For the first time researchers have measured large distances in the Universe using data, rather than calculations related to general relativity.
A research team from Imperial College London and the University of Barcelona has used data from astronomical surveys to measure a standard distance that is central to our understanding of the expansion of the universe.
Previously the size of this ‘standard ruler’ has only been predicted from theoretical models that rely on general relativity to explain gravity at large scales. The new study is the first to measure it using observed data. A standard ruler is an object which consistently has the same physical size so that a comparison of its actual size to its size in the sky will provide a measurement of its distance to earth.
“Our research suggests that current methods for measuring distance in the Universe are more complicated than they need to be,” said Professor Alan Heavens from the Department of Physics, Imperial College London who led the study. “Traditionally in cosmology, general relativity plays a central role in most models and interpretations. We have demonstrated that current data are powerful enough to measure the geometry and expansion history of the Universe without relying on calculations relating to general relativity.
“We hope this more data-driven approach, combined with an ever increasing wealth of observational data, could provide more precise measurements that will be useful for future projects that are planning to answer major questions around the acceleration of the Universe and dark energy.”
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (French: Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire, originally “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire“), known as CERN (/ˈsɜrn/; French pronunciation: [sɛʁn]; see History) is an international organization whose purpose is to operate the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.
Established in 1954, the organization is based in the northwest suburbs of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border, (46°14′3″N 6°3′19″E) and has twenty European member states.
The term CERN is also used to refer to the laboratory, which employs just under 2,400 full-time employees and 1,500 part-time employees, and hosts some 10,000 visiting scientists and engineers, representing 608 universities and research facilities and 113 nationalities.
CERN’s main function is to provide the particle accelerators and other infrastructure needed for high-energy physics research – as a result, numerous experiments have been constructed at CERN following international collaborations. It is also the birthplace of the World Wide Web. The main site at Meyrin has a large computer centre containing powerful data-processing facilities, primarily for experimental-data analysis; because of the need to make these facilities available to researchers elsewhere, it has historically been a major wide area networking hub.