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International team strengthens Big Bang Theory

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Posted June 7, 2013
The image illustrates the detailed modelling of a small piece of the surface of an old metal-poor star used to derive its abundance of lithium-6. Credit: Karin Lind, Davide De Martin

The image illustrates the detailed modelling of a small piece of the surface of an old metal-poor star used to derive its abundance of lithium-6. Credit: Karin Lind, Davide De Martin

An international team of scientists using the most powerful telescope on Earth has discovered the moments just after the Big Bang happened more like the theory predicts, eliminating a significant discrepancy that troubled physicists for two decades. The discovery will be published in the international journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on June 6.

One of the most important problems in physics and astronomy was the inconsistency between the lithium isotopes previously observed in the oldest stars in our galaxy, which suggested levels about two hundred times more Li-6 and about three to five time less Li-7 than Big Bang nucleosynthesis predicts. This serious problem in our understanding of the early Universe has invoked exotic physics and fruitless searches for pre-galactic production sources to reconcile the differences.

The team, led by Karin Lind of the University of Cambridge, has proven the decades-old inventory relied on lower quality observational data with analysis using several simplifications that resulted in spurious detections of lithium isotopes.

Using observations of ancient stars with W. M. Keck Observatory’s 10-meter telescope and state-of-the-art models of their atmospheres has shown that there is no conflict between their lithium-6 and lithium-7 content and predictions of the standard theory of Big Bang nucleosynthesis, restoring thus the order in our theory of the early universe.

The discovery that the universe was expanding by Edwin Hubble in the 1920s and subsequent observations suggest the universe began about 13.8 billion years ago in an event called the Big Bang. The fundamental observations that corroborate the Big Bang are the cosmic microwave radiation and the chemical abundances of the light elements described in the Big Bang nucleosynthesis theory.

“The predictions of Big Bang nucleosynthesis have been one of the main successes of the standard Big Bang model,” said lead author Lind. “Our findings remove much of the stark tension between 6Li and 7Li abundances in stars and standard BBN, even opening up the door for a full reconciliation. This further consolidates a model resting heavily on the pillars of the cosmic microwave background and the expanding Universe.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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