Maybe “we misunderstood the universe” – DW – 03/14/2024

The expansion of the universe is a fact accepted by the astronomical community. However, long-established theories about the speed of this expansion are being called into question as new knowledge accumulates, making it clear We do not fully understand this phenomenon. Now, recent discoveries suggest we may have “misunderstood the universe.”

This challenge is known as the “Hubble strain,” a phenomenon that highlights discrepancies between current measurements of the expansion of the universe and predictions based on previous data, especially those obtained by the European Space Agency's Planck mission. Contrary to what was expected, the universe appears to be expanding more rapidly than theoretical models predicted.

Arithmetic errors or new physics required?

A debate then arises in the scientific community about whether this discrepancy is the result of measurement errors, or whether it indicates a need to revise our basic understanding of physics.

NASA reported This collaboration, with associated notes, is between Hubble Space Telescope, With more than three decades of service, the James Webb Space Telescope It reinforced the theory that what we see are not errors in measurement, but indicators of something deeper, of phenomena that are not yet understood.

The Hubble constant is the parameter that determines the expansion rate of the universe. But a dilemma arises because different scientific instruments produce different values ​​for this constant, a phenomenon that led to the emergence of what is called “Hubble tension.” In the picture is the Hubble Space Telescope.Image: NASA

Adam Rhys: “There is a possibility that the universe will be misinterpreted”

Adam Ries, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University and Nobel Prize winner for discovering that the expansion of the universe is accelerating due to a mysterious phenomenon now called “dark energy,” points out this intriguing possibility. “Once measurement errors are excluded, what remains is the real and exciting possibility that we have misinterpreted the universe.” It states, Opening the door to re-evaluating our cosmic understanding.

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One hypothesis suggests that an excess of stars visible to space telescopes could disturb measurements, an effect that is amplified by interstellar dust. However, the Webb Telescope, with its advanced technology, promises to pierce this veil of uncertainty and provide a clearer and more accurate view.

As Rees speculates, there may be something else out of proportion in the numbers. “We have now covered the full range of what Hubble observed, and we can rule out measurement error as a cause of Hubble jitter with very high confidence,” he says.

“Cosmic Distance Ladder”

The “cosmic distance ladder”, a method used to measure distances in the universe, was crucial to these results. A team led by Reiss has observed Cepheid variable stars in five galaxies, including NGC 5468, located 130 million light-years away. Results, Published in Astrophysical Journal Letters on February 6, 2024, strengthening the idea that the measurements were accurate, suggesting that the mismatch in expansion rates may be due to factors that are not yet understood.

“Combining Webb and Hubble gives us the best of both worlds,” Rees said. “We find that Hubble’s measurements remain reliable as we move forward on the cosmic distance scale.”

At the center of these side-by-side images is a special type of star used as a reference to measure the universe's expansion rate: a Cepheid variable star. The two images are highly pixelated because they represent a highly magnified view of a distant galaxy. Each pixel represents one or more stars.Image: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/Adam G. Riess (JHU, STScI)

Solve the mystery of the expansion of the universe

A solution to the Hubble tension could be within reach thanks to missions like the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope From NASA And the European Space Agency's Euclid Observatory. These projects seek to delve deeper into the mystery of dark energy, the mysterious phenomenon that drives the expansion of the universe.

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Currently, according to NASA, the situation is similar to having two fundamental reference points in the study of the universe: on the one hand, the cosmic distance measurements made by the Hubble and Webb telescopes, fixed at one end; On the other hand, notes the initial glow of the universe, Blanc took it, and settled on the opposite shore. Between these two points, the detailed evolution of global expansion over billions of years remains not directly observable, presenting a puzzle as to how this process unfolded over the long intervening period.

As we continue to explore, Rees points out, the challenge is to connect our understanding of the beginning of the universe to the present, a mystery that will remain at the forefront of astronomical research until new discoveries provide us with more answers.

Felipe Espinoza Wang with information from NASA.

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