Nick Tomasello Phys'16 BW'18 Published for Research into the Shrinking Observable Universe

Written by Jenna Pizzi
Published on September 15, 2016

Nick TomaselloThe mystery of the universe was always the most exciting and intriguing part of physics for Nick Tomasello Phys’16 BW’18.

“There is so much out there that we don’t understand,” said Tomasello.

So for his senior project last year, Tomasello thought he would try to measure the universe, or at least the part that we can see, in an effort to increase his understanding and knowledge of the deep, dark unknown.

With guidance from his mentor and advisor USciences Professor of Physics Paul Halpern, PhD, Tomasello decided to use a mathematical formula to recalculate the size of the observable universe, updating the size determined by J. Richard Gott III, a Princeton physicist, more than a decade ago.

“I had a feeling that we would find something,” said Tomasello.

And Tomasello did just that.

The new calculation completed last year, found that the radius of the observable universe is 320 million light years smaller than Gott calculated. The findings, although slight on a cosmic scale, were significant enough to be accepted for publication in the journal Advances in Astrophysics.

“Over the centuries we’ve discovered that the universe is far larger and more complex than we ever would have imagined on our own,” Tomasello said in a blog post about his research. “It’s nice, then, when we find some data that shows us that at least one aspect of it, its radius of observation, is a little smaller.”

Dr. Halpern had encountered the concept of the size of the observable universe and Gott’s work when researching his book, “Edge of the Universe.”

“Gott’s calculation was based on data from the WMAP satellite,” said Dr. Halpern. “However, there has been new cosmological data from the Planck satellite since then that has revised the expansion rate and acceleration rate of the universe.”

The size of the observable universe and the measurements set by Gott’s calculation have been a standard for astrophysicists and knowing all that we can about the observable universe gives a window into the universe beyond.

Dr. Halpern said he is proud to have aided Tomasello on his project and is elated to share authorship on the publication in Advances in Astrophysics.

“One of the fulfilling aspects of working at USciences is the opportunity to work with gifted undergraduates such as Nick,” said Dr. Halpern.

Read Tomasello's blog post on the research here. Read the research article in Advances in Astrophysics here.

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