The Universe Is Expanding So Fast We Might Need New Physics to Explain It

Two measurements of the Hubble constant disagree.

This is a ground-based telescope’s view of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. The inset image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, reveals one of many star clusters scattered throughout the dwarf galaxy.

This is a ground-based telescope’s view of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. The inset image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, reveals one of many star clusters scattered throughout the dwarf galaxy.(Image: © NASA, ESA, Adam Riess, and Palomar Digitized Sky Survey)

The universe is expanding faster than expected, suggesting that astronomers may have to incorporate some new physics into their theories of how the cosmos works, a new study reports.

The revised expansion rate is about 10% faster than that predicted by observations of the universe’s trajectory shortly after the Big Bang, according to the new research. The study also significantly reduces the probability that this disparity is a coincidence, from 1 in 3,000 to just 1 in 100,000.

“This mismatch has been growing and has now reached a point that is really impossible to dismiss as a fluke,” study lead author Adam Riess, a professor of physics and astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said in a statement

“This is not what we expected,” said Riess, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2011 (along with Brian Schmidt and Saul Perlmutter) for showing, in the late 1990s, that the universe’s expansion is accelerating. It’s unclear what’s driving this surprising acceleration, but many astronomers invoke a mysterious, repulsive force called dark energy.  

In the new study, Riess and his colleagues used the Hubble Space Telescope to study 70 Cepheid variable stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies. Cepheid variables dim and brighten at predictable rates and are therefore “standard candles” that allow astronomers to calculate distances. 

(Another kind of standard candle, the star explosions known as Type 1a supernovae, enables scientists to measure distances even farther out into space. Riess, Schmidt and Perlmutter’s studies of Type 1a supernovae led to their Nobel-winning discovery.)

Riess and his team also incorporated observations made by the Araucaria Project, a collaboration involving researchers in the United States, Europe and Chile, who studied various LMC binary star systems, noting the dimming that occurred when one star passed in front of its neighbor. This work provided additional distance measurements, helping the study team to improve their understanding of the Cepheids’ intrinsic brightness.

The researchers used all of this information to calculate the universe’s present-day expansion rate, a value known as the Hubble constant, after American astronomer Edwin Hubble. The new number is about 46.0 miles (74.03 kilometers) per second per megaparsec; one megaparsec is roughly 3.26 million light-years. 

The uncertainty attached to this number is just 1.9%, the researchers said. That’s the lowest uncertainty value to date that has been calculated using this approach — down from about 10% in 2001 and 5% in 2009.CLOSEVolume 0% 

The “expected” expansion rate, by contrast, is about 41.9 miles (67.4 km) per second per megaparsec. This projected rate is based on observations that Europe’s Planck satellite made of the cosmic microwave background – the light left over from the Big Bang that created the universe 13.82 billion years ago.

“This is not just two experiments disagreeing. We are measuring something fundamentally different,” Riess said. 

“One is a measurement of how fast the universe is expanding today, as we see it. The other is a prediction based on the physics of the early universe and on measurements of how fast it ought to be expanding,” he added. “If these values don’t agree, there becomes a very strong likelihood that we’re missing something in the cosmological model that connects the two eras.”

The new study was published today (April 25) in The Astrophysical Journal. You can read it for free at the online preprint site arXiv.org.

Daniel Craig is James Bond, Rami Malek stars as villain in ‘Bond 25’

Daniel Craig announces he will return as James Bond

Bond 25” will have some familiar faces.

Daniel Craig is set to return as James Bond, while Léa Seydoux will reprise her role of 007’s love interest Madeleine Swann from 2015’s “Spectre,” it was revealed Thursday.

Other returning cast members include Ralph Fiennes (M), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) and Ben Whishsaw (Q), as well as Jeffrey Wright and Rory Kinnear, The Independent reports.

DID DIRECTOR DANNY BOYLE WANT TO KILL OFF JAMES BOND?

Bohemian Rhapsody” star Rami Malek has been confirmed as the villain in the Cary Joji Fukunaga-directed action film.

The Oscar winner said in a video message, “I’m very much looking forward to joining the cast and crew very soon, I will be making sure that Bond does not have an easy ride of it in his 25th outing.”

Billy Magnussen, David Dencik, Lashana Lynch, Dali Benssalah and Ana de Armas will also appear.

Producer Barbara Broccoli said of the as-yet-untitled flick, “Bond is not on active service when we start — he’s enjoying himself in Jamaica. We consider it Bond’s spiritual home. He starts his journey here. We’ve built an extraordinary house for him. We’ve got quite a ride in store for Mr. Bond.”

US Navy drafting new guidelines for reporting UFOs

The U.S. Navy is drafting new guidelines for pilots and other employees to report encounters with ‘unidentified aircraft.’

The U.S. Navy is drafting new guidelines for pilots and other employees to report encounters with “unidentified aircraft.”

The new effort comes in response to more sightings of unknown, advanced aircraft flying into or near Navy strike groups or other sensitive military facilities and formations, according to the Navy.

“There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years,” the Navy said in a statement to Politico, which first reported the move.

“For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the [U.S. Air Force] takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.”

“As part of this effort,” it told Politico, “the Navy is updating and formalizing the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities. A new message to the fleet that will detail the steps for reporting is in draft.”

The initiative comes amid increasing interest from lawmakers and the public following the release of classified files from the Defense Intelligence Agency which revealed the funding of projects that investigated UFOs, wormholes, alternate dimensions and other obscure topics that typically leads to the conspiracy-theory fringes of the web.

That research, first reported by The New York Times in 2017, was funded by the Department of Defense under its Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) and reportedly spent $25 million conducting studies and trying to evaluate multiple unexplained events.

Pentagon projects reveal the U.S. government looked into UFOs, wormholes and other bizarre anomalies

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Chris Mellon, a former Pentagon intelligence official and ex-staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Politico that establishing a more structured, official means of reporting what the military now calls “unexplained aerial phenomena” (UAP) — rather than “unidentified flying objects” — would be a “sea change.”

“Right now, we have a situation in which UFOs and UAPs are treated as anomalies to be ignored rather than anomalies to be explored,” he added. “We have systems that exclude that information and dump it.”

The Navy also said it’s taking a more proactive approach in briefing lawmakers.

“In response to requests for information from Congressional members and staff, Navy officials have provided a series of briefings by senior Naval Intelligence officials as well as aviators who reported hazards to aviation safety,” the service told Politico.