Hubble Data Shows That “Something Weird” Is Going On

A representation of the evolution of the universe over 13.77 billion years. The far left depicts the earliest moment we can now probe, when a period of “inflation” produced a burst of exponential growth in the universe. (Size is depicted by the vertical extent of the grid in this graphic.) For the next several billion years, the expansion of the universe gradually slowed down as the matter in the universe pulled on itself via gravity. More recently, the expansion has begun to speed up again as the repulsive effects of dark energy have come to dominate the expansion of the universe. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Three Decades of Space Telescope Observations Converge on a Precise Value for the Hubble Constant

Science history will record that the search for the expansion rate of the universe was the great Holy Grail of 20th-century cosmology. Without any observational evidence for space expanding, contracting, or standing still, we wouldn’t have a clue as to whether the universe was coming or going. Furthermore, we wouldn’t have any idea about its age either – or in fact, if the universe was eternal.

The first act of this revelation came when, a century ago, American astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered myriad galaxies outside of our home galaxy, the[{” attribute=””>Milky Way. And, the galaxies weren’t standing still. Hubble found that the farther a galaxy is, the faster it appears to be moving away from us. This could be interpreted as the uniform expansion of space. Hubble even said that he studied the galaxies simply as “markers of space.” However, he was never fully convinced of the idea of a uniformly expanding universe. He suspected his measurements might be evidence of something else more oddball going on in the universe.

“You are getting the most precise measure of the expansion rate for the universe from the gold standard of telescopes and cosmic mile markers.” — Nobel Laureate Adam Riess

For decades after Hubble, astronomers have toiled to nail down the expansion rate that would yield a true age for the universe. This required building a string of cosmic distance ladders assembled from sources that astronomers have a reasonable confidence in their intrinsic brightness. The brightest, and therefore farthest detectable milepost markers are Type Ia supernovae.

When the Hubble Space Telescope Galaxy Collection

This collection of 36 images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope features galaxies that are all hosts to both Cepheid variables and supernovae. These two celestial phenomena are both crucial tools used by astronomers to determine astronomical distance, and have been used to refine our measurement of the Hubble constant, the expansion rate of the universe.
The galaxies shown in this photo (from top row, left to bottom row, right) are: NGC 7541, NGC 3021, NGC 5643, NGC 3254, NGC 3147, NGC 105, NGC 2608, NGC 3583, NGC 3147, Mrk 1337, NGC 5861, NGC 2525, NGC 1015, UGC 9391, NGC 691, NGC 7678, NGC 2442, NGC 5468, NGC 5917, NGC 4639, NGC 3972, The Antennae Galaxies, NGC 5584, M106, NGC 7250, NGC 3370, NGC 5728, NGC 4424, NGC 1559, NGC 3982, NGC 1448, NGC 4680, M101, NGC 1365, NGC 7329, and NGC 3447.
Credit: NASA, ESA, Adam G. Riess (STScI, JHU)

Hubble Reaches New Milestone in Mystery of Universe’s Expansion Rate

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