New Hubble Space Telescope data suggests ‘something weird’ is going with our universe, Nasa says

Astronomers remain unclear about how the cosmos is expanding

Andrew Griffin
Monday 23 May 2022 07:28
Comments

What is the Hubble Space Telescope?

The Hubble Space Telescope has reached a new milestone in its work to find out how quickly the universe is expanding – and it supports the idea that something strange is happening in our universe, Nasa says.

In recent years, astronomers have used telescopes like Hubble to understand exactly how quickly our universe is expanding.

But as those measures have become more precise, they have also shown something strange. There is a key difference between the rate of the expansion of the universe as it is around us, when compared with observations from right after the Big Bang.

Scientists are unable to explain that discrepancy. But it suggests there is “something weird” going in our universe, that could be the result of unknown, new physics, Nasa says.

For the last 30 years, Hubble has been gathering information on a set of “milepost markets” in space and time that can be used to track the expansion rate of the universe as they move away from us.

It has now calibrated more than 40 of the markers, Nasa announced, allowing for even more precision than before.

“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, in a statement.

He is the leader of a team of scientists who have published a new paper detailing the biggest and what is probably the last major update from the Hubble Space Telescope, doubling the previous set of mile markers as well as reanalysing exsiting data.

The search for a precise measure of how fast space was expanding came when American astronomer Edwin Hubble that galaxies outside of ours appeared to be moving away from us – and doing so faster the further away from us they are. Scientists have been hunting for a better understanding of that expansion ever since.

(Both the rate of expansion and the space telescope that has been researching it are named Hubble, in honour of the astronomer’s work.)

When the space telescope started gathering information about the universe’s expansion, however, it turned out to be more quick than models had predicted. Astronomers predict that it should be about 67.5 kilometers per second per megaparsec, give or take 0.5 – but observations show it is around 73.

There is only a one in a million chance that astronomers have got it wrong. Instead, it suggests the universe’s evolution and expansion is more complicated than we had realised, and that there is more to learn about how the universe is changing.

Scientists hope to delve deeper into that difficulty with the new James Webb Space Telescope, which recently launched to space and is set to send back its first observations soon. That should allow them to see new mileposts that are even further away and in better resolution.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in