Home > Astronomy, Cosmology, Dark Energy & Matter, Galaxies, General Astronomy > NOAO: Galaxy Clusters May Offer Critical clues To Dark Energy

NOAO: Galaxy Clusters May Offer Critical clues To Dark Energy

In this image the boundary of the cluster of galaxies is marked with a dashed line. Credit: Blanco telescope

One of the major puzzles in astronomy today is the nature of the mysterious force that astronomers have dubbed Dark Energy. And one tool in understanding this force is encoded in the distribution of clusters of galaxies in the Universe. Thus, new work by a team of astronomers that has yielded exquisitely precise distances of a large sample of clusters may lead to breakthroughs in understanding the expansion history of our Universe.

Astronomers have known for over 80 years that our Universe is expanding from an event called the Big Bang. In 2011, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the even more exciting discovery that the rate of expansion is increasing, rather than slowing down as might be expected. The cause of this acceleration, referred to as Dark Energy, is not understood.

As Dr. Jeeseon Song, lead author of the study, remarked: “By looking at galaxy clusters at different epochs in cosmic history, astronomers can explore whether Dark Energy has acted differently at different times in the history of the Universe. Galaxies, including our own Milky Way galaxy, are vast assemblages of stars and gas. Clusters of galaxies, conglomerates of tens to hundreds of galaxies, are the largest structures in the Universe. They are dynamically changing and aging over time. And that is very crucial in cosmological studies, because that’s where we can see how Dark Energy is acting on the Universe, pulling the clusters apart.” By studying the distribution of clusters at different times in the past, astronomers detect what the Dark Energy does to the Universe, allowing them to figure out what the Dark Energy itself is.

Full Story: http://www.noao.edu/news/2012/pr1206.php

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