NASA: The Universe Is Now Expanding At An Unprecedented Rate
New data from the Hubble Space Telescope suggest the universe is expanding faster than expected. Scientists believe the rapid expansion rate could be caused by unknown subatomic particles or a mysterious anti-gravity force known as dark energy.
In a joint statement released this week, NASA and the European Space Agency revealed that the universe is now expanding at a rate of 73.2 kilometers per second per megaparsec. That's 5 to 9 percent faster than what space experts previously predicted.
According to The Guardian, the new expansion rate means that the distances between heavenly bodies will double in another 10 billion years. Scientists accurately measured the value by studying and comparing the brightness of 2,400 Cepheid stars and 300 Type Ia supernovae stars in 19 galaxies.
Dr. Brad Tucker, an astronomer at the Australian National University, said the increased rate of expansion could speed up what many astrophysicists call "The Big Rip," a concept in which the universe inflates to the point that it rips itself apart.
"The fabric of space and time will rip apart, causing the universe to end," Tucker told ABC. "The universe also could just keep growing and so it just runs out of stuff and turns into what we call the Big Freeze or an empty cold universe with no stars."
Some of Tucker's colleagues theorized that the increased expansion rate is due to the presence of yet to be determined subatomic particles lurking across the universe. Meanwhile, others say it is caused by dark energy, an anti-gravity force that's pushing galaxies away from each other more powerfully than ever before.
"Either something else is missing, as in there's a new type of substance we don't know, or the things we already know of are really weird and crazy and something funny is going on," said Tucker. "We either add something new or we really have to figure out what do we think about dark matter and dark energy and what they are."
In Topmost Condition
Phys.org reported that images from the Hubble Space Telescope were taken from Hubble's sharp-eyed Wide Field Camera 3. The Supernova H0 for the Equation of State (SHOES) team is the one responsible for rendering the images and making sure Hubble's cameras remain precise and accurate.