Thursday, March 11, 2010

Galaxy study validates general relativity on cosmic scale, existence of dark matter

A partial map of the distribution of galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, going out to a distance of 7 billion light years. The amount of galaxy clustering that we observe today is a signature of how gravity acted over cosmic time, and allows as to test whether general relativity holds over these scales. (Credit: M. Blanton, Sloan Digital Sky Survey) 

ScienceDaily (Mar. 10, 2010) — An analysis of more than 70,000 galaxies by University of California, Berkeley, University of Zurich and Princeton University physicists demonstrates that the universe -- at least up to a distance of 3.5 billion light years from Earth -- plays by the rules set out 95 years ago by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity.

By calculating the clustering of these galaxies, which stretch nearly one-third of the way to the edge of the universe, and analyzing their velocities and distortion from intervening material, the researchers have shown that Einstein's theory explains the nearby universe better than alternative theories of gravity.

One major implication of the new study is that the existence of dark matter is the most likely explanation for the observation that galaxies and galaxy clusters move as if under the influence of some unseen mass, in addition to the stars astronomers observe.

"The nice thing about going to the cosmological scale is that we can test any full, alternative theory of gravity, because it should predict the things we observe," said co-author Uros Seljak, a professor of physics and of astronomy at UC Berkeley, a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and a professor of physics at the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Zurich. "Those alternative theories that do not require dark matter fail these tests."

In particular, the tensor-vector-scalar gravity (TeVeS) theory, which tweaks general relativity to avoid resorting to the existence of dark matter, fails the test.

The result conflicts with a report late last year that the very early universe, between 8 and 11 billion years ago, did deviate from the general relativistic description of gravity.

Galaxy study validates general relativity on cosmic scale, existence of dark matter

Technorati Tags:

No comments: