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 September 22, 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 September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Has Finally Reached Mars

NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Has Finally Reached Mars

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) — After a 10-month voyage through space, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is now orbiting the Red Planet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: SpaceX Rocket Carries 3-D Printer to Space

Raw: SpaceX Rocket Carries 3-D Printer to Space

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — A SpaceX Rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, carrying a custom-built 3-D printer into space. NASA envisions astronauts one day using the printer to make their own spare parts. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

AFP (Sep. 21, 2014) — SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo ship blasts off toward the International Space Station, carrying a load of supplies and science experiments for the astronauts living there. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — NASA's Maven will soon give information that could explain what happened to Mars' atmosphere. 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