Identifying A Problem
Interpreting the universe isn’t something that everyone can do. There’s a reason the people who man the Hubble telescope and other instruments like it are well-educated and fully trained. However, it appears that even these astronomers can make mistakes at the best of times. It turns out that for the last few years there’s been a discrepancy in how the universe expands, but people haven’t been able to prove there’s a problem with the measurements. Now, it seems, they can.
Two Different Results
To identify how fast the universe is expanding, something that’s referred to as a cosmic distance ladder is used. Essentially, this involves taking measurements of the distance between known galaxies, then using this data to make predictions about galaxies further away. These measurements have grown more accurate over the years as technology has improved, but the findings have contradicted what astronomers have expected. The contradiction between the two results has led scientists to question if what they’re doing is correct.
Faster Than Anticipated
Initially, it was believed that the universe is expanding at a rate of 41.6 miles per second per megaparsec. This is a finding that was observed by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite some years ago. However, new estimates made by the Hubble telescope suggest that it’s actually growing at a rate of 46 miles per second per megaparsec. That’s an increase of 9% of what astronomers originally thought.
What’s The Issue?
There have been various suggestions for what has caused the discrepancy in results. One is the growing presence of dark energy which apparently now makes up 70% of the content in the universe. Given astronomers rely on light to work out their measurements, this would certainly explain any issues. Other scientists have suggested dark matter may be to blame, or maybe even the arrival of a new subatomic particle. No-one can be sure quite yet, and it might be a while until they get a definite answer.
The universe is so big that we’ll probably never understand all its secrets. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate each new discovery when it comes along.