Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

An Alice-in-Wonderland universe? Physicist discovers an apparent cosmic parity violation

Date:
June 10, 2011
Source:
University of Michigan, Physics Department
Summary:
Does our universe have mirror symmetry? That is the question physicist Michael Longo asked. The answer could perhaps be found by studying the rotation directions of spiral galaxies.

Does our universe have mirror symmetry? That is the question Prof. Michael Longo of the University of Michigan's Physics Department asked. The answer could perhaps be found by studying the rotation directions of spiral galaxies.

Physicists and astronomers have always assumed that the Universe has this symmetry. To test this, Longo and his team of five undergraduates used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to study the rotation directions of spiral galaxies. The mirror image of a counter-clockwise rotating galaxy, like the example, would have clockwise rotation. An excess of one type over the other would be evidence for a breakdown of mirror symmetry, or, in physics speak, a "parity violation" on cosmic scales.

Longo and his team, after studying tens of thousands of spiral galaxies, found an excess of left-handed spirals in the part of the sky toward the north pole of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The excess is small, about 7%. However, Longo estimates the chance that the excess could be a cosmic accident is something like one in a million. The effect extended out to distances over 600 million light years. Our galaxy also rotates in the same sense.

"If verified, this data would be extremely important because it is almost universally accepted that on sufficiently large scales the universe is isotropic (no special direction)," he said.

If spiral galaxies tend to have their rotation axes aligned in one direction, it means that there is also a preferred direction in the universe. This violates another tenet of astrophysics that assumes the universe has no special direction or is "isotropic."

Because the Sloan telescope is in the northern hemisphere, the data that was analyzed came mostly from the northern hemisphere of the sky. An important test of this result will be to see if there is an excess of right-handed spiral galaxies in the southern hemisphere. Longo looked at the limited sample that is available now, and found that there does seem to be more right-handed ones there. More data from the southern hemisphere will provide an important test of this result.

Longo's paper has recently been published in Physics Letters B. An anonymous referee who reviewed the paper for the journal said: "In the paper the author claims that there is a preferred handedness of spiral galaxies indicating a preferred direction in the universe. Such [a] claim, if proven true, would have a profound impact on cosmology and would very likely result in a Nobel prize."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan, Physics Department. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael J. Longo. Detection of a dipole in the handedness of spiral galaxies with redshifts z∼0.04. Physics Letters B, 2011; 699 (4): 224 DOI: 10.1016/j.physletb.2011.04.008

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan, Physics Department. "An Alice-in-Wonderland universe? Physicist discovers an apparent cosmic parity violation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110610125655.htm>.
University of Michigan, Physics Department. (2011, June 10). An Alice-in-Wonderland universe? Physicist discovers an apparent cosmic parity violation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110610125655.htm
University of Michigan, Physics Department. "An Alice-in-Wonderland universe? Physicist discovers an apparent cosmic parity violation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110610125655.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) — SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

AP (Apr. 20, 2014) — Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The SpaceX company's cargo ship, Dragon, spent two days chasing the International Space Station following its launch from Cape Canaveral. (April 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Extremely Large Telescope Could Spot Alien Life

Extremely Large Telescope Could Spot Alien Life

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) — Scientists are preparing to blow up a Chilean mountain to construct the Extremely Large Telescope, which will take detailed pictures of exoplanets. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) — FOREO, a Swedish cosmetics company, says it wants to brighten the moon to lower electricity costs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins