Universe May Not Be Expanding At An Increasing Rate, Study Says

Posted: Oct 24 2016, 7:08am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 24 2016, 11:01pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Universe may not be Expanding at an Increasing Rate, Study Says
Credit: NASA

New research challenges the standard cosmological concept of the universe's accelerating expansion.

For decades, the consensus among astrophysicists has been that the universe was formed with the Big Bang and it has been expanding ever since. Then, in 2011 three scientists were awarded with Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery that universe is not only expanding but is doing so at an accelerating speed. This led to the now widely accepted idea that dark matter, a mysterious force dominating the universe, is driving this accelerating expansion.

But recently, a team of scientists led by Oxford University’s Department of Physics has published a paper in Nature journal in which they claim that the theory of expansion of universe at an accelerating rate might be incorrect.

The Nobel Prize-winning theory was based on the analysis of type Ia supernovae. This is a thermonuclear explosion of dying stars that occurs in a binary system, consisting of two stars orbiting one another. This allows researchers to more accurately determine the distances of the stars based on their shine. Therefore, the supernovae of expanding Universe should appear fainter than expected. However, researchers did not have the access to the wealth of Ia supernovae data at that time as they have today.

For the latest work, researchers have analyzed the catalogue of 740 Type Ia supernovae, which is more than ten times bigger than the original sample size and found that the data is consistent with a constant rate of expansion, reflecting the flimsier nature of the evidence for universe expansion.

“There now exists a much bigger database of supernovae on which to perform rigorous and detailed statistical analyses. We analyzed the latest catalogue of 740 Type Ia supernovae - over ten times bigger than the original samples on which the discovery claim was based - and found that the evidence for accelerated expansion is, at most, what physicists call "3 sigma". This is far short of the "5 sigma" standard required to claim a discovery of fundamental significance." Professor Subir Sarkar from Oxford University explains.

“So it is quite possible that we are being misled and that the apparent manifestation of dark energy is a consequence of analyzing the data in an oversimplified theoretical model - one that was in fact constructed in the 1930s, long before there was any real data.”

Professor Sarkar added. “Naturally, a lot of work will be necessary to convince the physics community of this, but our work servers to demonstrate that a key pillar of the standard cosmological model is rather shaky. Hopefully this will motivate better analysis of cosmological data, as well as inspiring theorists to investigate more nuanced cosmological models. 



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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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