Oct 12

Spitzer Space Telescope measures expansion of Universe

Source: NASA Spitzer

Artist's impression of the cosmic distance ladder.
Image credits:NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have announced the most precise measurement yet of the Hubble constant, or the rate at which our universe is stretching apart.

The Hubble constant is named after the astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, who astonished the world in the 1920s by confirming our universe has been expanding since it exploded into being 13.7 billion years ago. In the late 1990s, astronomers discovered the expansion is accelerating, or speeding up over time. Determining the expansion rate is critical for understanding the age and size of the universe.

Unlike NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which views the cosmos in visible light, Spitzer took advantage of  long-wavelength infrared light to make its new measurement. It improves by a factor of 3 on a similar, seminal study from the Hubble telescope and brings the uncertainty down to 3 percent, a giant leap in accuracy for cosmological measurements. The newly refined value for the Hubble constant is 74.3 ± 2.1 kilometers per second per megaparsec. A megaparsec is roughly 3 million light-years. (read more)

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