Washington, Jan 11 : Cosmologists have come a step closer to solving the mystery of dark energy present in the Universe, through simulations developed by a super-computer at the Durham University in UK.
Scientists believe that dark energy, which makes up 70 per cent of the Universe, is driving its accelerating expansion. If this expansion continues to accelerate, experts say it could eventually lead to a "Big Freeze" as the Universe is pulled apart and becomes a vast cold expanse of dying stars and black holes.
The simulations, which took 11 days to run on Durham's Cosmology Machine (COSMA) computer, looked at tiny ripples in the distribution of matter in the Universe made by sound waves a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang.
Though the ripples are delicate and some have even been destroyed over the subsequent 13 billion years of the Universe, the simulations showed that they survived in certain conditions.
By changing the nature of dark energy in the simulations, the researchers discovered that the ripples appeared to change in length and could act as a "standard ruler" in the measurement of dark energy.
"The ripples are a 'gold standard'. By comparing the size of the measured ripples to the gold standard, we can work out how the Universe has expanded and from this figure out the properties of the dark energy," said ICC Director Professor Carlos Frenk.
"Thanks to this comparison, it will be possible to unveil the nature of dark energy and to understand how the structures in the Universe built up and evolved with cosmic time," said Co-principal investigator Professor Andrea Cimatti, of Bologna University.
"Astronomers are stuck with the one universe we live in. However, the simulations allow us to experiment with what might have happened if there had been more or less dark energy in the universe," said Professor Frenk.
In the next five to 10 years a number of experiments are planned to explore dark energy.