A team of British and Italian scientists recently conducted research that suggests an ominous future for the universe.
In a paper just published by the journal Physical Review Letters, the scientists said a review of new astronomical data found that dark energy (a theoretical form of energy that cosmologists believe is responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe) is increasing as it feeds off dark matter (a hypothetical form of matter that is invisible to electromagnetic radiation).
This increase in dark energy at the expense of dark matter, according to the team’s research, appears to be slowing the growth of structures such as galaxies and galaxy clusters in the universe.
“This study is about the fundamental properties of space-time. On a cosmic scale, this is about our universe and its fate,” said Professor David Wands, Director of the University of Portsmouth’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, and a member of the research team in a University press release. “If the dark energy is growing and dark matter is evaporating we will end up with a big, empty, boring universe with almost nothing in it.”
According to Wands, dark matter supplies the basis or a type of scaffolding for various cosmological structures to grow in the universe. So if indeed dark energy is consuming the dark matter, as their research indicates, the disappearance of this material is slowing down the growth of such structures in the universe.
Along with Wands, the research team also included his University of Portsmouth colleague Dr. Marco Bruni, Professor Alessandro Melchiorri and researchers Valentina Salvatelli and Najla Said from the Sapienza University of Rome.
To reach their findings, the team studied and analyzed the data from a number of astronomical surveys, which included the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. With the extensive data sets, they were able to study the growth of cosmological structures that the astronomical data from the surveys revealed, so they could test various models of dark energy that had been developed.
U.S. scientists Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess along with Brian Schmidt of Australia shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics for finding evidence that the Universe is not only expanding, but is doing so at an increasingly accelerated speed.
Riess and Schmidt worked together in the High-z Supernova Search Team, while Perlmutter led the Supernova Cosmology Project. Both teams made their prize winning findings at almost the same time.
Both teams of scientists made their virtually identical findings after studying something called a Type 1a supernovae and noticed that more distant objects appeared to be moving faster.
These findings were said to have shaken the study of cosmology to its roots, according to a number of scientists.
“Since the late 1990s astronomers have been convinced that something is causing the expansion of our Universe to accelerate,” said Wands. “The simplest explanation was that empty space – the vacuum – had an energy density that was a cosmological constant.
Wand went on to say that there is, however, increasing proof that the simple models provided by the research of the 1990’s cannot explain many things scientists are now finding in fresher and more extensive astronomical data that’s being made available, such his team’s findings that found cosmic structures like galaxies and clusters of galaxies seem to be growing slower than expected.