 4.5% ordinary matter.[6] Work done in 2013 based on the Planck spacecraft observations of the CMB gave a more accurate estimate of 68.3% dark energy, 26.8% dark matter, and 4.9% ordinary matter.[33]

Large-scale structure

The theory of large-scale structure, which governs the formation of structures in the universe (stars, quasars, galaxies and galaxy groups and clusters), also suggests that the density of matter in the universe is only 30% of the critical density.

A 2011 survey, the WiggleZ galaxy survey of more than 200,000 galaxies, provided further evidence towards the existence of dark energy, although the exact physics behind it remains unknown.[34][35] The WiggleZ survey from the Australian Astronomical Observatory scanned the galaxies to determine their redshift. Then, by exploiting the fact that baryon acoustic oscillations have left voids regularly of ≈150 Mpc diameter, surrounded by the galaxies, the voids were used as standard rulers to estimate distances to galaxies as far as 2,000 Mpc (redshift 0.6), allowing for accurate estimate of the speeds of galaxies from their redshift and distance. The data confirmed cosmic acceleration up to half of the age of the universe (7 billion years) and constrain its inhomogeneity to 1 part in 10.[35] This provides a confirmation to cosmic acceleration independent of supernovae.

Late-time integrated Sachs–Wolfe effect

Accelerated cosmic expansion causes gravitational potential wells and hills to flatten as photons pass through them, producing cold spots and hot spots on the CMB aligned with vast supervoids and superclusters. This so-called late-time Integrated Sachs–Wolfe effect (ISW) is a direct signal of dark energy in a flat universe.[36] It was reported at high significance in 2008 by Ho et al.[37] and Giannantonio et al.[38]

Observational Hubble constant data

A new approach to test evidence of dark energy through observational Hubble constant data (OHD) has gained significant attention in recent years.[39][40][41][42] The Hubble constant, H(z), is measured as a function of cosmological redshift. OHD directly tracks the expansion history of the universe by taking passively evolving early-type galaxies as “cosmic chronometers”.[43] From this point, this approach provides standard clocks in the universe. The core of this idea is the measurement of the differential age evolution as a function of redshift of these cosmic chronometers. Thus, it provides a direct estimate of the Hubble parameter

The reliance on a differential quantity, Δz/Δt, can minimize many common issues and systematic effects; and as a direct measurement of the Hubble parameter instead of its integral, like supernovae and baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO), it brings more information and is appealing in computation. For these reasons, it has been widely used to examine the accelerated cosmic expansion and study properties of dark energy.

Theories of dark energy

Dark energy's status as a hypothetical force with unknown properties makes it a very active target of research. The problem is attacked from a great variety of angles, such as modifying the prevailing theory of gravity (general relativity), attempting to pin down the properties of dark energy, and finding alternative ways to explain the observational data.

Wz-z
The equation of state of Dark Energy for 4 common models by Redshift.[44]
A: CPL Model,
B: Jassal Model,
C: Barboza & Alcaniz Model,
D: Wetterich Model

Cosmological constant

DMPie 2013
Estimated distribution of matter and energy in the universe[45]

The simplest explanation for dark energy is that it is an intrinsic, fundamental energy of space. This is the cosmological constant, usually represented by the Greek letter Λ (Lambda, hence Lambda-CDM model). Since energy and mass are related according to the equation E = mc2, Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that this energy will have a gravitational effect. It is sometimes called a vacuum energy because it is the energy density of empty vacuum.

The cosmological constant has negative pressure equal to its energy density and so causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate. The reason a cosmological constant has negative pressure can be seen from classical thermodynamics. In general, energy must be lost from inside a container (the container must do work on its environment) in order for the volume to increase. Specifically, a change in volume dV requires work done equal to a change of energy −P dV, where P is the pressure. But the amount of energy in a container full of vacuum actually increases when the volume increases, because the energy is equal to ρV, where ρ is the energy density of the cosmological constant. Therefore, P is negative and, in fact, P = −ρ.

There are two major advantages for the cosmological constant. The first is that it is simple. Einstein had in fact introduced this term in his original formulation of general relativity such as to get a static universe. Although he later discarded the term after Hubble found that the universe is expanding, a nonzero cosmological constant can act as dark energy, without otherwise changing the Einstein field equations. The other advantage is that there is a natural explanation for its origin. Most quantum field theories predict vacuum fluctuations that would give the vacuum this sort of energy. This is related to the Casimir effect, in which there is a small suction into regions where virtual particles are geometrically inhibited from forming (e.g. between plates with tiny separation).

A major outstanding problem is that the same quantum field theories predict a huge cosmological constant, more than 100 orders of magnitude too large.[12] This would need to be almost, but not exactly, cancelled by an equally large term of the opposite sign. Some supersymmetric theories require a cosmological constant that is exactly zero,[46] which does not help because supersymmetry must be broken.

Nonetheless, the cosmological constant is the most economical solution to the problem of cosmic acceleration. Thus, the current standard model of cosmology, the Lambda-CDM model, includes the cosmological constant as an essential feature.

Quintessence

In quintessence models of dark energy, the observed acceleration of the scale factor is caused by the potential energy of a dynamical field, referred to as quintessence field. Quintessence differs from the cosmological constant in that it can vary in space and time. In order for it not to clump and form structure like matter, the field must be very light so that it has a large Compton wavelength.

No evidence of quintessence is yet available, but it has not been ruled out either. It generally predicts a slightly slower acceleration of the expansion of the universe than the cosmological constant. Some scientists think that the best evidence for quintessence would come from violations of Einstein's equivalence principle and variation of the fundamental constants in space or time.[47] Scalar fields are predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics and string theory, but an analogous problem to the cosmological constant problem (or the problem of constructing models of cosmological inflation) occurs: renormalization theory predicts that scalar fields should acquire large masses.

The coincidence problem asks why the acceleration of the Universe began when it did. If acceleration began earlier in the universe, structures such as galaxies would never have had time to form, and life, at least as we know it, would never have had a chance to exist. Proponents of the anthropic principle view this as support for their arguments. However, many models of quintessence have a so-called "tracker" behavior, which solves this problem. In these models, the quintessence field has a density which closely tracks (but is less than) the radiation density until matter-radiation equality, which triggers quintessence to start behaving as dark energy, eventually dominating the universe. This naturally sets the low energy scale of the dark energy.[48][49]

In 2004, when scientists fit the evolution of dark energy with the cosmological data, they found that the equation of state had possibly crossed the cosmological constant boundary (w = −1) from above to below. A No-Go theorem has been proved that gives this scenario at least two degrees of freedom as required for dark energy models. This scenario is so-called Quintom scenario.

Some special cases of quintessence are phantom energy, in which the energy density of quintessence actually increases with time, and k-essence (short for kinetic quintessence) which has a non-standard form of kinetic energy such as a negative kinetic energy.[50] They can have unusual properties: phantom energy, for example, can cause a Big Rip.

Interacting dark energy

This class of theories attempts to come up with an all-encompassing theory of both dark matter and dark energy as a single phenomenon that modifies the laws of gravity at various scales. This could, for example, treat dark energy and dark matter as different facets of the same unknown substance,[51] or postulate that cold dark matter decays into dark energy.[52] Another class of theories that unifies dark matter and dark energy are suggested to be covariant theories of modified gravities. These theories alter the dynamics of the space-time such that the modified dynamic stems what have been assigned to the presence of dark energy and dark matter.[53]

Variable dark energy models

The density of the dark energy might have varied in time during the history of the universe. Modern observational data allow us to estimate the present density of the dark energy. Using baryon acoustic oscillations, it is possible to investigate the effect of dark energy in the history of the Universe, and constrain parameters of the equation of state of dark energy. To that end, several models have been proposed. One of the most popular models is the Chevallier–Polarski–Linder model (CPL).[54][55] Some other common models are, (Barboza & Alcaniz. 2008),[56] (Jassal et al. 2005),[57] (Wetterich. 2004),[58](Oztas et al. 2018).[59][60]

Observational skepticism

Some alternatives to dark energy, such as inhomogeneous cosmology, aim to explain the observational data by a more refined use of established theories. In this scenario, dark energy doesn't actually exist, and is merely a measurement artifact. For example, if we are located in an emptier-than-average region of space, the observed cosmic expansion rate could be mistaken for a variation in time, or acceleration.[61][62][63][64] A different approach uses a cosmological extension of the equivalence principle to show how space might appear to be expanding more rapidly in the voids surrounding our local cluster. While weak, such effects considered cumulatively over billions of years could become significant, creating the illusion of cosmic acceleration, and making it appear as if we live in a Hubble bubble.[65][66][67] Yet other possibilities are that the accelerated expansion of the universe is an illusion caused by the relative motion of us to the rest of the universe,[68][69] or that the supernovae sample size used wasn't large enough.[70][71]

Other mechanism driving acceleration

Modified gravity

The evidence for dark energy is heavily dependent on the theory of general relativity. Therefore, it is conceivable that a modification to general relativity also eliminates the need for dark energy. There are very many such theories, and research is ongoing.[72][73] The measurement of the speed of gravity in the first gravitational wave measured by non-gravitational means (GW170817) ruled out many modified gravity theories as explanations to dark energy.[74][75][76]

Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel states that, while such alternatives gain a lot of mainstream press coverage, almost all professional astrophysicists are confident that dark energy exists, and that none of the competing theories successfully explain observations to the same level of precision as standard dark energy.[77]

Implications for the fate of the universe

Cosmologists estimate that the acceleration began roughly 5 billion years ago.[78][notes 1] Before that, it is thought that the expansion was decelerating, due to the attractive influence of matter. The density of dark matter in an expanding universe decreases more quickly than dark energy, and eventually the dark energy dominates. Specifically, when the volume of the universe doubles, the density of dark matter is halved, but the density of dark energy is nearly unchanged (it is exactly constant in the case of a cosmological constant).

Projections into the future can differ radically for different models of dark energy. For a cosmological constant, or any other model that predicts that the acceleration will continue indefinitely, the ultimate result will be that galaxies outside the Local Group will have a line-of-sight velocity that continually increases with time, eventually far exceeding the speed of light.[79] This is not a violation of special relativity because the notion of "velocity" used here is different from that of velocity in a local inertial frame of reference, which is still constrained to be less than the speed of light for any massive object (see Uses of the proper distance for a discussion of the subtleties of defining any notion of relative velocity in cosmology). Because the Hubble parameter is decreasing with time, there can actually be cases where a galaxy that is receding from us faster than light does manage to emit a signal which reaches us eventually.[80][81] However, because of the accelerating expansion, it is projected that most galaxies will eventually cross a type of cosmological event horizon where any light they emit past that point will never be able to reach us at any time in the infinite future[82] because the light never reaches a point where its "peculiar velocity" toward us exceeds the expansion velocity away from us (these two notions of velocity are also discussed in Uses of the proper distance). Assuming the dark energy is constant (a cosmological constant), the current distance to this cosmological event horizon is about 16 billion light years, meaning that a signal from an event happening at present would eventually be able to reach us in the future if the event were less than 16 billion light years away, but the signal would never reach us if the event were more than 16 billion light years away.[81]

As galaxies approach the point of crossing this cosmological event horizon, the light from them will become more and more redshifted, to the point where the wavelength becomes too large to detect in practice and the galaxies appear to vanish completely[83][84] (see Future of an expanding universe). Planet Earth, the Milky Way, and the Local Group of which the Milky way is a part, would all remain virtually undisturbed as the rest of the universe recedes and disappears from view. In this scenario, the Local Group would ultimately suffer heat death, just as was hypothesized for the flat, matter-dominated universe before measurements of cosmic acceleration.

There are other, more speculative ideas about the future of the universe. The phantom energy model of dark energy results in divergent expansion, which would imply that the effective force of dark energy continues growing until it dominates all other forces in the universe. Under this scenario, dark energy would ultimately tear apart all gravitationally bound structures, including galaxies and solar systems, and eventually overcome the electrical and nuclear forces to tear apart atoms themselves, ending the universe in a "Big Rip". It is also possible the universe may never have an end and continue in its present state forever (see The second thermodynamics law as a law of disorder). On the other hand, dark energy might dissipate with time or even become attractive. Such uncertainties leave open the possibility that gravity might yet rule the day and lead to a universe that contracts in on itself in a "Big Crunch",[85] or that there may even be a dark energy cycle, which implies a cyclic model of the universe in which every iteration (Big Bang then eventually a Big Crunch) takes about a trillion (1012) years.[86][87] While none of these are supported by observations, they are not ruled out.

In philosophy of science

In philosophy of science, dark energy is an example of an "auxiliary hypothesis", an ad hoc postulate that is added to a theory in response to observations that falsify it. It has been argued that the dark energy hypothesis is a conventionalist hypothesis, that is, a hypothesis that adds no empirical content and hence is unfalsifiable in the sense defined by Karl Popper.[88]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ [78] Frieman, Turner & Huterer (2008) p. 6: "The Universe has gone through three distinct eras: radiation-dominated, z ≳ 3000; matter-dominated, 3000 ≳ z ≳ 0.5; and dark-energy-dominated, z ≲ 0.5. The evolution of the scale factor is controlled by the dominant energy form: a(t) ∝ t2/3(1 + w) (for constant w). During the radiation-dominated era, a(t) ∝ t1/2; during the matter-dominated era, a(t) ∝ t2/3; and for the dark energy-dominated era, assuming w = −1, asymptotically a(t) ∝ exp(Ht)."
    p. 44: "Taken together, all the current data provide strong evidence for the existence of dark energy; they constrain the fraction of critical density contributed by dark energy, 0.76 ± 0.02, and the equation-of-state parameter, w ≈ −1 ± 0.1 (stat) ± 0.1 (sys), assuming that w is constant. This implies that the Universe began accelerating at redshift z 0.4 and age t 10 Gyr. These results are robust – data from any one method can be removed without compromising the constraints – and they are not substantially weakened by dropping the assumption of spatial flatness."

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External links

Accelerating expansion of the universe

The accelerating expansion of the universe is the observation that the expansion of the universe is such that the velocity at which a distant galaxy is receding from the observer is continuously increasing with time.The accelerated expansion was discovered during 1998, by two independent projects, the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-Z Supernova Search Team, which both used distant type Ia supernovae to measure the acceleration. The idea was that as type 1a supernovae have almost the same intrinsic brightness (a standard candle), and since objects that are further away appear dimmer, we can use the observed brightness of these supernovae to measure the distance to them. The distance can then be compared to the supernovae's cosmological redshift, which measures how much the universe has expanded since the supernova occurred. The unexpected result was that objects in the universe are moving away from one another at an accelerated rate. Cosmologists at the time expected that recession velocity would always be decelerating, due to the gravitational attraction of the matter in the universe. Three members of these two groups have subsequently been awarded Nobel Prizes for their discovery. Confirmatory evidence has been found in baryon acoustic oscillations, and in analyses of the clustering of galaxies.

The accelerated expansion of the universe is thought to have begun since the universe entered its dark-energy-dominated era roughly 5 billion years ago.

Within the framework of general relativity, an accelerated expansion can be accounted for by a positive value of the cosmological constant Λ, equivalent to the presence of a positive vacuum energy, dubbed "dark energy". While there are alternative possible explanations, the description assuming dark energy (positive Λ) is used in the current standard model of cosmology, which also includes cold dark matter (CDM) and is known as the Lambda-CDM model.

Big Bang

The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the observable universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. The model describes how the universe expanded from a very high-density and high-temperature state, and offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background (CMB), large scale structure and Hubble's law (the farther away galaxies are, the faster they are moving away from Earth). If the observed conditions are extrapolated backwards in time using the known laws of physics, the prediction is that just before a period of very high density there was a singularity which is typically associated with the Big Bang. Physicists are undecided whether this means the universe began from a singularity, or that current knowledge is insufficient to describe the universe at that time. Detailed measurements of the expansion rate of the universe place the Big Bang at around 13.8 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the universe. After its initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements (mostly hydrogen, with some helium and lithium) later coalesced through gravity, eventually forming early stars and galaxies, the descendants of which are visible today. Astronomers also observe the gravitational effects of dark matter surrounding galaxies. Though most of the mass in the universe seems to be in the form of dark matter, Big Bang theory and various observations seem to indicate that it is not made out of conventional baryonic matter (protons, neutrons, and electrons) but it is unclear exactly what it is made out of.

Since Georges Lemaître first noted in 1927 that an expanding universe could be traced back in time to an originating single point, scientists have built on his idea of cosmic expansion. The scientific community was once divided between supporters of two different theories, the Big Bang and the Steady State theory, but a wide range of empirical evidence has strongly favored the Big Bang which is now universally accepted. In 1929, from analysis of galactic redshifts, Edwin Hubble concluded that galaxies are drifting apart; this is important observational evidence consistent with the hypothesis of an expanding universe. In 1964, the cosmic microwave background radiation was discovered, which was crucial evidence in favor of the Big Bang model, since that theory predicted the existence of background radiation throughout the universe before it was discovered. More recently, measurements of the redshifts of supernovae indicate that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, an observation attributed to dark energy's existence. The known physical laws of nature can be used to calculate the characteristics of the universe in detail back in time to an initial state of extreme density and temperature.

Big Rip

In physical cosmology, the Big Rip is a hypothetical cosmological model concerning the ultimate fate of the universe, in which the matter of the universe, from stars and galaxies to atoms and subatomic particles, and even spacetime itself, is progressively torn apart by the expansion of the universe at a certain time in the future. According to the standard model of cosmology the scale factor of the universe is known to be accelerating and, in the future era of cosmological constant dominance, will increase exponentially. However, this expansion is similar for every moment of time (hence the exponential law - the expansion of a local volume is the same number of times over the same time interval), and is characterized by an unchanging, small Hubble constant, effectively ignored by any bound material structures. By contrast in the Big Rip scenario the Hubble constant increases to infinity in a finite time.

The possibility of sudden rip singularity occurs only for hypothetical matter (phantom energy) with implausible physical properties.

Cosmological constant

In cosmology, the cosmological constant (usually denoted by the Greek capital letter lambda: Λ) is the energy density of space, or vacuum energy, that arises in Albert Einstein's field equations of general relativity. It is closely associated to the concepts of dark energy and quintessence.Einstein originally introduced the concept in 1917 to counterbalance the effects of gravity and achieve a static universe, a notion which was the accepted view at the time. Einstein abandoned the concept in 1931 after Hubble's discovery of the expanding universe. From the 1930s until the late 1990s, most physicists assumed the cosmological constant to be equal to zero. That changed with the surprising discovery in 1998 that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, implying the possibility of a positive nonzero value for the cosmological constant.Since the 1990s, studies have shown that around 68% of the mass–energy density of the universe can be attributed to so-called dark energy. The cosmological constant Λ is the simplest possible explanation for dark energy, and is used in the current standard model of cosmology known as the ΛCDM model. While dark energy is poorly understood at a fundamental level, the main required properties of dark energy are that it functions as a type of anti-gravity, it dilutes much more slowly than matter as the universe expands, and it clusters much more weakly than matter, or perhaps not at all.According to quantum field theory (QFT) which underlies modern particle physics, empty space is defined by the vacuum state which is a collection of quantum fields. All these quantum fields exhibit fluctuations in their ground state (lowest energy density) arising from the zero-point energy present everywhere in space. These zero-point fluctuations should act as a contribution to the cosmological constant Λ, but when calculations are performed these fluctuations give rise to an enormous vacuum energy. The discrepancy between theorized vacuum energy from QFT and observed vacuum energy from cosmology is a source of major contention, with the values predicted exceeding observation by some 120 orders of magnitude, a discrepancy that has been called "the worst theoretical prediction in the history of physics!". This issue is called the cosmological constant problem and it is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in science with many physicists believing that "the vacuum holds the key to a full understanding of nature".

Dark-energy star

A dark-energy star is a hypothetical compact astrophysical object, which a minority of physicists think might constitute an alternative explanation for observations of astronomical black hole candidates.

The concept was proposed by physicist George Chapline. The theory states that infalling matter is converted into vacuum energy or dark energy, as the matter falls through the event horizon. The space within the event horizon would end up with a large value for the cosmological constant and have negative pressure to exert against gravity. There would be no information-destroying singularity.

Dark Energy Digital

Dark Energy Digital, was a privately owned video game developer and publisher based in the United Kingdom. It was formed from members of Blade Interactive, which continues to operate as a separate company. On September 28, 2007, following the public announcement of Hydrophobia, it was announced that a deal had been made between Blade Interactive and Total Asset Limited and was to become a publisher in its own right and publish its own titles. On March 19, 2012, it was announced the company was closed due to low sales of Hydrophobia.

Dark Energy Survey

The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is a visible and near-infrared survey that aims to probe the dynamics of the expansion of the Universe and the growth of large-scale structure. The collaboration is composed of research institutions and universities from the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland.

The survey uses the 4-meter Victor M. Blanco Telescope located at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, outfitted with the Dark Energy Camera (DECam). This camera allows for more sensitive images in the red part of the visible spectrum and in the near infrared, in comparison to previous instruments.DECam has one of the widest fields of view (2.2-degree diameter) available for ground-based optical and infrared imaging. The survey has imaged 5,000 square degrees of the southern sky in a footprint that overlaps with the South Pole Telescope and Stripe 82 (in large part avoiding the Milky Way). The survey took 758 observing nights spread over six years to complete, covering the survey footprint ten times in five photometric bands (g, r, i, z, and Y). DES officially began in August 2013 and completed its last observing session on the 9th of January 2019.

Dark fluid

In astronomy and cosmology, dark fluid is an alternative theory to both dark matter and dark energy and attempts to explain both phenomena in a single framework.Dark fluid proposes that dark matter and dark energy are not separate physical phenomena as previously thought, nor do they have separate origins, but that they are strongly linked together and can be considered as two facets of a single fluid. At galactic scales, the dark fluid behaves like dark matter, and at larger scales its behavior becomes similar to dark energy. Our observations within the scales of the Earth and the Solar System are currently insufficient to explain the gravitational effects observed at such larger scales. A simple dark fluid with negative mass has been shown to have the properties required to explain both dark matter and dark energy.

Faint blue galaxy

The faint blue galaxy (F.B.G.) problem in astrophysics first arose with observations starting in 1978 that there were more galaxies with a bolometric magnitude > 22 than then-current theory predicted. Galaxies can appear faint because they are small or because they are far away. Neither explanation, nor any combination, initially matched the observations. The distribution of these galaxies has since been found to be consistent with Cosmic inflation, measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Background, and a nonzero cosmological constant, that is, with the existence of the now-accepted dark energy. It thus serves as a confirmation of supernova observations requiring dark energy.

A second problem arose in 1988, with even deeper observations showing a much greater excess of faint galaxies. These are now interpreted as dwarf galaxies experiencing large bursts of stellar formation, resulting in blue light from young, massive stars. Thus F.B.G.s are extremely bright for their size and distance.

Most F.B.G.s appear between red-shift 0.5 and 2. It is believed that they disappear as separate objects by merger with other galaxies.

Inhomogeneous cosmology

Inhomogeneous cosmology refers to physical cosmologies (astronomical models of the physical universe's origin and evolution) which, unlike the currently widely accepted standard cosmological model, assume that inhomogeneities in the distribution of matter across the universe affect local gravitational forces (i.e., at the galactic level) enough to skew our view of the universe. When the universe began, matter was distributed homogeneously, but over billions of years, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and superclusters have coalesced, and must, according to Einstein's theory of general relativity, warp the space-time around them. While the standard model acknowledges this fact, it assumes that such inhomogeneities are not sufficient to affect large-scale averages of gravity in our observations. When two separate type Ia supernovae were independently observed in 1998 to be further away than our calculations showed they should be, it was concluded that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, and dark energy, a repulsive energy inherent in space, was proposed to explain the acceleration. While still unexplained in nature and origin, dark energy is widely accepted as comprising almost 70% of the universe's energy density.

By contrast, inhomogeneous cosmologies assume that the backreactions of denser structures, as well as those of very empty voids, on space-time are significant enough that when not taken into account, they distort our understanding of time and our observations of distant objects. Following Thomas Buchert's publication of equations in 1997 and 2000 that derive from general relativity but also allow for the inclusion of local gravitational variations, a number of cosmological models were proposed under which the acceleration of the universe is in fact a misinterpretation of our astronomical observations and in which dark energy is unnecessary to explain them. For example, in 2007, David Wiltshire proposed a model (timescape cosmology) in which backreactions have causing time to run more slowly or, in voids, more quickly, thus giving the supernovae observed in 1998 the illusion of being further away than they were. Timescape cosmology may also imply that the expansion of the universe is in fact slowing.Inhomogeneous cosmologies are the subject of sometimes caustic debate and are not considered significant by the majority of astronomers and cosmologists. Proponents of such cosmologies have been described as "rebels" or, by Buchert himself, "backreactionistas."

Joint Dark Energy Mission

The Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM) was an Einstein probe that planned to focus on investigating dark energy. JDEM was a partnership between NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy.

In August 2010, the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Science Foundation recommended the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) mission, a renamed JDEM-Omega proposal which has superseded SNAP, Destiny, and ADEPT, as the highest priority for development in the decade around 2020. This would be a 1.5-meter telescope with a 144-megapixel HgCdTe focal plane array, located at the L2 Lagrange point. The expected cost is around $1.6 billion.

Lambda-CDM model

The ΛCDM (Lambda cold dark matter) or Lambda-CDM model is a parametrization of the Big Bang cosmological model in which the universe contains three major components: first, a cosmological constant denoted by Lambda (Greek Λ) and associated with dark energy; second, the postulated cold dark matter (abbreviated CDM); and third, ordinary matter. It is frequently referred to as the standard model of Big Bang cosmology because it is the simplest model that provides a reasonably good account of the following properties of the cosmos:

the existence and structure of the cosmic microwave background

the large-scale structure in the distribution of galaxies

the abundances of hydrogen (including deuterium), helium, and lithium

the accelerating expansion of the universe observed in the light from distant galaxies and supernovaeThe model assumes that general relativity is the correct theory of gravity on cosmological scales. It emerged in the late 1990s as a concordance cosmology, after a period of time when disparate observed properties of the universe appeared mutually inconsistent, and there was no consensus on the makeup of the energy density of the universe.

The ΛCDM model can be extended by adding cosmological inflation, quintessence and other elements that are current areas of speculation and research in cosmology.

Some alternative models challenge the assumptions of the ΛCDM model. Examples of these are modified Newtonian dynamics, entropic gravity, modified gravity, theories of large-scale variations in the matter density of the universe, bimetric gravity, and scale invariance of empty space.

Phantom energy

Phantom energy is a hypothetical form of dark energy satisfying the equation of state with . It possesses negative kinetic energy, and predicts expansion of the universe in excess of that predicted by a cosmological constant, which leads to a Big Rip. The idea of phantom energy is often dismissed, as it would suggest that the vacuum is unstable with negative mass particles bursting into existence. The concept is hence tied to emerging theories of a continuously-created negative mass dark fluid, in which the cosmological constant can vary as a function of time.

Physical cosmology

Physical cosmology is a branch of cosmology concerned with the studies of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and with fundamental questions about its origin, structure, evolution, and ultimate fate. Cosmology as a science originated with the Copernican principle, which implies that celestial bodies obey identical physical laws to those on Earth, and Newtonian mechanics, which first allowed those physical laws to be understood. Physical cosmology, as it is now understood, began with the development in 1915 of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, followed by major observational discoveries in the 1920s: first, Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe contains a huge number of external galaxies beyond the Milky Way; then, work by Vesto Slipher and others showed that the universe is expanding. These advances made it possible to speculate about the origin of the universe, and allowed the establishment of the Big Bang theory, by Georges Lemaître, as the leading cosmological model. A few researchers still advocate a handful of alternative cosmologies; however, most cosmologists agree that the Big Bang theory explains the observations better.

Dramatic advances in observational cosmology since the 1990s, including the cosmic microwave background, distant supernovae and galaxy redshift surveys, have led to the development of a standard model of cosmology. This model requires the universe to contain large amounts of dark matter and dark energy whose nature is currently not well understood, but the model gives detailed predictions that are in excellent agreement with many diverse observations.Cosmology draws heavily on the work of many disparate areas of research in theoretical and applied physics. Areas relevant to cosmology include particle physics experiments and theory, theoretical and observational astrophysics, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and plasma physics.

Quintessence (physics)

In physics, quintessence is a hypothetical form of dark energy, more precisely a scalar field, postulated as an explanation of the observation of an accelerating rate of expansion of the universe. The first example of this scenario was proposed by Ratra and Peebles (1988). The concept was expanded to more general types of time-varying dark energy and the term "quintessence" was first introduced in a paper by Robert R. Caldwell, Rahul Dave and Paul Steinhardt.

It has been proposed by some physicists to be a fifth fundamental force. Quintessence differs from the cosmological constant explanation of dark energy in that it is dynamic; that is, it changes over time, unlike the cosmological constant which, by definition, does not change.

Quintessence can be either attractive or repulsive depending on the ratio of its kinetic and potential energy. Those working with this postulate believe that quintessence became repulsive about ten billion years ago, about 3.5 billion years after the Big Bang.

Scale factor (cosmology)

The relative expansion of the universe is parametrized by a dimensionless scale factor . Also known as the cosmic scale factor or sometimes the Robertson Walker scale factor, this is a key parameter of the Friedmann equations.

In the early stages of the Big Bang, most of the energy was in the form of radiation, and that radiation was the dominant influence on the expansion of the universe. Later, with cooling from the expansion the roles of matter and radiation changed and the universe entered a matter-dominated era. Recently results suggest that we have already entered an era dominated by dark energy, but examination of the roles of matter and radiation are most important for understanding the early universe.

Using the dimensionless scale factor to characterize the expansion of the universe, the effective energy densities of radiation and matter scale differently. This leads to a radiation-dominated era in the very early universe but a transition to a matter-dominated era at a later time and, since about 4 billion years ago, a subsequent dark-energy-dominated era.

Ultimate fate of the universe

The ultimate fate of the universe is a topic in physical cosmology, whose theoretical restrictions allow possible scenarios for the evolution and ultimate fate of the universe to be described and evaluated. Based on available observational evidence, deciding the fate and evolution of the universe have now become valid cosmological questions, being beyond the mostly untestable constraints of mythological or theological beliefs. Many possible dark futures have been predicted by rival scientific hypotheses, including that the universe might have existed for a finite and infinite duration, or towards explaining the manner and circumstances of its beginning.

Observations made by Edwin Hubble during the 1920s–1950s found that galaxies appeared to be moving away from each other, leading to the currently accepted Big Bang theory. This suggests that the universe began–very small and very dense–about 13.8 billion years ago, and it has expanded and (on average) become less dense ever since. Confirmation of the Big Bang mostly depends on knowing the rate of expansion, average density of matter, and the physical properties of the mass–energy in the universe.

There is a strong consensus among cosmologists that the universe is considered "flat" (see Shape of the universe) and will continue to expand forever.Factors that need to be considered in determining the universe's origin and ultimate fate include: the average motions of galaxies, the shape and structure of the universe, and the amount of dark matter and dark energy that the universe contains.

Universe

The Universe is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. While the spatial size of the entire Universe is unknown, it is possible to measure the size of the observable universe, which is currently estimated to be 93 billion light years in diameter. In various multiverse hypotheses, a universe is one of many causally disconnected constituent parts of a larger multiverse, which itself comprises all of space and time and its contents.The earliest scientific models of the Universe were developed by ancient Greek and Indian philosophers and were geocentric, placing Earth at the center of the Universe. Over the centuries, more precise astronomical observations led Nicolaus Copernicus to develop the heliocentric model with the Sun at the center of the Solar System. In developing the law of universal gravitation, Isaac Newton built upon Copernicus' work as well as observations by Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler's laws of planetary motion.

Further observational improvements led to the realization that the Sun is one of hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, which is one of at least hundreds of billions of galaxies in the Universe. Many of the stars in our galaxy have planets. At the largest scale galaxies are distributed uniformly and the same in all directions, meaning that the Universe has neither an edge nor a center. At smaller scales, galaxies are distributed in clusters and superclusters which form immense filaments and voids in space, creating a vast foam-like structure. Discoveries in the early 20th century have suggested that the Universe had a beginning and that space has been expanding since then, and is currently still expanding at an increasing rate.The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological description of the development of the Universe. Under this theory, space and time emerged together 13.799±0.021 billion years ago and the energy and matter initially present have become less dense as the Universe expanded. After an initial accelerated expansion called the inflationary epoch at around 10−32 seconds, and the separation of the four known fundamental forces, the Universe gradually cooled and continued to expand, allowing the first subatomic particles and simple atoms to form. Dark matter gradually gathered forming a foam-like structure of filaments and voids under the influence of gravity. Giant clouds of hydrogen and helium were gradually drawn to the places where dark matter was most dense, forming the first galaxies, stars, and everything else seen today. It is possible to see objects that are now further away than 13.799 billion light-years because space itself has expanded, and it is still expanding today. This means that objects which are now up to 46.5 billion light-years away can still be seen in their distant past, because in the past when their light was emitted, they were much closer to the Earth.

From studying the movement of galaxies, it has been discovered that the universe contains much more matter than is accounted for by visible objects; stars, galaxies, nebulas and interstellar gas. This unseen matter is known as dark matter (dark means that there is a wide range of strong indirect evidence that it exists, but we have not yet detected it directly). The ΛCDM model is the most widely accepted model of our universe. It suggests that about 69.2%±1.2% [2015] of the mass and energy in the universe is a cosmological constant (or, in extensions to ΛCDM, other forms of dark energy such as a scalar field) which is responsible for the current expansion of space, and about 25.8%±1.1% [2015] is dark matter. Ordinary ("baryonic") matter is therefore only 4.9% [2015] of the physical universe. Stars, planets, and visible gas clouds only form about 6% of ordinary matter, or about 0.3% of the entire universe.There are many competing hypotheses about the ultimate fate of the universe and about what, if anything, preceded the Big Bang, while other physicists and philosophers refuse to speculate, doubting that information about prior states will ever be accessible. Some physicists have suggested various multiverse hypotheses, in which our universe might be one among many universes that likewise exist.

Void (astronomy)

Cosmic voids are vast spaces between filaments (the largest-scale structures in the universe), which contain very few or no galaxies. Voids typically have a diameter of 10 to 100 megaparsecs; particularly large voids, defined by the absence of rich superclusters, are sometimes called supervoids. They have less than one tenth of the average density of matter abundance that is considered typical for the observable universe. They were first discovered in 1978 in a pioneering study by Stephen Gregory and Laird A. Thompson at the Kitt Peak National Observatory.Voids are believed to have been formed by baryon acoustic oscillations in the Big Bang, collapses of mass followed by implosions of the compressed baryonic matter. Starting from initially small anisotropies from quantum fluctuations in the early universe, the anisotropies grew larger in scale over time. Regions of higher density collapsed more rapidly under gravity, eventually resulting in the large-scale, foam-like structure or "cosmic web" of voids and galaxy filaments seen today. Voids located in high-density environments are smaller than voids situated in low-density spaces of the universe.Voids appear to correlate with the observed temperature of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) because of the Sachs–Wolfe effect. Colder regions correlate with voids and hotter regions correlate with filaments because of gravitational redshifting. As the Sachs–Wolfe effect is only significant if the universe is dominated by radiation or dark energy, the existence of voids is significant in providing physical evidence for dark energy.

Forms of dark matter
Hypothetical particles
Theories and objects
Search experiments
Potential dark galaxies
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