A dynamic form of dark energy may explain strange radiation signal from the early universe

The initial stars in our universe may have left behind traces of a dynamic, developing type of dark energy.

Scientists are baffled by dark energy, the enigmatic force that controls the cosmos' energy and seems to be speeding up the universe's expansion.

In other words, cosmologists are unsure of the nature of dark energy. In order to learn more about dark energy and how it operates, scientists are developing a wide range of theoretical models and examining their observable ramifications.

Recent findings show that the radiation released when the universe's earliest stars emerged may have already provided evidence of a dynamic, changing type of dark energy.

The cosmos was considerably darker then than it is now, billions of years ago. The earliest stars and galaxies took a long time to develop and emerge, but when they did, they fundamentally altered the universe.

Neutral hydrogen and helium gas predominated in the cosmos before the first stars were formed. When our universe was 380,000 years old and had cooled to the point where the hot plasma could become neutral — when electrons could finally bond to nuclei to form the first atoms — that gas had formed during the historic era known as recombination.

However, the first stars' powerful radiation blasted through the neutral gas and returned it to a plasma state. Thus, cosmologists gave the first star's emergence the name "Cosmic Dawn" and the universe's subsequent abrupt phase change the name "Epoch of Reionization." A few hundred million years after the Big Bang, these things happened.

The cosmic period during which the first stars and galaxies originated, as well as the period of Reionization, are not yet the subject of any direct observations or maps. The biggest difficulty is that the light from those earliest stars is really feeble because these events took place exceptionally long ago.

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However, there is still another way to view the Reionization Epoch. Radiation from neutral hydrogen has a very narrow wavelength of 21 cm (8.3 in). Although this is a very weak signal, neutral hydrogen was abundant in the past. But since that radiation was released billions of years ago, the cosmos has grown to a size that is around ten times larger than it was before. The 21-cm radiation's wavelength has been widened by this growth, and it may now be detected at radio wavelengths.

A group of scientists asserted in 2018 to have found the 21-cm signal that was released when the cosmos was just 230 million years old. However, compared to what theoretical studies had predicted, the radiation's signal was more than twice as powerful. The finding raises questions about our knowledge of early cosmic history, if it is legitimate (which is still up for dispute as the outcome has not been verified by another team).

A novel explanation for the puzzling result has just been put up by Lu Yin, an astrophysicist at the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics in South Korea.

Yin's research, which was submitted to the preprint repository arXiv, examined the interacting Chevallier-Polarski-Linder dark energy (ICPL) model. According to this theory, dark energy is a dynamical force that may fluctuate over time and affect the acceleration rate of the universe's expansion rather than being a constant of the cosmos. But that capacity for evolution instantly raises the question of what governs the evolution of dark energy. As a result, this model permits dark energy and dark matter to interact; as a result, both of them are kept in control as the universe expands.

Beyond the 21-cm signal, there are further cosmic observations. As a result, Yin first adjusted the ICPL model to account for additional findings, particularly those pertaining to the universe's recent expansion history. The early universe's evolution was then reproduced using a fine-tuned model in Yin's hands. In contrast to conventional cosmological models, Yin discovered that the ICPL model was better able to explain the peculiar observed 21-cm signal because it caused stars and galaxies to form sooner than in normal cosmological models.

This outcome is fascinating, but it's not a lock. There are still questions around the 21-cm findings, and there are alternative hypotheses that might fit the eerie signal. Nevertheless, this demonstrates how researchers might approach such data and work to advance knowledge of dark energy and dark matter.