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The Universe is Expanding Faster Than We Thought

Somewhere between 10 and 20 million years ago the Big Bang transformed a tiny particle of matter into a complex and curious astronomically-proportioned Universe, with galaxies expanding away from our own with tremendous energy and tremendous speed. And today our universe is still expanding–much to the distress of a young Alvy Singer. But according to new research based on observations from the Hubble telescope, the Universe is expanding a full five to nine percent faster than previous estimates.

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Our previous understanding of just how fast the universe is expanding is based on measurements of the Universe shortly after the Big Bang. But a study undertaken by researchers from across the United States measured around 2,400 stars across 19 galaxies outside of our universe, and unveiled some significant discrepancies with existing estimates.

Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Johns Hopkins University, explained in a statement:

You start at two ends, and you expect to meet in the middle if all of your drawings are right and your measurements are right. But now the ends are not quite meeting in the middle and we want to know why.

Their measurements show that galaxies are moving away from our own five to nine percent faster than thought, which means that the distance between cosmic objects will double in another 9.8 billion years. And while the researchers are not entirely sure why this is happening, they do have a couple of ideas.

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One possibility, as NASA explains, may be that dark matter–which is already known to be expanding Universe–may be “shoving” galaxies further away from each other with greater, or even growing, strength.

The second option, NASA continues, is that

The cosmos contained a new subatomic particle in its early history that traveled close to the speed of light. Such speedy particles are collectively referred to as “dark radiation” and include previously known particles like neutrinos. More energy from additional dark radiation could be throwing off the best efforts to predict today’s expansion rate from its post-Big Bang trajectory.

Lastly, the findings may indicate that Einstein’s theory of gravity is rather incomplete. All of which leaves a lot more to be discovered. As Reiss said:

This surprising finding may be an important clue to understanding those mysterious parts of the Universe that make up 95 percent of everything and don’t emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter, and dark radiation

Hubble Telescope Images CC by 2.0 Hubble Heritage and Hubble ESA on Flickr