Counting Galaxies To Solve a Cosmological Puzzle: Putting the Theory of Special Relativity Into Practice

Spacetime Special Relativity Concept

The theory of relativity usually encompasses two interrelated theories by Albert Einstein: special relativity published in 1905 and general relativity published in 1915. Special relativity applies to all physical phenomena in the absence of gravity. General relativity explains the law of gravitation and its relation to other forces of nature.

The theory of relativity was developed by Albert Einstein in the early 1900s due to the inability of classical physics to explain certain observations. It has two components, special relativity and general relativity.

Special relativity is based on the key concepts of a constant speed of light and physical events must look the same to all observers and applies to all physical phenomena without significant gravitation. General relativity is the idea that space and time are two aspects of spacetime, and what we perceive as gravity is the warping of spacetime.

Scientists who study the cosmos have a favorite philosophy known as the “mediocrity principle,” which, in essence, suggests that there’s really nothing special about Earth, the Sun, or the Milky Way galaxy compared to the rest of the universe.

Now, new research from the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU Boulder) adds yet another piece of evidence to the case for mediocrity: Galaxies are, on average, at rest with respect to the early universe. Jeremy Darling, a CU Boulder astrophysics professor, published this new cosmological finding on May 26, 2022, in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Thousands of Galaxies Hubble Space Telescope

This image made from a composite of September 2003 – January 2004 photos captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows nearly 10,000 galaxies in the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos, cutting across billions of light-years. Credit: Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), HUDF Team

“What this research is telling us is that we have a funny motion, but that funny motion is consistent with everything we know about the universe—there’s nothing special going on here,” said Darling. “We’re not special as a galaxy or as observers.”

Roughly 35 years ago, researchers discovered the cosmic microwave background, which is electromagnetic radiation left over from the universe’s formation during the Big Bang. The cosmic microwave background appears warmer in the direction of our motion and cooler away from the direction of our motion.

From this glow of the early universe, scientists can infer that the Sun—and the Earth orbiting around it—is moving in a certain direction, at a certain speed. Researchers find that our inferred velocity is a fraction of a percent of the speed of light—small, but not zero.

Jeremy Darling

Astrophysics professor Jeremy Darling studies galaxy evolution, massive black holes, star formation, and cosmology. Credit: University of Colorado at Boulder

Scientists can independently test this inference by counting the galaxies that are visible from Earth or adding up their brightness. They can do this thanks largely to Albert Einstein’s 1905 theory of special relativity, which explains how speed affects time and space. In this application, a person on Earth looking out into the universe in one direction—the same direction that the Sun and the Earth are moving—should see galaxies that are brighter, bluer, and more concentrated. Similarly, by looking in the other direction, the person should see galaxies that are darker, redder, and spaced farther apart.

But when investigators have tried to count galaxies in recent years—a process that’s difficult to do accurately—they’ve come up with numbers that suggest the Sun is moving much faster than previously thought, which is at odds with standard cosmology.

“It’s hard to count galaxies over the whole sky—you’re usually stuck with a hemisphere or less,” said Darling. “And, on top of that, our own galaxy gets in the way. It has dust that will cause you to find fewer galaxies and will make them look dimmer as you get closer to our galaxy.”

Darling was intrigued and perplexed by this cosmological puzzle, so he decided to investigate it for himself. He also knew there were two recently released surveys that could help improve the accuracy of a galaxy count—and shed light on the velocity mystery: one called the Very Large Array Sky Survey (VLASS) in New Mexico, and the other called the Rapid Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder Continuum Survey (RACS) in Australia.

“I love the idea that this basic principle that Einstein told us about a long time ago is something you can see. It’s a really esoteric thing that seems super weird, but if you go out and count galaxies, you could see this neat effect. It’s not quite as esoteric or weird as you might think.” — Jeremy Darling

Together, these surveys allowed Darling to study the entire sky by patching together views from the northern and southern hemispheres. Importantly, the new surveys also used radio waves, which made it easier to “see” through the dust of the Milky Way, thus improving the view of the universe.

When Darling analyzed the surveys, he found that the number of galaxies and their brightness was in perfect agreement with the velocity researchers had previously inferred from the cosmic microwave background.

“We find a bright direction and a dim direction—we find a direction where there are more galaxies and a direction where there are fewer galaxies,” he said. “The big difference is that it lines up with the early universe from the cosmic microwave background and it has the right speed. Our cosmology is just fine.”

Because Darling’s findings differ from past results, his paper will likely prompt various follow-up studies to confirm or dispute his results.

But in addition to pushing the field of cosmology forward, the findings are a good real-world example of Einstein’s special relativity theory—and they demonstrate how researchers are still putting the theory into practice, more than 100 years after the famed physicist first proposed it.

“I love the idea that this basic principle that Einstein told us about a long time ago is something you can see,” Darling said. “It’s a really esoteric thing that seems super weird, but if you go out and count galaxies, you could see this neat effect. It’s not quite as esoteric or weird as you might think.”

Reference: “The Universe is Brighter in the Direction of Our Motion: Galaxy Counts and Fluxes are Consistent with the CMB Dipole” by Jeremy Darling, 26 May 2022, Astrophysical Journal Letters.
DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac6f08

6 Comments on "Counting Galaxies To Solve a Cosmological Puzzle: Putting the Theory of Special Relativity Into Practice"

  1. Francis Grant | June 5, 2022 at 7:53 pm | Reply

    Will this have any impact on the ongoing discrepancy in the calculation of the Hubble constant I wonder?

  2. Darren Kenneth Pritchard | June 6, 2022 at 2:42 am | Reply

    Interesting darling. Why did you choose this field 9f work , when you could asked your mom for her hand. Still single, your love is. URY now of janie . Call me dad. Darren Kenneth Pritchard.

  3. Mike Pollock | June 6, 2022 at 6:01 am | Reply

    The galaxies are expanding but why? They are supposedly expanding to the point of acceleration. Why? What energy did all this? If the initial singularity contained all the mass of the universe, what force could possibly overcome the obvious gravity and initiate the expansion?

    The answer is a collision. Edwin Hubble discovered the galaxies expanding, not the universe. A priest that was an astrophysicist decided for the world that the universe was expanding when Hubble, and many of his peers, wanted nothing to do with the assumption because it sounded too religious. A theory must explain explain everything by law. If it doesn’t, massive problems will be created. Obviously, that is what has happened.
    The first law of thermodynamics states that everything must have already been here when the Big Bang happened. Is that so hard to comprehend? Is it really feasible to think our universe has some sort of age? It will live for what is infinity to us yet it was born 13.8 billion years ago? Is that not stating that the universe is created for us? If that isn’t a religious explanation, I don’t know what is.

    The galaxies are expanding because they are shrapnel from a massive collision. It looks like the universe is accelerating in its expansion because the collision created a non-isotropic expansion of matter just like any explosion on Earth would create. If it is assumed that the universe is expanding, this will make the non-isotropic expansion of matter look like an accelerating, expanding universe, not just an expanding universe.

    Young people in the astrophysicist field have no choice but to try to decipher our universe using the Big Bang, Lambda-CDM model. Any attempt to understand any of the problems that have existed for nearly a century must be carried out using a theory that has never worked. Unfortunately, no laws are followed with this theory. When someone states “that is what we are supposed to see”, it is misguided. Dark energy, dark matter, black holes, the muon wobble, the W boson heaviness, gravity, and many other problems still exist. The supposed theories that are used to explain everything are facts, not theories. As Einstein said, problems will never be solved using the same process that created them.

    The galaxies are expanding because they are shrapnel from a massive collision. Two, already existing objects that contained the mass of the observable galaxies collided at an astronomical speed in an already existing, static universe. The galaxies obtained all their energy from the collision. Gravity is unresolved because it was chosen to create all the energy instead of a collision. The first law is satisfied because everything already existed 13.8 billion years ago. The second law is satisfied because everything has cooled ever since the collision happened. Newton’s third law is satisfied because the galaxies are shrapnel. All the laws are followed with this theory while the theory that has existed for nearly a century follows none of them.

    This is the Theory of Everything. Occam’s Razor states that the explanation will be simple and it is. Occam’s Razor also completely discredits the Big Bang theory because there is nothing simple about it at all. The confusion has lasted ever since the theory was made a law. Paradigm shifts are never easy to come by because science is not interested in changing what it thinks are facts. All the observations, like the one in this article, are applied to a model that has never worked. Jeremy states that everything makes sense when it doesn’t.

    The Theory of Everything is here and I have stated it on this website for a couple of years. I follow every law of physics that exists while current theories follow none of them. This is a paradigm shift and they are incredibly hard for science to accept because of conventionalism. It doesn’t matter that nothing makes sense in our universe because the Big Bang theory is a fact no matter what. The part of this theory that is the most detrimental to science is the assumption that fusion is the ultimate energy. This is because, after the initial Big Bang cooled down, the elements were created. That means that, whatever the ultimate energy consists of, it must be created by elements so the fusing if two hydrogen atoms must create massive amounts of energy. Unfortunately, after 80 years of actually creating fusion, no net-gain of energy has ever been witnessed. This fact will never change because fusion is simply a conservation of energy. What scientists are looking for is actually what the Big Bang claims the universe was “born” made of which was called “quark gluon plasma” which should be called “quark-tau neutrino” plasma. Once the quarks are separated from enough of an electric shock, it is the dark matter of space that uses its pressure and density to keep the quarks apart indefinitely. It is the strong force between the quarks and Tau neutrinos that throws the incoming particles out of the reaction as gamma rays. All energy consists of is the manipulation of dark matter with energy.

    The strong force between quarks and dark matter is the fundamental force that creates all the others.

  4. Just in time for a challenge to the “mediocrity principle” from elsewhere:

  5. the more duck quacks i vomit the more the universe expands, big gravy.

  6. Everything was here on earth we just rearranged them to make it something else minerals rock metals cole

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