New measurements from the Baryonic Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) study have charted the shape and size of our universe to within 1% accuracy. Above, David Schlegl, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and research team member, describes the flat, and probably infinite, Universe that the findings suggest.
The gray spheres [in the artist's conception above] show the pattern of the "baryon acoustic oscillations" from the early Universe. Galaxies today have a slight tendency to align on the spheres (the alignment is greatly exaggerated in this illustration). By comparing the size of the spheres (the white line) to the predicted value, astronomers can determine to one-percent accuracy how far away the galaxies are.
Combined with recent measures of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) and supernova measures of accelerating expansion, the BOSS results suggest that dark energy — the force thought to be driving universal expansion — is a cosmological constant whose strength does not vary in space or time. This finding doesn't quite line up with Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, and researchers say that "understanding the physical cause of the accelerated expansion remains one of the most interesting problems in modern physics."
The BOSS data "also provides one of the best-ever determinations of the curvature of space. The answer is, it's not curved much. One of the reasons we care is that a flat universe has implications for whether the universe is infinite," says [Schlegel.]