An international collaboration of astronomers has released an incredible map of the universe that focuses on the distribution of the large-scale structures. The goal is to learn as much as we can about the expansion of the universe and how that has influenced where galaxies and stars ended up in space.
The achievement was part of the extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS). Astronomers measured the distance and location of 147,000 quasars, the incredibly bright and active supermassive black holes at the center of certain galaxies. The light of those quasars comes to us from 12 billion years ago and this will provide important details on how the universe has changed over time. The results are published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
“Because quasars are so bright, we can see them all the way across the Universe,” co-leader of the study Ashley Ross of Ohio State University, said in a statement. “That makes them the ideal objects to use to make the biggest map yet.”
The researchers are looking at an important feature left over from the Big Bang, the so-called baryonic acoustic oscillations. When the universe was still very young, the dense and hot matter was messed around by waves and those waves were frozen when the light was finally free of matter 380,000 years after the Big Bang.
Those frozen waves have influenced how the galaxies are distributed and by working out their properties we can hopefully learn more about the mysterious force that is believed to be responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe.
“Even though we understand how gravity works, we still do not understand everything – there is still the question of what exactly Dark Energy is,” eBOSS survey scientist and professor of cosmology at the University of Portsmouth, Will Percival, said in a statement. “We would like to understand Dark Energy further. Not with alternative facts, but with the scientific truth, and surveys such as eBOSS are helping us to build up our understanding of the Universe.”
Dark energy is a fascinating and intriguing mystery. It was proposed just under two decades ago to explain how the universe was expanding, and while it is estimated to make up over 70 percent of the universe, we know very little about it as it’s still pushing our theoretical models.
Surveys like eBOSS are providing more and more clues to its true nature. Future telescopes like DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument) and the Euclid mission from the European Space Agency will go even further towards giving us a more complete history of the universe.