Monday, July 12, 2010

Cosmological anomaly confounds astronomers

An international team of researchers has uncovered a cosmological anomaly and are now trying to determine if it is an uncanny coincidence or a vital clue to understanding the origins of our Universe.

The irregularity, described in a paper accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters, has left the team, including researchers from Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology, scratching their heads.

According to Swinburne co-author Dr Michael Murphy, the paper reveals a strange coincidence - or at least what appears to be a strange coincidence - occurring in distant galaxies.

"We were studying the abundance of molecules containing deuterium-deuterated molecular hydrogen (HD) in two different galaxies in the distant Universe.

"What we inadvertently discovered was that in these two galaxies the fraction of molecules which were HD was the same as the fraction of atoms which were deuterium (D), hydrogen's doubly-heavy cousin. We then looked at the only other two existing measurements of HD in distant galaxies and found almost exactly the same thing."

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