Thu, October 04, 2012
Technology > Science

NASA's infrared observatory measures expansion of Universe

2012-10-04 02:51:09 GMT2012-10-04 10:51:09(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

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, U.S. space agency NASA said Wednesday.

The Hubble constant is named after 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 three 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 74.32.1 kilometers per second per megaparsec. A megaparsec is roughly 3 million light years.

The study appeared in the Astrophysical Journal.

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