The ΛCDM (Lambda cold dark matter) or Lambda-CDM model is a parameterization of the Big Bangcosmological model in which the universe contains three major components: first, a cosmological constant denoted by Lambda (GreekΛ) associated with dark energy; second, the postulated cold dark matter (abbreviated CDM); and third, ordinary matter. It is frequently referred to as the standard modelof Big Bang cosmology because it is the simplest model that provides a reasonably good account of the following properties of the cosmos:
The model assumes that general relativity is the correct theory of gravity on cosmological scales. It emerged in the late 1990s as a concordance cosmology, after a period of time when disparate observed properties of the universe appeared mutually inconsistent, and there was no consensus on the makeup of the energy density of the universe.
Lambda-CDM, accelerated expansion of the universe. The time-line in this schematic diagram extends from the Big Bang/inflation era 13.7 Byr ago to the present cosmological time.
The ΛCDM model includes an expansion of metric space that is well documented both as the red shift of prominent spectral absorption or emission lines in the light from distant galaxies and as the time dilation in the light decay of supernova luminosity curves. Both effects are attributed to a Doppler shift in electromagnetic radiation as it travels across expanding space. Although this expansion increases the distance between objects that are not under shared gravitational influence, it does not increase the size of the objects (e.g. galaxies) in space. It also allows for distant galaxies to recede from each other at speeds greater than the speed of light; local expansion is less than the speed of light, but expansion summed across great distances can collectively exceed the speed of light.
The letter Λ (lambda) represents the cosmological constant, which is currently associated with a vacuum energy or dark energy in empty space that is used to explain the contemporary accelerating expansion of space against the attractive effects of gravity. A cosmological constant has negative pressure, , which contributes to the stress–energy tensor that, according to the general theory of relativity, causes accelerating expansion. The fraction of the total energy density of our (flat or almost flat) universe that is dark energy, , is estimated to be 0.669 ± 0.038 based on the 2018 Dark Energy Survey results using Type Ia Supernovae or 0.6847 ± 0.0073 based on the 2018 release of Planck satellite data, or more than 68.3% (2018 estimate) of the mass-energy density of the universe.
Dark matter is postulated in order to account for gravitational effects observed in very large-scale structures (the "flat" rotation curves of galaxies; the gravitational lensing of light by galaxy clusters; and enhanced clustering of galaxies) that cannot be accounted for by the quantity of observed matter.
It consists of matter other than protons and neutrons (and electrons, by convention, although electrons are not baryons).
Its velocity is far less than the speed of light at the epoch of radiation–matter equality (thus neutrinos are excluded, being non-baryonic but not cold).
It cannot cool by radiating photons.
The dark matter particles interact with each other and other particles only through gravity and possibly the weak force.
Dark matter constitutes about 26.5% of the mass–energy density of the universe. The remaining 4.9% comprises all ordinary matter observed as atoms, chemical elements, gas and plasma, the stuff of which visible planets, stars and galaxies are made. The great majority of ordinary matter in the universe is unseen, since visible stars and gas inside galaxies and clusters account for less than 10% of the ordinary matter contribution to the mass–energy density of the universe.
Also, the energy density includes a very small fraction (~ 0.01%) in cosmic microwave background radiation, and not more than 0.5% in relic neutrinos. Although very small today, these were much more important in the distant past, dominating the matter at redshift > 3200.
The model includes a single originating event, the "Big Bang", which was not an explosion but the abrupt appearance of expanding spacetime containing radiation at temperatures of around 1015 K. This was immediately (within 10−29 seconds) followed by an exponential expansion of space by a scale multiplier of 1027 or more, known as cosmic inflation. The early universe remained hot (above 10,000 K) for several hundred thousand years, a state that is detectable as a residual cosmic microwave background, or CMB, a very low energy radiation emanating from all parts of the sky. The "Big Bang" scenario, with cosmic inflation and standard particle physics, is the only current cosmological model consistent with the observed continuing expansion of space, the observed distribution of lighter elements in the universe (hydrogen, helium, and lithium), and the spatial texture of minute irregularities (anisotropies) in the CMB radiation. Cosmic inflation also addresses the "horizon problem" in the CMB; indeed, it seems likely that the universe is larger than the observable particle horizon.
The expansion of the universe is parameterized by a dimensionlessscale factor (with time counted from the birth of the universe), defined relative to the present day, so ; the usual convention in cosmology is that subscript 0 denotes present-day values, so is the current age of the universe. The scale factor is related to the observed redshift of the light emitted at time by
The expansion rate is described by the time-dependent Hubble parameter, , defined as
where as usual is the speed of light and is the gravitational constant.
A critical density is the present-day density, which gives zero curvature , assuming the cosmological constant is zero, regardless of its actual value. Substituting these conditions to the Friedmann equation gives
where is the reduced Hubble constant.
If the cosmological constant were actually zero, the critical density would also mark the dividing line between eventual recollapse of the universe to a Big Crunch, or unlimited expansion. For the Lambda-CDM model with a positive cosmological constant (as observed), the universe is predicted to expand forever regardless of whether the total density is slightly above or below the critical density; though other outcomes are possible in extended models where the dark energy is not constant but actually time-dependent.
It is standard to define the present-day density parameter for various species as the dimensionless ratio
Since the densities of various species scale as different powers of , e.g. for matter etc.,
the Friedmann equation can be conveniently rewritten in terms of the various density parameters as
where is the equation of state parameter of dark energy, and assuming negligible neutrino mass (significant neutrino mass requires a more complex equation). The various parameters add up to by construction.
In the general case this is integrated by computer to give
the expansion history and also observable distance–redshift relations for any chosen values of the cosmological parameters, which can then be compared with observations such as supernovae and baryon acoustic oscillations.
In the minimal 6-parameter Lambda-CDM model, it is assumed that curvature is zero and , so this simplifies to
Observations show that the radiation density is very small today, ; if this term is neglected
the above has an analytic solution
this is fairly accurate for or million years.
Solving for gives the present age of the universe in terms of the other parameters.
It follows that the transition from decelerating to accelerating expansion (the second derivative crossing zero) occurred when
which evaluates to or for the best-fit parameters estimated from the Planck spacecraft.
The discovery of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) in 1964 confirmed a key prediction of the Big Bang cosmology. From that point on, it was generally accepted that the universe started in a hot, dense state and has been expanding over time. The rate of expansion depends on the types of matter and energy present in the universe, and in particular, whether the total density is above or below the so-called critical density.
During the 1970s, most attention focused on pure-baryonic models, but there were serious challenges explaining the formation of galaxies, given the small anisotropies in the CMB (upper limits at that time). In the early 1980s, it was realized that this could be resolved if cold dark matter dominated over the baryons, and the theory of cosmic inflation motivated models with critical density.
During the 1980s, most research focused on cold dark matter with critical density in matter, around 95% CDM and 5% baryons: these showed success at forming galaxies and clusters of galaxies, but problems remained; notably, the model required a Hubble constant lower than preferred by observations, and observations around 1988–1990 showed more large-scale galaxy clustering than predicted.
These difficulties sharpened with the discovery of CMB anisotropy by the Cosmic Background Explorer in 1992, and several modified CDM models, including ΛCDM and mixed cold and hot dark matter, came under active consideration through the mid-1990s. The ΛCDM model then became the leading model following the observations of accelerating expansion in 1998, and was quickly supported by other observations: in 2000, the BOOMERanG microwave background experiment measured the total (matter–energy) density to be close to 100% of critical, whereas in 2001 the 2dFGRS galaxy redshift survey measured the matter density to be near 25%; the large difference between these values supports a positive Λ or dark energy. Much more precise spacecraft measurements of the microwave background from WMAP in 2003–2010 and Planck in 2013–2015 have continued to support the model and pin down the parameter values, most of which are now constrained below 1 percent uncertainty.
There is currently active research into many aspects of the ΛCDM model, both to refine the parameters and to resolve the tensions between recent observations and the ΛCDM model, such as the Hubble tension and the CMB dipole. In addition, ΛCDM has no explicit physical theory for the origin or physical nature of dark matter or dark energy; the nearly scale-invariant spectrum of the CMB perturbations, and their image across the celestial sphere, are believed to result from very small thermal and acoustic irregularities at the point of recombination.
In addition to explaining many pre-2000 observations, the model has made a number of successful predictions: notably the existence of the baryon acoustic oscillation feature, discovered in 2005 in the predicted location; and the statistics of weak gravitational lensing, first observed in 2000 by several teams. The polarization of the CMB, discovered in 2002 by DASI, has been successfully predicted by the model: in the 2015 Planck data release, there are seven observed peaks in the temperature (TT) power spectrum, six peaks in the temperature–polarization (TE) cross spectrum, and five peaks in the polarization (EE) spectrum. The six free parameters can be well constrained by the TT spectrum alone, and then the TE and EE spectra can be predicted theoretically to few-percent precision with no further adjustments allowed.
Over the years, numerous simulations of ΛCDM and observations of our universe have been made that challenge the validity of the ΛCDM model, to the point where some cosmologists now believe that the ΛCDM model may be superseded by another standard cosmological model.
The ΛCDM model has been shown to satisfy the cosmological principle, which states that, on a large-enough scale, the universe looks the same in all directions (isotropy) and from every location (homogeneity); "the universe looks the same whoever and wherever you are." The cosmological principle exists because when the predecessors of the ΛCDM model were first being developed, there wasn't sufficient data available to distinguish between more complex anisotropic or inhomogeneous models, so homogeneity and isotropy were assumed to simplify the models, and the assumptions were carried over into the ΛCDM model. However, recent findings have suggested that violations of the cosmological principle, especially of isotropy, exist. These violations have called the ΛCDM model into question, with some authors suggesting that the cosmological principle is now obsolete or that the Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker metric breaks down in the late universe. This has additional implications for the validity of the cosmological constant in the ΛCDM model, as dark energy is implied by observations only if the cosmological principle is true.
Data from the Planck Mission shows hemispheric bias in the cosmic microwave background in two respects: one with respect to average temperature (i.e. temperature fluctuations), the second with respect to larger variations in the degree of perturbations (i.e. densities). The European Space Agency (the governing body of the Planck Mission) has concluded that these anisotropies in the CMB are, in fact, statistically significant and can no longer be ignored.
The CMB dipole is hinted at through a number of other observations. First, even within the cosmic microwave background, there are curious directional alignments and an anomalous parity asymmetry that may have an origin in the CMB dipole. Separately, the CMB dipole direction has emerged as a preferred direction in studies of alignments in quasar polarizations, scaling relations in galaxy clusters,strong lensing time delay, Type Ia supernovae, and quasars & gamma-ray bursts as standard candles. The fact that all these independent observables, based on different physics, are tracking the CMB dipole direction suggests that the Universe is anisotropic in the direction of the CMB dipole.
Nevertheless, some authors have stated that the universe around Earth is isotropic at high significance by studies of the cosmic microwave background temperature maps.
Violations of homogeneityEdit
Based on N-body simulations in ΛCDM, Yadav and his colleagues showed that the spatial distribution of galaxies is statistically homogeneous if averaged over scales 260/h Mpc or more. However, many large-scale structures have been discovered, and some authors have reported some of the structures to be in conflict with the predicted scale of homogeneity for ΛCDM, including
The Giant Arc, discovered in June 2021, which has a length of 1000 Mpc
Other authors claim that the existence of structures larger than the scale of homogeneity in the ΛCDM model does not necessarily violate the cosmological principle in the ΛCDM model.
El Gordo galaxy cluster collisionEdit
El Gordo is an interacting galaxy cluster in the early Universe (). The extreme properties of El Gordo in terms of its redshift, mass, and the collision velocity leads to strong () tension with the ΛCDM model. The properties of El Gordo are however consistent with cosmological simulations in the framework of MOND due to more rapid structure formation.
The KBC void is an immense, comparatively empty region of space containing the Milky Way approximately 2 billion light-years (600 megaparsecs, Mpc) in diameter. Some authors have said the existence of the KBC void violates the assumption that the CMB reflects baryonic density fluctuations at or Einstein's theory of general relativity, either of which would violate the ΛCDM model, while other authors have claimed that supervoids as large as the KBC void are consistent with the ΛCDM model.
Some authors postulate that the Hubble tension can be explained entirely by the KBC void, as measuring galactic supernovae inside a void is predicted by the authors to yield a larger local value for the Hubble constant than cosmological measures of the Hubble constant. However, other work has found no evidence for this in observations, finding the scale of the claimed underdensity to be incompatible with observations which extend beyond its radius. Important deficiencies were subsequently pointed out in this analysis, leaving open the possibility that the Hubble tension is indeed caused by outflow from the KBC void.
As a result of the Hubble tension, other researchers have called for new physics beyond the ΛCDM model. Moritz Haslbauer et al. proposed that MOND would resolve the Hubble tension. Another group of researchers led by Marc Kamionkowski proposed a cosmological model with early dark energy to replace ΛCDM.
The tension in cosmology is another major problem for the ΛCDM model. The parameter in the ΛCDM model quantifies the amplitude of matter fluctuations in the late universe and is defined as
Early- (e.g. from CMB data collected using the Planck observatory) and late-time (e.g. measuring weak gravitational lensing events) facilitate increasingly precise values of . However, these two categories of measurement differ by more standard deviations than their uncertainties. This discrepancy is called the tension. The name "tension" reflects that the disagreement is not merely between two data sets: the many sets of early- and late-time measurements agree well within their own categories, but there is an unexplained difference between values obtained from different points in the evolution of the universe. Such a tension indicates that the ΛCDM model may be incomplete or in need of correction.
The actual observable amount of lithium in the universe is less than the calculated amount from the ΛCDM model by a factor of 3–4. If every calculation is correct, then solutions beyond the existing ΛCDM model might be needed.
Shape of the universeEdit
The ΛCDM model assumes that the shape of the universe is flat (zero curvature). However, recent Planck data have hinted that the shape of the universe might in fact be closed (positive curvature), which would contradict the ΛCDM model. Some authors have suggested that the Planck data detecting a positive curvature could be evidence of a local inhomogeneity in the curvature of the universe rather than the universe actually being closed.
Violations of the strong equivalence principleEdit
The ΛCDM model assumes that the strong equivalence principle is true. However, in 2020 a group of astronomers analyzed data from the Spitzer Photometry and Accurate Rotation Curves (SPARC) sample, together with estimates of the large-scale external gravitational field from an all-sky galaxy catalog. They concluded that there was highly statistically significant evidence of violations of the strong equivalence principle in weak gravitational fields in the vicinity of rotationally supported galaxies. They observed an effect inconsistent with tidal effects in the ΛCDM model.
Cold dark matter discrepanciesEdit
Several discrepancies between the predictions of cold dark matter in the ΛCDM model and observations of galaxies and their clustering have arisen. Some of these problems have proposed solutions, but it remains unclear whether they can be solved without abandoning the ΛCDM model.
Cuspy halo problemEdit
The density distributions of dark matter halos in cold dark matter simulations (at least those that do not include the impact of baryonic feedback) are much more peaked than what is observed in galaxies by investigating their rotation curves.
Dwarf galaxy problemEdit
Cold dark matter simulations predict large numbers of small dark matter halos, more numerous than the number of small dwarf galaxies that are observed around galaxies like the Milky Way.
Satellite disk problemEdit
Dwarf galaxies around the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are observed to be orbiting in thin, planar structures whereas the simulations predict that they should be distributed randomly about their parent galaxies.
High-velocity galaxy problemEdit
Galaxies in the NGC 3109 association are moving away too rapidly to be consistent with expectations in the ΛCDM model. In this framework, NGC 3109 is too massive and distant from the Local Group for it to have been flung out in a three-body interaction involving the Milky Way or Andromeda Galaxy.
Galaxy morphology problemEdit
If galaxies grew hierarchically, then massive galaxies required many mergers. Major mergers inevitably create a classical bulge. On the contrary, about 80% of observed galaxies give evidence of no such bulges, and giant pure-disc galaxies are commonplace. The tension can be quantified by comparing the observed distribution of galaxy shapes today with predictions from high-resolution hydrodynamical cosmological simulations in the ΛCDM framework, revealing a highly significant problem that is unlikely to be solved by improving the resolution of the simulations. The high bulgeless fraction was nearly constant for 8 billion years.
Fast galaxy bar problemEdit
If galaxies were embedded within massive halos of cold dark matter, then the bars that often develop in their central regions would be slowed down by dynamical friction with the halo. This is in serious tension with the fact that observed galaxy bars are typically fast.
Small scale crisisEdit
Comparison of the model with observations may have some problems on sub-galaxy scales, possibly predicting too many dwarf galaxies and too much dark matter in the innermost regions of galaxies. This problem is called the "small scale crisis". These small scales are harder to resolve in computer simulations, so it is not yet clear whether the problem is the simulations, non-standard properties of dark matter, or a more radical error in the model.
Missing baryon problemEdit
Massimo Persic and Paolo Salucci first estimated the baryonic density today present in ellipticals, spirals, groups and clusters of galaxies.
They performed an integration of the baryonic mass-to-light ratio over luminosity (in the following ), weighted with the luminosity function over the previously mentioned classes of astrophysical objects:
The result was:
Note that this value is much lower than the prediction of standard cosmic nucleosynthesis , so that stars and gas in galaxies and in galaxy groups and clusters account for less than 10% of the primordially synthesized baryons. This issue is known as the problem of the "missing baryons".
The missing baryon problem is claimed to be resolved. Using observations of the kinematic Sunyaev–Zel'dovich effect spanning more than 90% of the lifetime of the Universe, in 2021 astrophysicists found that approximately 50% of all baryonic matter is outside dark matter haloes, filling the space between galaxies. Together with the amount of baryons inside galaxies and surrounding these, the total amount of baryons in the late time Universe is now compatible with early Universe measurements.
The simple ΛCDM model is based on six parameters: physical baryon density parameter; physical dark matter density parameter; the age of the universe; scalar spectral index; curvature fluctuation amplitude; and reionization optical depth. In accordance with Occam's razor, six is the smallest number of parameters needed to give an acceptable fit to current observations; other possible parameters are fixed at "natural" values, e.g. total density parameter = 1.00, dark energy equation of state = −1. (See below for extended models that allow these to vary.)
The values of these six parameters are mostly not predicted by current theory (though, ideally, they may be related by a future "Theory of Everything"), except that most versions of cosmic inflation predict the scalar spectral index should be slightly smaller than 1, consistent with the estimated value 0.96. The parameter values, and uncertainties, are estimated using large computer searches to locate the region of parameter space providing an acceptable match to cosmological observations. From these six parameters, the other model values, such as the Hubble constant and the dark energy density, can be readily calculated.
Commonly, the set of observations fitted includes the cosmic microwave background anisotropy, the brightness/redshift relation for supernovae, and large-scale galaxy clustering including the baryon acoustic oscillation feature. Other observations, such as the Hubble constant, the abundance of galaxy clusters, weak gravitational lensing and globular cluster ages, are generally consistent with these, providing a check of the model, but are less precisely measured at present.
Parameter values listed below are from the Planck Collaboration Cosmological parameters 68% confidence limits for the base ΛCDM model from Planck CMB power spectra, in combination with lensing reconstruction and external data (BAO + JLA + H0). See also Planck (spacecraft).
^ abThe "physical baryon density parameter" Ωbh2 is the "baryon density parameter" Ωb multiplied by the square of the reduced Hubble constant h = H0 / (100 km s−1 Mpc−1). Likewise for the difference between "physical dark matter density parameter" and "dark matter density parameter".
^ abcdeA density ρx = Ωxρcrit is expressed in terms of the critical density ρcrit, which is the total density of matter/energy needed for the universe to be spatially flat. Measurements indicate that the actual total density ρtot is very close if not equal to this value, see below.
^This is the minimal value allowed by solar and terrestrial neutrino oscillation experiments.
Extended models allow one or more of the "fixed" parameters above to vary, in addition to the basic six; so these models join smoothly to the basic six-parameter model in the limit that the additional parameter(s) approach the default values. For example, possible extensions of the simplest ΛCDM model allow for spatial curvature ( may be different from 1); or quintessence rather than a cosmological constant where the equation of state of dark energy is allowed to differ from −1. Cosmic inflation predicts tensor fluctuations (gravitational waves). Their amplitude is parameterized by the tensor-to-scalar ratio (denoted ), which is determined by the unknown energy scale of inflation. Other modifications allow hot dark matter in the form of neutrinos more massive than the minimal value, or a running spectral index; the latter is generally not favoured by simple cosmic inflation models.
Allowing additional variable parameter(s) will generally increase the uncertainties in the standard six parameters quoted above, and may also shift the central values slightly. The Table below shows results for each of the possible "6+1" scenarios with one additional variable parameter; this indicates that, as of 2015, there is no convincing evidence that any additional parameter is different from its default value.
Some researchers have suggested that there is a running spectral index, but no statistically significant study has revealed one. Theoretical expectations suggest that the tensor-to-scalar ratio should be between 0 and 0.3, and the latest results are now within those limits.
The ΛCDM model is also known as the standard model of cosmology, but is not related to the Standard Model of particle physics.
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