Primordial nucleosynthesis in light of WMAP

Richard H. Cyburt, Brian D. Fields, Keith A. Olive

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Big bang nucleosynthesis has long provided the primary determination of the cosmic baryon density ΩBh2, or equivalently the baryon-to-photon ratio, η. Recently, data on CMB anisotropies have become increasingly sensitive to η. The comparison of these two independent measures provides a key test for big bang cosmology. The first release of results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) marks a milestone in this test. With the precision of WMAP, the CMB now offers a significantly stronger constraint on η. We discuss the current state of BBN theory and light element observations (including their possible lingering systematic errors). The resulting BBN baryon density prediction is in overall agreement with the WMAP prediction, an important and non-trivial confirmation of hot big bang cosmology. Going beyond this, the powerful CMB baryometer can be used as an input to BBN and one can accurately predict the primordial light element abundances. By comparing these with observations one can obtain new insight into post-BBN nucleosynthesis processes and associated astrophysics. Finally, one can test the possibility of nonstandard physics at the time of BBN, now with all light elements available as probes. Indeed, with the WMAP precision η, deuterium is already beginning to rival 4He's sensitivity to nonstandard physics, and additional D/H measurements can improve this further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-234
Number of pages8
JournalPhysics Letters, Section B: Nuclear, Elementary Particle and High-Energy Physics
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Aug 14 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Benjamin Wandelt for helpful conversations, and Ken Nollett for useful discussions regarding the differences between our BBN predictions. The work of K.A.O. was partially supported by DOE grant DE-FG02-94ER-40823. The work of B.D.F. and R.H.C. was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant AST-0092939.


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