The infinity of space may look like it is quite empty, unfathomably vast stretches of it being nothing but a glorified void, but it has long been speculated that perhaps the most important part of space, beyond the planets and the stars, lies in these "nether" regions, as it is believed that they are comprised of the theorized dark matter and dark energy, which are said to be responsible for the universe’s present acceleration outwards.
In order to ascertain whether these theorized substances actually exist, scientists have routinely conducted observations and devised experiments to finally answer the question and in one of the latest efforts, researchers from the BOSS (Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey) team have come up with a unique way to observe dark energy that existed some 10 billion years ago.
Using the 2.5m Sloan Foundation Telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, US, the BOSS researchers are trying to study quasars, large space bodies, to map the dispersal of hydrogen gas in space. The resulting 3D map that may be obtained may possibly help scientists to the effects of dark energy over time. Details of the study have been published in the journal, Astronomy and Astrophysics.
According to the data that the BOSS team has managed to gather, it is apparent that at least within the early days of the universe, dark energy did not have much of a role to play, but this has since changed. Speaking about the research, BOSS team member and Portsmouth University professor, Dr. Matthew Pieri said, "We know very little about dark energy but one of our ideas is that it is a property of space itself - when you have more space, you have more energy. So, dark energy is something that increases with time. As the Universe expands, it gives us more space and therefore more energy, and at some point dark energy takes over from gravity to end the deceleration and drive an acceleration.”
The 3D map that the BOSS team has generated has used some 50,000 quasars as markers, backlighting the spread of hydrogen in space and mapping the distribution up to 11 billion light years away, well into cosmic past. Dr. Pieri adds, “What we're basically confirming is this nice roller-coaster analogy. From the Big Bang, the expansion of the Universe was decelerating, and then we crested the hill about seven billion years ago, and it was like something putting the foot on the pedal and the acceleration occurred."