In "Measuring and Modeling the Universe", from the
Carnegie Observatories Centennial Symposia. Published by Cambridge
University Press, as part of the Carnegie Observatories Astrophysics
Series. Edited by W. L. Freedman, 2004, p. 169.
For a PDF version of the article, click
For a PDF version of the article, click here.
Abstract. Within the first 20 minutes of the evolution of the hot, dense, early Universe, astrophysically interesting abundances of deuterium, helium-3, helium-4, and lithium-7 were synthesized by the cosmic nuclear reactor. The primordial abundances of these light nuclides produced during Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (BBN) are sensitive to the universal density of baryons and to the early-Universe expansion rate which at early epochs is governed by the energy density in relativistic particles ("radiation") such as photons and neutrinos. Some 380 kyr later, when the cosmic background radiation (CBR) radiation was freed from the embrace of the ionized plasma of protons and electrons, the spectrum of temperature fluctuations imprinted on the CBR also depended on the baryon and radiation densities. The comparison between the constraints imposed by BBN and those from the CBR reveals a remarkably consistent picture of the Universe at two widely separated epochs in its evolution. Combining these two probes leads to new and tighter constraints on the baryon density at present, on possible new physics beyond the standard model of particle physics, as well as identifying some challenges to astronomy and astrophysics. In this review the current status of BBN will be presented along with the associated estimates of the baryon density and of the energy density in radiation.
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