Scientists sent protons to a deuterium nucleus to figure out what the universe looked like just minutes after it was born.
The known expression of “stardust” which would make up our human bodies refers to the first moments of the universe which saw the creation of all the elements that today make up our body, our planet, our solar system and all the universe.
Scientists looked at the first moments of the universe in an underground laboratory in a mountain Italian Gran Sasso. The study, published in Nature and relayed by Vice, was attempting to measure the rate at which deuterium “burns” by experimentally recreating a nuclear fusion reaction that occurred at the beginning of time (or time). The aim being to verify whether the scientific calculations and predictions in accordance with the Big Bang theory were plausible or if the thesis of an original great explosion had to be reviewed.
“We are really excited about our results, which will certainly be of interest to the community of particle and nuclear physicists.“said Carlo Gustavino and Sandra Zavatarelli, nuclear physicists at the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics who co-authored the study.
The amount of deuterium which was formed by the nucleosynthesis of the Big Bang and the speed at which it had to transform into other atomic shapes are important pieces in the puzzle of our cosmic origins. Scientists desperately need these types of indicators because they cannot not observe directly the moments of formation of the universe.
Measurements are difficult to take due to cosmic ray interference. The solution is to bury yourself underground, but not just a few meters. The Underground Nuclear Astrophysics Laboratory (LUNA) is located more than a kilometer away under the rocky massif of Gran Sasso, in Italy, allowing a “a million-fold reduction of cosmic muons“, according to the study.
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LUNA researchers sent billions of protons per second to a deuterium nucleus using a particle accelerator. After years of testing and taking data, the news came out: “the rate of this reaction is in the same range than other experimental estimates of the combustion of deuterium after the Big Bang.“
A very small step towards understanding the beginnings of our universe filled with mysteries and realities that do not always stick to scientific calculations and forecasts. “Perhaps the answer lies in new physics or more likely in a better understanding of astrophysical processes.“