ASTRONOMY: Universe bigger than was thought

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The Independent Online
Dramatic results from a European star-mapping satellite may force astronomers to accept that the universe is 10 per cent bigger than they previously thought. Early results from the Hipparcos satellite also look set to resolve one of the hottest debates in astronomy - the thorny question of the universe's age.

According to findings released yesterday, the age of the oldest stars is about 11 billion years, much younger than was previously believed. One of the most perplexing problems facing astronomers is the fact that the universe appears to be younger than the oldest stars in it.

The most recent calculations based on the rate at which the universe is expanding put it at between 9 and 12 billion years old. But until now the oldest stars were estimated to be more than 14 billion years old.

If the Hipparcos findings are confirmed by later analysis of data sent back by the satellite the paradox will be resolved. The age of the universe and its oldest stars will be about the same.

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