Universe Expanding Faster Than Thought

Surprise finding suggests Einstein was a little off
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2016 11:09 AM CDT
Universe Expanding Faster Than Thought
This image shows how scientist arrive at the Hubble constant, or the rate of the universe's expansion.   (Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Feild (STScI), and A. Riess (STScI/JHU))

New calculations in the cosmos have revealed a surprise: The universe appears to be expanding faster than anyone thought. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists measured the distance to stars in 19 galaxies and concluded that the universe is growing 5% to 9% quicker than expected, the researchers say in a press release. For the record, they calculate the rate to be 45.5 miles per second per megaparsec, the latter being the equivalent of 3.26 million light-years. It's surprising, UPI reports, because astronomers expected the calculations to jibe with previous ones conducted by NASA and the European Space Agency. If the new rate is confirmed, it could challenge some basic precepts about how the universe functions and challenge at least part of Einstein's theory of relativity, reports the Guardian.

"If you really believe our number—and we have shed blood, sweat and tears to get our measurement right and to accurately understand the uncertainties—then it leads to the conclusion that there is a problem with predictions based on measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation, the leftover glow from the Big Bang," says co-author Alex Filippenko of Berkeley, per the Christian Science Monitor. While 5% to 9% may not seem like a big deal, it constitutes a "major discrepancy" in this particular case, notes Gizmodo. Part of the answer around the discrepancy may lie in the "mysterious parts of the universe that make up 95% of everything and don't emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter, and dark radiation," says another of the project's researchers. Their findings will be published in Astrophysical Journal. (More Hubble Space Telescope stories.)

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