Research advances of recent months and years have allowed astronomers to develop a remarkably detailed model for the origin and history of the universe, called the LCDM inflationary hot big bang, or simply the standard cosmological model. The LCDM stands for a big bang universe with dark energy as the primary component and exotic dark matter as the second most dominant component—more specifically cold exotic dark matter, its particles moving at low velocities relative to the velocity of light.
Despite the predictive and explanatory success of the LCDM model, which I often refer to as the biblically predicted big bang creation model1 , a handful of opponents still dispute the scientific evidence supporting it. Though their numbers may be small, these nontheists and recent-creationists wield considerable influence over their respective constituencies. So the search continues for yet more rigorous supporting evidence.
For testing purposes, the LCDM big bang model makes two important predictions. First, it predicts that sound waves propagated throughout the hot plasma of photons, protons, and electrons when the universe was less than 0.003 percent of its current age (<380,000 years old) would leave their unique signature on the temperature map of the cosmic microwave background radiation—the visible radiation left over from the cosmic origin event. Second, it predicts that the echo from these early cosmic sound waves would leave an imprint on the distribution of galaxies and galaxy clusters throughout the universe. With the help of two spectacular sets of research data, one from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe2 (which mapped the temperature of the cosmic background radiation) and the other from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (which mapped the distribution of nearby galaxies), astronomers were able to observe both signatures.3
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey yielded a three-dimensional map of all the galaxies within 330 million light-years of Earth. It revealed what the model had predicted, a weblike structure of galaxies and galaxy clusters (see figure 1). To provide any greater precision would require mapping that cosmic web out to a distance of ten billion light-years, a task demanding a large team of astronomers several life times and some yet-to-be funded super-telescopes to complete. In the last few months, however, an international team of four astronomers has proven the viability of a much more accessible measuring technique, one based on the combined light of thousands of closely clustered galaxies.4
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Richard Powell
Figure 1: Distribution of Nearby Galaxies and Galaxy Clusters
This three-dimensional map of the universe out to nearly 500 million light-years from Earth reveals a web like structure of filaments and voids.
The team has dubbed their technique “intensity mapping,” and it applies to measuring distant “knots” in the cosmic web (see figure 2). A knot in the cosmic web is a point on the web where ten thousand or more galaxies are bunched up. By measuring the combined light of all the galaxies in the knot and determining the intensity of the 21-centimeter neutral hydrogen spectral line, astronomers can determine the knot’s mass. Meanwhile, the wavelength of the line helps determine both the position and the distance of the web.
Credit: Springer et al., Virgo Consortium
Figure 2: Model of the Cosmic Web
Clusters of galaxies are expected to develop at the intersection points of the web.
The team successfully tested the viability of their new technique on a knot located about seven billion lightyears away. With the availability and viability of this new technique, astronomers have gained the potential, using existing telescopes, to create three-dimensional maps of the cosmic web as far out as twelve or thirteen billion light-years. Such an extensive map will further unveil the nature of dark energy and provide a much more detailed view of cosmic creation. Based on the trend established over several decades now, this closer look will likely yield more indicators of cosmic design for the benefit of life, and of humanity, in particular. Thanks to this new technological advance, the promise of even more compelling evidence for the biblical account of cosmic creation is at hand.