According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “something weird” is going on in the universe.
NASA made that determination by examining evidence gleaned from the Hubble Space Telescope deep in space, which has measured the speed at which the universe is currently expanding, which is much faster than the speed of the expansion at the Big Bang.
“The cause of this discrepancy remains a mystery,” NASA writes. “But Hubble data, encompassing a variety of cosmic objects that serve as distance markers, support the idea that weird is going on, possibly involving something brand new physics.”
Scientists had assumed that gravity would slow down the universe’s expansion over time.
“The universe is not only expanding, but it is expanding faster and faster as time goes by,” Dr. Kathy Romer of the Dark Energy Survey told the Daily Mail. “What we’d expect is that the expansion would get slower and slower as time goes by, because it has been nearly 14 billion years since the Big Bang.”
“When NASA conceived of a large space telescope in the 1970s, one of the primary space telescopes for the expense and extraordinary technical effort was to be able to resolve Cepheids, stars that brighten and dim periodically, seen inside our Milky Way and external galaxies,” justification NASA explains.
Using Cepheids, discovered by astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt in 1912, scientists measured distances in the universe. They then used exploding stars called Type Ia supernovae to measure greater distances. Using both approaches, scientists could estimate the Hubble constant, named after scientist Edwin Hubble, a value that can estimate the age of the universe by measuring the expansion rate.
“You are getting the most accurate measure of the expansion rate for the universe from the gold standard of telescopes and cosmic mile markers,” declared Nobel Laureate Adam Riess, who runs SHOES, a group that investigates the universe’s expansion rate.
“This is what the Hubble Space Telescope was built to do, using the best techniques we know to do it,” he said. “This is likely Hubble’s magnum opus, because it would take another 30 years of Hubble’s life to even double this sample size.”
Riess stated that because of Hubble’s capacity to use a large sample size, the chances of astronomers miscalculating amounted to one in a million.
“Riess and collaborators received the Nobel in 2011 after Hubble and other observatories confirmed that the universe was accelerating in its expansion,” Space.com noted.