One of the most powerful tools the world knows when it comes to measuring the interstellar is the Hubble Space Telescope. With over a billion pictures of weird and interesting phenomena happening around the universe within its grasp, Hubble is currently working on a much more large-scale mission – determining how quickly our universe is expanding.
New findings have now suggested that the universe is not expanding at a uniform rate. American space agency NASA has suggested that “something weird” is going on in the universe due to there being a discrepancy in the rate of expansion of the universe as it is around us and observations made after the big bang.
The study of how the universe expanded and how fast it did began decades ago in 1920, when measurements by Edwin P Hubble and Georges Lemaitre suggested that galaxies outside of our own were not stationary and were in fact, moving away from us. Hubble had added that these galaxies were moving at a non-uniform, increasing pace. The further a galaxy was from Earth, the faster it was moving away.
Scientists have since been trying to understand the phenomenon and measure the rate of this expansion. However, with data from the Hubble now available, it seems that the said expansion is even quicker than what models had predicted. Instead of the expected 67.5 (plus or minus 0.5) kilometers per second per megaparsec, the observations noted 73 (plus or minus 1) kilometers per second per megaparsec.
Scientists are currently studying the strange phenomenon on a set of space and time “milepost markets”. These can be used to track the expansion rate of the universe as galaxies far away continue moving further away from us. NASA has said that the Hubble has calibrated over 40 such milepost markers since the telescope’s launch in 1990.
With the new data kicking off a new assessment of our understanding of the universe’s expansion, scientists now await data from the new James Webb Space Telescope that will allow a deeper look at the matter. “The Webb Space Telescope will extend on Hubble’s work by showing these cosmic milepost markers at greater distances or sharper resolution than what Hubble can see,” NASA said.