Dark Energy Discovery: Universe's Expansion is -- Accelerating

January 2013 Update:

Physicists continue to probe the future of the universe. A new theory holds that dark energy may be tied up in cosmic domain walls, according to Physics World, a website from the Institute of physics.

Researchers from Canada, the US and Poland are exploring ideas about a kind of force field that contains dark energy. The research is preliminary and attempts are underway to test the theory by attempting to measure possible effects from the theorized cosmic walls with instruments called magnetometers.

Universe Expansion Speeding Up

The 2011 Nobel Laureates in Physics made the shocking announcement that the universe is expanding an an accelerating rate in 1998. Based on measurements of supernovae from the ground and in space -- including data from the Hubble space telescope -- they concluded that instead of slowing down, the universe's expansion is speeding up.

A chilling implication of the discovery is that "this mysterious force (dark energy) could be the death of the universe, tearing even its atoms apart," according to HubbleSite, NASA's Hubble telescope website.

This observation of acceleration challenged the accepted belief that the universe's expansion was slowing because of gravity. In the previously accepted version of how the universe operates, the universe came into being with the Big Bang and has continued to expand -- with its expansion slowing in response to gravity.

Their theory of what's causing the universe's expansion to accelerate is the presence of Dark Energy.

Hubble Space Telescope

Hubble Space Telescope  by NASA Goddard Photo and Video
Hubble Space Telescope by NASA Goddard Photo and Video | Source

Hubble Space Telescope Observations: Dark Energy Affects the Geometry of the Universe

Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689 NASA Goddard "appearance of these distorted galaxies depends on the distribution of matter in the lens and on the relative geometry of the lens and the distant galaxies, as well as on the effect of dark energy..."
Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689 NASA Goddard "appearance of these distorted galaxies depends on the distribution of matter in the lens and on the relative geometry of the lens and the distant galaxies, as well as on the effect of dark energy..." | Source

2011 Nobel Laureates in Physics

Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess share the 2011 Nobel prize in Physics for their groundbreaking work.

They tracked la supernovae -- exploded stars -- observing that they appeared dimmer than they should be. When these Nobel prize winners observed that supernovae appeared dimmer, suggesting they're farther away than they should be to fit with the previous understanding of how the universe works, they continued testing their observations. They concluded that, despite all previous beliefs to the contrary, the universe's expansion is accelerating.

Perlmutter is a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Riess teaches at Johns Hopkins University and is an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Schmidt, of the Australian National University, also made calculations that verify these findings. The three share the discovery and the credit -- their work has changed the view of the universe, and leaves science with many crucial questions to answer.

Supernovae Occur About Every 50 Years in Our Galaxy

Supernova 2010z by xn44 "Discovered 3/2/2010 by Lick Observatory Supernova Search ... A Supernova is a stellar explosion. These occur at the end of a star's lifetime, when its nuclear fuel is exhausted..."
Supernova 2010z by xn44 "Discovered 3/2/2010 by Lick Observatory Supernova Search ... A Supernova is a stellar explosion. These occur at the end of a star's lifetime, when its nuclear fuel is exhausted..." | Source

What is Dark Energy?

The new theory of how the universe works holds that the universe is made up primarily of Dark Energy. This mysterious Dark Energy may account for approximately 74 percent of the universe. Dark Matter accounts for most of the rest -- and normal matter, such as the planet earth, accounts for less than 10 percent of the universe. This theory puts things in a whole different perspective.

Based on their observations and painstaking calculations of measurements made over 7 billion light-years, the astronomers concluded that Dark Energy propels the universe's expansion and that this explains why it's speeding up, in defiance of gravity. The researchers expected their findings to show the rate of expansion slowing down, and were surprised that the data showed the opposite of what they expected to find, UPI reports. They theorized that Dark Energy creates an anti-gravity effect, countering the expected effect of gravity on the expanding universe.

The Nobel Assembly credit the 2011 Nobel Laureates in Physics with helping "to unveil a Universe that to a large extent is unknown to science,” "Popular Science" reports.

NASA Hubble Telescope Picture

Starry-Eyed Hubble Celebrates 20 Years of Awe and Discovery (2010) by NASA Goddard Photo and Video
Starry-Eyed Hubble Celebrates 20 Years of Awe and Discovery (2010) by NASA Goddard Photo and Video | Source

Earth: Our Tiny Bit of the Expanding Universe

Cosmological Vocabulary

Supernova: An exploding star. A large star can collapse at its core and release a massive amount of energy. Supernovae, plural.

The Big Bang: Theory that the universe began with a massive explosion. The universe expanded at exactly the right rate to allow life to develop. If it had expanded only a tiny bit slower, it would have sputtered out and if it had expanded a little bit faster, it would have exploded, according to PBS. The existence of life came about because of conditions that favored life.

Hubble Telescope: The Hubble Telescope provides images from space. It allowed the researchers to check their data with images that have less dust than images taken from earth. Access to images from the Hubble Telescope cleared up the question of whether the dimness of the supernovae could be from dust.


Author's Note -- Dark Energy: 2011 Nobel Laureates Discovered Universe's Expansion is -- Accelerating

Cosmology and its influence on cultures -- from the earliest astronomical observations of ancient civilizations to the contemporary achievements and controversies of space exploration -- fascinates me.

How we learn from and interpret the knowledge of where we are in the universe has a profound impact on what it means to be human.

If every person on this planet stopped to think for even one minute every day that the universe could come to an end -- and treated each other and the precious opportunities of this lifetime accordingly -- imagine.

Along with celebrating the achievements of the Nobel laureates in physics and the history of discovery from the earliest telescopes to the Hubble space telescope that played a crucial role in the cosmology-shaking discovery of Dark Energy, what hit me hardest was the possibility that this racing expansion destroy the universe. This new area of discovery and theory raises huge questions -- not only for astrophysicists, but for all of us.

Thanks for reading. Please vote this hub up and share it.

-- Trent Adams, aka HikeGuy, California

The Earth from Space -- NASA

Poll: Dark Energy & You

Does the destructive potential of Dark Energy affect what you want to do with your life?

  • Yes, I want to make the best use of my time.
  • No, I'm not convinced this theory is valid.
  • Maybe -- you never know how long you have to live, whether or not Dark Energy destroys the universe.
See results without voting

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Comments 9 comments

HikeGuy profile image

HikeGuy 4 years ago from Northern California Coast Author

COP -- Thank you for your contribution. I may add a new section to this. The preliminary theory about dark energy raises many questions.

In the process of investigating the measurements, the researchers considered that dust in the earth's atmosphere could be affecting the results. The Hubble images supported the discovery that the universe's expansion is accelerating, because the space telescope images were clear -- without atmospheric dust to affect the images. There's so much more about this that I want to know -- thanks for your intriguing thoughts on this.


COP 4 years ago

Very well written. Just note that some physics constants, very important for understanding the universe, may be wrong. These physics constants have made black holes a very realistic fact about the universe. But if these measurements are true of these scientists, we may be have a new definition for a black hole. Here's why, there exists G, which is the gravity constant that is said to govern all forms of gravity in the universe. This gravity constant is derived from taking calculations near Earth where dark matter has less presence than in the outer parts of the universe. Over there, the gravity defiant Dark energy would alter G and have a significant effect of making G a rate. For those who took calculus, this would mean that we would be able to take the antiderivative of G to get another term.


HikeGuy profile image

HikeGuy 4 years ago from Northern California Coast Author

Giselle Maine -- Thank you! I had a great time writing this. Paradigm shifts in science grab me -- that's the juicy stuff, where our entire conception fractures. When our beliefs and expectations shatter there's a powerful opportunity for change. One of the main reasons I write is to go deeper into what matters.


Giselle Maine 4 years ago

Thanks for this helpful explanation about the expanding universe and dark matter. Nicely written.


HikeGuy profile image

HikeGuy 4 years ago from Northern California Coast Author

Paraglider -- Thank you for your comment. One of my favorite things to do is share things that fascinate me. I'm glad it appealed to you. I had a great time writing this.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 4 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

This was fascinating. I try to keep up to date with such matters, but somehow had missed this completely. Great stuff!


HikeGuy profile image

HikeGuy 4 years ago from Northern California Coast Author

Shea Duane -- Thanks for your comment. I agree -- there's so much to learn. It was difficult to stop and publish this one because it's such a huge topic. I've already planned a section to add. Must be the Dark Energy pulling on me, speeding up expansion.

Arksys -- You're welcome. I had a great time with this. Thanks for commenting.


shea duane profile image

shea duane 4 years ago from new jersey

Wow! I recently read 2 books on 'relative time' and understand more about the expanding universe. there is so much to learn. great hub!


arksys profile image

arksys 4 years ago from Adelaide, Australia

useful and interesting hub ... thanks for sharing.

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