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U09a1 Universe Review - Coursework Example

Dark energy, which also goes by the names of the cosmological constant or quintessence, must exist due to the rate of expansion we observe for our universe. Not only is the universe expanding, but this expansion is also accelerating so the unknown 'anti-gravity' force at work is termed 'dark energy'. Some researchers are searching for an explanation that encompasses both dark matter and dark energy. One example of such a theory uses a form of energy called a scalar field (it is a field because it has magnitude, energy and pressure, but it is scalar so it has no direction). Things would certainly be easier if we didn't need to have separate theories to explain dark matter and dark energy. However, other researchers look at dark matter and dark energy as two separate problems. For example, many string theories use super symmetric particles to explain dark matter and make no connection to dark energy at all. ...
2. How do we construct rotation curves for other spiral galaxies? What do they tell us about the galaxy masses and dark matter? Spiral galaxies are disks of stars and gas which rotate around their center due to the force of gravity holding them together. Without gravity, the disks would fly apart due to their large circular velocities. By measuring the speed at which the stars and gas move, we can calculate the amount of mass necessary to hold them on circular orbits, in essence measuring the mass of the galaxy. To measure the rotation speed of a spiral galaxy, we take a spectrum

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of the galaxy and measure the Doppler shift of the emission lines. From these observations we can construct the observed line of sight velocity of different parts of the galaxy. In the simplest sense, we can tell a galaxy is rotating when one side of the galaxy is moving towards us and the other is moving away. A rotation curve is a plot of the velocities of stars or gas in a galaxy versus distance from the center. It can be used to find the mass of spiral galaxies, including the Milky Way. The mass can be found by applying Kepler's and Newton's laws. Note however that the mass that one determines by measuring the velocity of a gas cloud or a star in the disk of a spiral galaxy is the mass contained within the circle made by the orbit of that object. To find the total mass of a galaxy one has to measure the velocity of a gas cloud or star at the edge of the disk of the galaxy. Very often it is much more convenient to measure the velocity of the gas rather than the stars, especially in the case of the Milky Way. In the Milky Way one has to resort to measuring the velocity of the gas because distant stars are obscured by dust in the Galactic plane. The flat rotation curves indicate
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1. Define dark matter and dark energy, and clearly distinguish between them. What types of observations have led scientists to propose the existence of each of these unseen influences? Dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that permeates space and exerts a negative pressure, which would have gravitational effects to account for the differences between the theoretical and observational results of gravitational effects on visible matter…
U09a1 Universe Review
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