After investigating the thermal history of the Universe over the past 10 billion years, this team concluded that the average temperature of the cosmic gas increased more than 10 times, thus reaching about 2.2 million ° C.
The study describing these findings, “The Cosmic Thermal History Probed by Sunyaev – Zeldovich Effect Tomography“, recently appeared in The Astrophysical Journal. The study was led by Yi-Kuan Chiang, a researcher at CCAP, and included members of the Kavli Institute of Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU), Johns Hopkins University and the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics.
For this study, the team analyzed the thermal data of the Large Scale Structure (LSS) of the Universe. This refers to patterns of galaxies and matter on the largest of the cosmic scales, which is the result of the gravitational collapse of dark matter and gas.
As Dr. Chiang explained in an Ohio state press release: “This new measurement provides direct confirmation of the work of Jim Peebles – the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics – who exposed the theory of how large-scale structure is formed in universe. As the universe evolves, gravity attracts dark matter and gas from space, forming galaxies and clusters of galaxies.”
To measure thermal changes over the past 10 billion years, Chiang and colleagues combined data from ESA’s Planck Infrared Astronomical Satellite and Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Considering that Planck was the first European mission to measure the temperature of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the SDSS is a massive multispectral survey that created the most detailed 3D maps in the Universe.
From these data sets, the team correlated eight of the sky intensity maps (from Planck) with two million redshift spectroscopic references (from SDSS). Combining redshift measurements (which are routinely used to determine how fast objects are moving away from us) and light-based temperature estimates, the team compared the temperature of more distant gas clouds (at the temporal level) with closest clouds, from Earth.
After analyzing and crossing data, the scientists concluded that the temperature of the Universe has been rising since its creation, and shows a tendency to increase
From this, the research team was able to confirm that the average temperature of the gases at the beginning of the Universe was lower than it is now – about 4 billion after the Big Bang. This, apparently, is due to the gravitational collapse of the cosmic structure over time, a trend that will continue and become more intense as the expansion of the Universe continues to accelerate.
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