M101, one of the galaxies in the study. Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech

Physicists in the US just made the most precise measurement ever made of the current rate of expansion of the Universe, but there is a problem: our Universe is expanding 8 percent faster thanour present laws of physics can explain. Currently astronomers are looking over again at their measurements and if turn out to be true, this recent measurement will automatically force us to redefine how dark matter and dark energy have been manipulating the evolution of the Universe for the past 13.8 billion years, and that can’t be done without changing or adding something in thestandard model of particle Physics.



According to the current model of cosmology, the major influence on the expansion of the Universe is the rivalry between dark matter and dark energy. While the gravitational pull of dark matter seems to be slowing down the expansion of the Cosmos, dark energy appears to be pulling it in the opposite direction to make it accelerate. Astrophysicists learned this with the help of the radiation left over from the Big Bang, which we can now detect as the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB.

Now Adam Riess from Johns Hopkins University and his associates have found a different way to measure the rate of expansion of the universe – the brightness of definite kinds of celestial objects, such as stars and supernovae, called ‘standard candles’.

Standard candles are believed to release the precise same level of brightness, which means physicists can use them as signs to calculate how fast the Universe is expanding away from us.

Riess’s team analyzed 18 standard candles by examining hundreds of hours of data from the Hubble Space Telescope, and calculated that the speed of expansion of the Universe is almost 8 percent faster than the Planck’s measurements anticipated.

Kelly Dickerson from explains “If this new measurement is accurate – and our maps of the CMB are also accurate – then something about our fundamental understanding of the Universe is wrong,”

The study, which have been sent to pre-print website and is currently under review, have the potential of “becoming transformational in cosmology”, cosmologist Kevork Abazajian from the University of California, told Nature.

So all we have to do is to sit tight and wait for results to be independently confirmed or disproven, but the Universe is always challenging our current laws of physics. From my point of view, one thing’s pretty certain – it’s an exciting time to be a physicist.



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