Exploring Astronomy Photography Of Outer Space Universe

• General theory of relativity
Given gravitation's predominance in shaping cosmological structures, accurate predictions of the universe's past and future require an accurate theory of gravitation. The best theory available is Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, which has passed all experimental tests hitherto. However, since rigorous experiments have not been carried out on cosmological length scales, general relativity could conceivably be inaccurate. Nevertheless, its cosmological predictions appear to be consistent with observations, so there is no compelling reason to adopt another theory.
General relativity provides a set of ten nonlinear partial differential equations for the spacetime metric (Einstein's field equations) that must be solved from the distribution of massenergy and momentum throughout the universe. Since these are unknown in exact detail, cosmological models have been based on the cosmological principle, which states that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic. In effect, this principle asserts that the gravitational effects of the various galaxies making up the universe are equivalent to those of a fine dust distributed uniformly throughout the universe with the same average density. The assumption of a uniform dust makes it easy to solve Einstein's field equations and predict the past and future of the universe on cosmological time scales.
Einstein's field equations include a cosmological constant (Λ), that corresponds to an energy density of empty space. Depending on its sign, the cosmological constant can either slow (negative Λ) or accelerate (positive Λ) the expansion of the universe. Although many scientists, including Einstein, had speculated that Λ was zero, recent astronomical observations of type Ia supernovae have detected a large amount of "dark energy" that is accelerating the universe's expansion. Preliminary studies suggest that this dark energy corresponds to a positive Λ, although alternative theories cannot be ruled out as yet. Russian physicist Zel'dovich suggested that Λ is a measure of the zeropoint energy associated with virtual particles of quantum field theory, a pervasive vacuum energy that exists everywhere, even in empty space. Evidence for such zeropoint energy is observed in the Casimir effect.

