Writing in The Astrophysical Journal, researchers on the QUaD telescope project have released detailed maps of the cosmic microwave background (CMB); they focused their measurements on variations in the CMB's temperature and polarization to learn about the distribution of matter in the early universe.
Polarization is the direction in which vibrations travel from all light rays, which is at right angles to the ray's direction of travel.
The light from the early universe was initially unpolarized but became polarized when it struck moving matter in the very early universe. By creating maps of this polarization, the QUaD team was able to investigate not just where the matter existed, but also how it was moving. The results very closely match the temperature and polarization predicted by the existence of dark matter and dark energy in the standard cosmological model.
The team was jointly led by Professor Walter Gear, Head of the School of Physics and astronomy at Cardiff University and Professor Sarah Church of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), jointly located at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University.
Gear said, "Studying the CMB radiation has given us extremely precise pictures of the Universe at just 400,000 years old. When we first started working on this project the polarization of the CMB hadn't even been detected and we thought we might be able to find something wrong with the theory. The fact that these superb data fit the theory so beautifully is in many ways even more amazing. This reinforces the view that researchers are on the right track and need to learn more about the strange nature of dark energy and dark matter if we are to fully understand the workings of the universe."
Michael Brown, of the Kavli Institute for Cosmology at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the new study added, "With these new QUaD measurements, we have tested further our standard model of the Universe. Reassuringly, the model has passed this test remarkably well."