I reported last week about news that scientists believe they have discovered the first light of the universe. As a follow-up to that story, here’s news that not only have scientists potentially seen the first light of the universe, but they may also have discovered what was once only a theory, dark matter.
|A stunning discovery about the start of the universe|
The universe was once entirely dark, with nary a light anywhere throughout the entire cosmos. And then a single star burst into nuclear flame, sundering the void. Then another and another, leading to the stars and galaxies of the familiar universe. In what could well be a stunning breakthrough, a group of astronomers have announced that they have found radio signals that appear to provide evidence of the first stars to come into existence. And, just to add a bit of spice to the announcement, it’s possible that they might have discovered dark matter, a hypothesized substance that has eluded discovery for decades.
Astronomer Avi Loeb, a professor at Harvard University, is quoted by the Associated Press as saying that “if confirmed, this discovery deserves two Nobel Prizes,” one for observing the signal of the first stars and the other for detecting dark matter. He went on to conservatively point out that both claims are extraordinary and require extraordinary evidence. He urged caution.
And this caution is warranted. The observed signal is very small. Radio sources in our own Milky Way galaxy can be 10,000 times stronger than the observed signal. The researchers needed to work very hard to remove this dominant signal. It’s like trying to hear someone whispering to you while at a rock concert. If you know the song and vocalist very well, you could — at least in principle — mask out the band and recover the whisper. But if the amplifiers had a crackle or the lead singer had a cold, you might get it wrong.