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Dark energy debate reignited by controversial analysis of supernovae data

28 Oct 2019, 15:58 UTC
Dark energy debate reignited by controversial analysis of supernovae data
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The mysterious substance known as dark energy thought to be pushing the universe apart at ever greater speeds may be nothing more than an artefact of our acceleration through a local patch of the universe. That is the controversial claim of a group of physicists who reckon they have found flaws in the evidence underpinning the Nobel-prize winning discovery of cosmic acceleration. The dispute centres on exploded stars known as type Ia supernovae, which allow researchers to calculate cosmic distances and rates of expansion.

Type Ia supernovae are known as “standard candles” since they are generated by stars exploding with a very specific mass and therefore known absolute brightness. By observing these objects’ apparent brightness, astronomers can work out how far they are (in space and therefore time), and by combining that information with the red shift in their emitted light can then calculate how fast the universe was expanding at that point in time.
In 1998 two research groups – one led by Saul Perlmutter and the other by Brian Schmidt – announced that they had found evidence from some 50 distant supernovae that the expansion of the universe was not slowing down, as expected, but was ...

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