Truth about dark matter and energy revealed

In a new study, a researchers has tried to find out more about dark matter and dark energy because very little is known about them.

Last Updated: Jan 15, 2013, 17:18 PM IST

Washington: In a new study, a researchers has tried to find out more about dark matter and dark energy because very little is known about them.

“Observations tell us that about 5 percent of the universe is made up of ordinary matter; 22 percent corresponds to dark matter, which we know exists because it interacts gravitationally with ordinary matter; another 73 percent is dark energy, which is known to be there because otherwise one would not be able to account for the accelerating expansion of the universe,” Irene Sendra from UPV/EHU’s Faculty of Science and Technology said.

“We are trying to find out a bit more about what dark energy is,” she said.

If dark energy did not exist, the gravitational pull exerted by matter would slow down the expansion of the universe, but observations have concluded that the opposite is the case.

Dark energy is what makes the universe expand in an accelerating way, and contributing towards understanding its nature is the basis of the research Sendra has done as part of her PhD thesis.

The research starts with the hypothesis that dark energy could be dynamic. The most widely accepted model, known as the Lambda-CDM, explains the acceleration of the universe by means of the cosmological constant, whose equation of state would have a value of -1, constant throughout the whole evolution of the universe.

However, there are observations which this model cannot account for.

“We look for a dynamic, dark energy that would vary over time; we apply various models to the observable data, we play around with small disturbances, and we see whether they adapt better than a constant,” Sendra said.

Making use of mathematical and statistical tools, the values that the observation proposes for the parameters studied are compared with those proposed by the model.

“So, through many iterations, we can see which values would take the constants of our model. The equation of state of dark energy is worth practically -1 now, but it appears to have evolved from different values in the past; however, there is still a high percentage of error in determining these values,” she said.

According to Sendra’s calculations, these data are consistent with dynamic dark energy, which would vary with the redshift observed in the universe. Results that have yet to be published and obtained in collaboration with Adam Riess, the 2011 Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, go further in that direction.

In this PhD thesis, besides studying the equation of state of dark energy, a new model has been proposed and it would unite dark energy with dark matter.

“They could be the same thing that is manifested in a different way depending on the context; we have explained the effect of both of them through one single component, and the observations give better results in this model than in others that try to unite matter and dark energy,” Sendra said.

Finally, Sendra has peered at the oldest universe by means of the study of its cosmic microwave background.

“It is the most distant proof we have of the universe and the study of it tells us that the actual number of neutrinos is higher than three. Nevertheless, what we know for a fact, through the standard model of particles, is that there are three kinds of neutrinos. We have ended up with a somewhat strange value, so we are trying to account for that excess in the number of neutrinos,” she added.