Accelerating universe

Accelerating universe

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The accelerating universe is the observation that the universe appears to be expanding
Metric expansion of space
The metric expansion of space is the increase of distance between distant parts of the universe with time. It is an intrinsic expansion—that is, it is defined by the relative separation of parts of the universe and not by motion "outward" into preexisting space...

 at an increasing rate, which in formal terms means that the cosmic scale factor  has a positive second derivative
Second derivative
In calculus, the second derivative of a function ƒ is the derivative of the derivative of ƒ. Roughly speaking, the second derivative measures how the rate of change of a quantity is itself changing; for example, the second derivative of the position of a vehicle with respect to time is...

, implying that the velocity at which a given galaxy is receding from us should be continually increasing over time (here the recession velocity is the same one that appears in Hubble's law
Hubble's law
Hubble's law is the name for the astronomical observation in physical cosmology that: all objects observed in deep space are found to have a doppler shift observable relative velocity to Earth, and to each other; and that this doppler-shift-measured velocity, of various galaxies receding from...

; defining 'velocity' in cosmology is somewhat subtle, see Comoving distance#Uses of the proper distance for a discussion). In 1998, observations of type Ia supernovae suggested that the expansion of the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 has been accelerating since around redshift
Redshift
In physics , redshift happens when light seen coming from an object is proportionally increased in wavelength, or shifted to the red end of the spectrum...

 of z~0.5. The 2006 Shaw Prize in Astronomy
Shaw Prize
The Shaw Prize is an annual award first presented by the Shaw Prize Foundation in 2004. Established in 2002 in Hong Kong, it honours living "individuals, regardless of race, nationality and religious belief, who have achieved significant breakthrough in academic and scientific research or...

 and the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

 were both awarded to Saul Perlmutter
Saul Perlmutter
Saul Perlmutter is an American astrophysicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of...

, Brian P. Schmidt
Brian P. Schmidt
Brian P. Schmidt is a Distinguished Professor, Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and astrophysicist at the Australian National University Mount Stromlo Observatory and Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is widely known for his research in using supernovae as Cosmological...

, and Adam G. Riess for the 1998 discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae.

Corroboration


After the initial discovery in 1998, these observations were corroborated by several independent sources: the cosmic microwave background radiation
Cosmic microwave background radiation
In cosmology, cosmic microwave background radiation is thermal radiation filling the observable universe almost uniformly....

 and large scale structure, apparent size of baryon acoustic oscillations, age of the universe
Age of the universe
The age of the universe is the time elapsed since the Big Bang posited by the most widely accepted scientific model of cosmology. The best current estimate of the age of the universe is 13.75 ± 0.13 billion years within the Lambda-CDM concordance model...

, as well as improved measurements of the supernova
Supernova
A supernova is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. It is pronounced with the plural supernovae or supernovas. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months...

, and X-ray properties of galaxy clusters.

Density drops


An expanding universe means that density drops due to continual space being added between all matter. If acceleration continues, eventually all galaxies beyond our own local supercluster will redshift
Redshift
In physics , redshift happens when light seen coming from an object is proportionally increased in wavelength, or shifted to the red end of the spectrum...

 so far that it will become hard to detect them, and the distant universe will turn dark.

Explanatory models


Models attempting to explain accelerating expansion include some form of dark energy
Dark energy
In physical cosmology, astronomy and celestial mechanics, dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space and tends to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Dark energy is the most accepted theory to explain recent observations that the universe appears to be expanding...

, cosmological constant
Cosmological constant
In physical cosmology, the cosmological constant was proposed by Albert Einstein as a modification of his original theory of general relativity to achieve a stationary universe...

, quintessence
Quintessence (physics)
In physics, quintessence is a hypothetical form of dark energy postulated as an explanation of observations of an accelerating universe. It has been proposed by some physicists to be a fifth fundamental force...

, dark fluid
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....

 or phantom energy
Phantom energy
Phantom energy is a hypothetical form of dark energy with equation of state \! w Phantom energy is a hypothetical form of dark energy with equation of state...

. The most important property of dark energy is that it has negative pressure
Pressure
Pressure is the force per unit area applied in a direction perpendicular to the surface of an object. Gauge pressure is the pressure relative to the local atmospheric or ambient pressure.- Definition :...

 which is distributed relatively homogeneously
Homogeneity (physics)
In general, homogeneity is defined as the quality or state of being homogeneous . For instance, a uniform electric field would be compatible with homogeneity...

 in space.

Divergent expansion


Phantom energy in a scenario known as the Big Rip
Big Rip
The Big Rip is a cosmological hypothesis first published in 2003, about the ultimate fate of the universe, in which the matter of the universe, from stars and galaxies to atoms and subatomic particles, is progressively torn apart by the expansion of the universe at a certain time in the future...

 causes an exponentially increasing divergent expansion, which overcomes the gravitation of the local group and tears apart our Virgo supercluster
Virgo Supercluster
The Virgo Supercluster or Local Supercluster is the irregular supercluster that contains the Virgo Cluster in addition to the Local Group, which in turn contains the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. At least 100 galaxy groups and clusters are located within its diameter of 33 megaparsecs...

; it then tears apart the Milky Way Galaxy, our solar system
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

, and finally even atoms. Measurements of acceleration are thought crucial to determining the ultimate fate of the universe
Ultimate fate of the universe
The ultimate fate of the universe is a topic in physical cosmology. Many possible fates are predicted by rival scientific theories, including futures of both finite and infinite duration....

, however we should expect the implications of such a major discovery to develop slowly over many years in the same way the big bang model has continued to develop.

Dark energy dominates


As the Universe expands, the density of dark matter
Dark matter
In astronomy and cosmology, dark matter is matter that neither emits nor scatters light or other electromagnetic radiation, and so cannot be directly detected via optical or radio astronomy...

 declines more quickly than the density of dark energy
Dark energy
In physical cosmology, astronomy and celestial mechanics, dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space and tends to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Dark energy is the most accepted theory to explain recent observations that the universe appears to be expanding...

 (see equation of state
Equation of state (cosmology)
In cosmology, the equation of state of a perfect fluid is characterized by a dimensionless number \! w, equal to the ratio of its pressure \! p to its energy density \! \rho: \! w=p/\rho...

) 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 if the dark energy is a cosmological constant
Cosmological constant
In physical cosmology, the cosmological constant was proposed by Albert Einstein as a modification of his original theory of general relativity to achieve a stationary universe...

). In the cosmological constant models, the dark energy already dominates the mass-energy of matter, including dark matter
Dark matter
In astronomy and cosmology, dark matter is matter that neither emits nor scatters light or other electromagnetic radiation, and so cannot be directly detected via optical or radio astronomy...

, and the expansion of the universe is approximately exponential with time. In this scenario the scale factor doubling time of the expansion, in the future, will be approximately 11.4 billion years.

See also

  • High-z Supernova Search Team
    High-z Supernova Search Team
    The High-z Supernova Search Team was an international cosmology collaboration which used Type Ia Supernovae to chart the expansion of the Universe. The team was formed in 1994 by Brian P. Schmidt, then a post-doctoral research associate at Harvard University, and Nicholas B. Suntzeff, a staff...

  • Supernova Cosmology Project
    Supernova Cosmology Project
    The Supernova Cosmology Project is one of two research teams that determined the likelihood of an accelerating universe and therefore a positive Cosmological constant, using data from the redshift of Type Ia supernovae...

  • Metric expansion of space
    Metric expansion of space
    The metric expansion of space is the increase of distance between distant parts of the universe with time. It is an intrinsic expansion—that is, it is defined by the relative separation of parts of the universe and not by motion "outward" into preexisting space...

  • List of multiple discoveries