Monday, March 31, 2014

Current Events: Inflation of the Universe


I put together my fifth current events report for 5th grade. It's about astronomers finding evidence for an early expansion of the universe.

Check out the full report below:

Inflation of the Universe

Astronomers recently found evidence to support the theory of inflation, which explains how the universe expanded so quickly 13.8 billion years ago in the instant after the Big Bang.

The Big Bang was the event that created the something of our universe from nothing. Scientists are still wondering how the Big Bang works. In 1964 Arno A. Penzias and Robert W. Wilson discovered that The Big Bang left behind an echo of its boom in light waves called the cosmic microwave background. We can’t see the waves because we see waves about a micrometer thick and these waves are a centimeter thick.

On the 17th of March 2014 Radio Astronomers reported that they had looked so far away, and into the past, that they have acquired the first direct evidence that gravitational waves rippled through our infant universe during an explosive period of growth. This mass expansion, known as the theory of inflation, explains how the universe expanded so uniformly and so quickly in the instant after the Big Bang. Right after the Big Bang, the universe was a hot soup of particles. It took about 380,000 years to cool enough that the particles could form atoms, then stars and galaxies. Billions of years later, planets formed from gas and dust that were orbiting stars. The researchers were surprised by the strength of the signal. The universe has continued to spread out. “This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar,” said team co-leader Clem Pryke.

The original hypothesis of Inflation started with a bunch of physicists including Alan Guth wondering why they hadn’t found any exotic particles that should have formed during the big bang. He discovered that a potential hitch could have made space repel itself, resulting in a super fast expansion of the universe from somewhere about the size of a neutron, which is just above 0 mass and so small hardly anyone puts it in their equations, increasing by 1090 to the size of a grapefruit. This happened in 10-34 of a second, which is written as a decimal point 33 zeros and then a one. This explains why space is not warped by the imbalance of a slower expansion and why there is a similar temperature everywhere in the universe. The enormous ballooning would iron out all the wrinkles and irregularities.

Little inconsistencies in this cosmic microwave background provide clues to conditions in the early universe. Small, quantum inconsistencies were amplified to enormous sizes by the inflationary expansion of the universe. This process created density waves that make small differences in temperature across the sky where the universe was denser, eventually condensing into galaxies and clusters of galaxies. But as theorized, inflation should also produce gravitational waves, ripples in space-time spread throughout the universe.

Observations from the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole now demonstrate that gravitational waves were created in abundance during the early inflation of the universe. To see clearly through our own Milky Way galaxy the team traveled to the South Pole to take advantage of the cold, dry, stable air. "The South Pole is the closest you can get to space and still be on the ground," says John Kovac of the Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, project co-leader and BICEP2 principal investigator. "It's one of the driest and clearest locations on Earth, perfect for observing the faint microwaves from the Big Bang."

By March 22, social media was buzzing with rumors about inflation. Astrophysicists responded with a mixture of jubilation and caution. Multiple scientists were excited and eager to confirm this new data. “So we will need to wait and see before we jump up and down,” Dr. Krauss said. More than a dozen teams are going to start looking for Gravity waves from hot-air balloons, mountain tops, and space itself.

Sources:
Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang’s Smoking Gun - NYTimes.com
Big Bang's Smoking Gun Found: Discovery News
A New Window On The Big Bang Has Been Opened: NPR
Evidence spotted for universe's early growth spurt
The way that the astronomers were able to see into the past is we see things by light waves traveling to our eyes that are processed by our brains. So, since light waves are always traveling we are observing what happened when the light wave first started traveling to us. Normally this doesn’t matter, because they travel at about 670 million miles per hour, fast enough to walk the circumference of the earth 7 ½ times in a second. However, when looking through a telescope of something really far away you’re looking far into the past. The same applies listening to noises from space.

Inflation is now a scientific theory. Before inflation had been a hypothesis. It is a theory because there is evidence confirming this. In science you can never be absolutely certain of something; there is always a chance that you’re wrong so any idea is a theory, not a fact.



Here are my other current events reports.