Open Questions: Large-scale Structure of the Universe

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See also: The cosmic microwave background

Introduction

Clustering of galaxies

The cosmic web

Topology of the universe


Recommended references: Web sites

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Recommended references: Books

Introduction



Recommended references: Web sites

Site indexes


Sites with general resources

Jean-Pierre Luminet
Luminet is director of Astrophysics at the Paris-Meudon Observatory. His current research is mainly concerned with the topology of the universe. His page links to several tutorial articles, including A Finite Dodecahedral Universe, The Topology of the Universe, and Mirror, Mirror Up Above. There is also a directory of more technical research publications.
The IRAS PSCz Redshift Survey
A redshift survey of 15,000 galaxies which provides data on questions such as large-scale galaxy clustering.
Sloan Digital Sky Survey
"The Sloan Digital Sky Survey is the most ambitious astronomical survey project ever undertaken. The survey will map in detail one-quarter of the entire sky, determining the positions and absolute brightnesses of more than 100 million celestial objects." The Web site includes information about the project, a Q & A page, an image gallery, and useful external links.
The 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey
Research project surveying redshifts (distance) of more than 250,000 galaxies, the largest such survey to date. Site includes a "fly-through" movie of the survey.
Mock Galaxy Distributions
A computer simulation project at Caltech.


Surveys, overviews, tutorials

Large-scale structure of the cosmos
Article from Wikipedia. See also Shape of the universe, Topology of the universe.
From Quantum Foam to Galaxies: Formation of the Large-Scale Structure in the Universe
Contains several pages discussing the formation of the earliest galaxies and clusters. Includes computer simulations, visualizations, and some external links. Part of the Center for Cosmological Physics site.
A cosmic hall of mirrors
September 2005 article from Physics World, by Jean-Pierre Luminet. "Most astronomers think that the universe is infinite, but recent measurements suggest that it could be finite and relatively small. Indeed, as Jean-Pierre Luminet describes, we could be living in an exotic universe shaped rather like a football."
Measuring the Universe
Visual materials from a presentation by Neil Cornish.
Constraining the Topology of the Universe
Technical paper, published May 2004, by Neil J. Cornish, David N. Spergel, Glenn D. Starkman, and Eiichiro Komatsu. (PDF format) The research reported indicates that the "diameter" of the universe is at least 78 billion light years.
Measuring the Topology of the Universe
1998 semi-technical paper by Neil J. Cornish, David N. Spergel, and Glenn D. Starkman. Describes how "observations of microwave background fluctuations can yield information not only about the geometry of the universe, but potentially about the topology of the universe."
Topology of the Universe
A brief tutorial on possible topologies of the universe, and evidence from studies of the cosmic microwave background that constrain the possibilities, by Angelica de Oliveira-Costa.
Large Scale Structure
A presentation by Scott Dodelson, in PDF format, from an October 2001 conference on cosmology.
Ripples in Space: The Origin of Structures in the Universe
What we can learn from the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation.
Cosmologists Confirm Web-Like Structure of Early Universe
May 21, 2001 news story from Scientific American.
Magnetic Anomalies
August 2000 story from Scientific American on the puzzle of magnetic fields in intergalactic space.
Rare Galaxies Shed Light on a Dark Universe
Press release from the Institute for Computational Cosmology on a computer simulation of the clustering of bright galaxies as a result of the distribution of cold dark matter, and a comparison with data from the 2-degree Field Galaxy Redshift Survey (2dFGRS).
Universe as Doughnut: New Data, New Debate
March 11, 2003 feature article from the New York Times, by Dennis Overbye. There are hints from the latest CMB observations that the topology of the universe might be more complicated than usually assumed.
It's a low-density universe
March 2001 news article about mapping the position and velocity of over 141,000 galaxies by the 2dF survey.
Universe Maps Keep Getting Bigger
March 1999 news article about early results of the 2dF survey which plot positions of 30,000 galaxies.
Astronomers' colossal cartographic creation
February 1999 news article about a map of galaxy positions for 15,500 galaxies.


Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Reading the Blueprints of Creation
Michael A. Strauss
Scientific American, February 2004
The Universe Takes Shape
Ken Grimes; Alison Boyle
Astronomy, October 2002, pp. 34-39
The universe could have a topology more complex than that of a sphere -- a torus, for example. Observations of the cosmic microwave background by the Microwave Anisotropy Probe may soon be able to determine what the topology actually is.
Size Matters
Steve Nadis
Astronomy, March 2002, pp. 28-32
Galaxies group together in clusters and superclusters, but there seem to be no further structures of scale larger than 400 or 500 million light years. However, it is still not possible to be very confident about how well we understand the distribution of galaxies in the universe.
The Shape of the Universe: Ten Possibilities
Colin Adams; Joey Shapiro
American Scientist, September-October 2001, pp. 443-453
Much evidence now suggest that the universe is "flat", having uniformly zero curvature. But this doesn't imply it is infinite in extent. There are 18 possible Euclidean (flat) 3-manifolds, of which only 10 are orientable. Our universe is probably one of these 10 types. Detailed maps of the cosmic microwave background could make it possible to determine the actual shape.
[Abstract and references]
Big, Bigger...Biggest?
Ron Cowen
Science Week, August 12, 2000, pp. 104-105
Maps of galaxies produced by the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey indicate that superclusters are the largest structures in the universe.
[References]
Mapping the Universe
Stephen D. Landy
Scientific American, June 1999, pp. 38-45
The distribution of galaxies tells a lot about the early history of the universe. Harmonic analysis is a key technique for understanding the distribution data.
Is Space Finite?
Jean-Pierre Luminet, Glenn D. Starkman, Jeffrey R. Weeks
Scientific American, April 1999, pp. 90-97
Whether the universe is finite or infinite in extent is a fundamental open question. It depends on the topology of spacetime, and observations of the cosmic background radiation that will be feasible in just a few years should make it possible to determine the topology.
Measuring the Shape of the Universe
Neil J. Cornish; Jeffrey R. Weeks
Notices of the AMS, December 1998, pp. 1463-1471
An excellent technical article on how the topology of the universe may be deduced from cosmic microwave background data. The idea is that if the universe is finite (necessary if the overall curvature is positive, but still possible even if the curvature is zero or negative), temperature fluctuations in the CMB will repeat in a predictable way that reveals the topology. The Microwave Anisotropy Probe experiment should provide the necessary data.
[Article in PDF format]
Galaxies behind the Milky Way
Renée C. Kraan-Korteweg; Ofer Lahav
Scientific American, October, 1998, pp. 50-57
About a fifth of the universe has been difficult or impossible to observe because it's blocked by the disk of the Milky Way. Some of the features hidden in that region include the core of the "Great Attractor", a very nearby dwarf galaxy, and unsuspected galactic superclusters.
Beyond the Soapsuds Universe
Gary Taubes
Discover, August 1997, pp. 52-59
The distribution of galaxies is far from uniform. This non-uniformity constrains models of how the universe developed. Future surveys will provide much more information about the distribution.
Very Large Structures in the Universe
Jack O. Burns
Scientific American, July 1986, pp. 38-47
Superclusters consisting of many galaxy clusters and extending more than a billion light years in length are the largest structures in the universe so far observed. They are probably the result of very small perturbations in the distribution of matter in the very early universe.
The Large-Scale Structure of the Universe
Joseph Silk; Alexander S. Szalay; Yakov B. Zeldovich
Scientific American, October 1983, pp. 72-80
The large-scale structure of the universe comprises vast galactic superclusters and huge voids. The structure probably results from density fluctuations of matter which gave rise to flattened clouds of gas resembling flattened pancakes.


Recommended references: Books

Avishal Dekel, Jeremiah P. Ostriker, eds.- Formation of Structure in the Universe
Cambridge University Press, 1999
A technical but not highly mathematical treatment of the subject. Topics include the role of dark matter, interpretation of the microwave background, galaxy clusters and superclusters, gravitational lensing, and the mass of the universe.

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Copyright © 2002 by Charles Daney, All Rights Reserved