Mark Helper, UBC professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is part of the international team collaborating on ACT, which includes scientists from 41 institutions from seven countries. The Atacama Cosmology Telescope is a six-meter diameter telescope with a very sensitive camera. It measures polarized light. It is one of the highest altitude observatories in the world, located along the ridge of the Chilean Andes to minimize the contamination from microwave radiation emitted by the ground. The telescope was built by Empire Dynamic Systems in Port Coquitlam and was carried by boat from Vancouver to Chile.
It is designed to operate at wavelengths around a few millimeters, where the brightest thing in the sky is a thermal glow from the plasma. It fills the early universe. ACT optimize all of its time for scanning back and forth, making it the most sensitive map that can form a cosmic structure.
The polarization measurements are very accurate in these figures. The brightness of the sky tells us about the structure in the early universe. Polarization tells us about motion. Together, the data gives us a very detailed picture of dynamics. We used to think that the universe is about 13.77 billion years old, as well as 40 million years. We now believe that it is 13.79 billion years old, or reduced to 21 million years. In the opinion of some scientists, 21 million years seems like a huge uncertainty, but as a fraction, it is very accurate.
The new data is considered excellent. The model fits very well, and the model is simple. Looking at the data, we understand the system, and there are not many options for the universe to grow. Do these figures and conclusions raise any new questions about our universe and its origins?
The latest estimate tells us that the universe is 93 billion light-years wide. Light years are the unit by which we measure long distances. The speed of light is very fast. It covers a distance of about two lakh kilometers in a second.
The earth we live on is part of the solar system. There are nine planets in the solar system, orbiting the sun. The sun is a star, which is part of our galaxy. The galaxy is composed of many stars and their orbiting planets, meteorites and comets. There are many galaxies in the universe like our Milky Way. Scientists have been working for years to make a firm idea about how much they are, what their size is.
In the early twentieth century, there was a debate between American scientist Harlow Shapley and his partner Heber Curtis on how large our galaxy is. Shepley said that the Milky Way is about three million light-years wide. At the same time, Heber Curtis used to say that the Milky Way is not so big.
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