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Universe expanding ‘mysteriously’, new Hubble data suggests

Source: Pixabay

The Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency, has reached a new milestone in unraveling the mystery of the Universe’s expansion rate.

According to NASA, Hubble has calibrated more than 40 “milepost markers” of space and time over the last three decades to help scientists precisely measure the expansion rate of the universe.

The search for the rate of expansion of the universe began in the 1920s, and in 1998, it resulted in the discovery of “dark energy,” a mysterious repulsive force that accelerates the expansion of the universe.

According to NASA, astronomers scanning data from multiple telescopes, including Hubble, discovered a discrepancy between the expansion rate as measured in the local universe and independent observations from right after the big bang, which predict a different expansion value.

Although the cause of this discrepancy is unknown, the Hubble data, which includes a variety of cosmic objects that serve as distance markers, suggests that “support the idea that something weird is going on, possibly involving brand new physics”, NASA said.

“You are getting the most precise measure of the expansion rate for the universe from the gold standard of telescopes and cosmic mile markers,” said Nobel Laureate Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

According to NASA, the universe’s expansion rate is predicted to be slower than what Hubble observes.

Astronomers predict that it should be around 67.5 km per second per megaparsec, plus or minus 0.5, but observations show that it is closer to 73 km.

Given the large Hubble sample size, there is only a one-in-a-million chance that astronomers are mistaken due to a bad luck, according to Riess.

Astronomers are baffled as to why the expansion rate of the local universe differs from that of the primaeval universe, but the answer may involve additional physics of the universe, according to the team.

Scientists hope that the new James Webb Space Telescope will help them find answers. The Webb telescope, which was recently launched into space, is expected to return its first observations soon.


About the author

Brendan Byrne

While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala.

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