How big is the universe?



How big is the universe?

Picture this. You’re camping with your family and it’s a clear night. As you look up into the night sky, it feels like there are a thousand stars, and they’re bright enough to touch. You feel the impact of how small you are in the grand scheme of things. And then your mind wanders as you try to wrap your head around how big the universe is. If this question has been keeping you up at night, we have the answer.

So, how big is the universe?

Photo of a cosmic phenomenon in the night sky
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

There was a time when we couldn’t give you a hard figure. But as far back as 1920, astronomers have been sharing estimates on the size of the known universe. Before we dig into hard figures, best guesses, and even erroneous ones, we need to set some ground rules.

First, the universe is constantly expanding. Any measurements given today won’t be accurate in the future. Likewise, scientists and astronomers can give only measurements based on the observable or known universe. This references what can be seen through their telescope, whether on the ground or with a satellite. Much like the expanding universe factor, dimensions based on the observable universe can be limited.

In other words, based on current research, observations and mathematical equations, the experts can estimate the universe’s size within a fair degree of certainty. But the caveat will always apply that these figures are impacted by the universe’s growth rate and the limitation of the observable universe.

What’s the number?

Photo of a cosmic phenomenon in the night sky
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Slow down there! Another important note is that we aren’t measuring in miles or kilometers like we would the distance between New York and London. Instead, we use light-years when we’re discussing the distance between two bodies in space. Standard forms of measurement would be too impractical because, in space, celestial bodies are very far apart.

Speaking literally, a light-year describes the distance a beam of light can travel in one year. To help you quantify that and realize why light years are better than traditional Earth-distance measurements, one light0year is the equivalent of 6 trillion miles. If you got dizzy just hearing that, now you know why astronomers prefer light-years over miles or kilometers.

Is there an estimate?

Photo of a cosmic phenomenon in the night sky
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI

Initial size estimates of our universe began with measuring our galaxy, the Milky Way. In 1920 the American astronomer Harlow Shapley was one of the first experts who attempted to measure the Milky Way and came up with a diameter of 300,000 light-years. It turns out he was very wrong, as today most astronomers believe our Milky Way is somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 light years in diameter.

For perspective, we know that the Milky Way isn’t the only galaxy in our universe — nor is it the biggest. Current counts estimate that there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the known universe and the largest discovered galaxy to date is IC 1101 with a diameter of 6 million light-years (although this figure is contested). So if our little corner of the universe is 100,000 light-years wide, and the biggest galaxy is around 6 million light-years in diameter, that can give you a hint that the known universe is quite large.

Just say how big the universe is!

Photo of a cosmic phenomenon in the night sky
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC

Current measurements place the observable universe at roughly 93 billion light-years in diameter. There are a variety of methods used to reach this figure, but popular options include measuring radio wavelengths, parallax measurements, main sequence fitting, and cepheid variables. Radio wavelengths are a great option within our solar system because astronomers can measure the time it takes for a radio wave to bounce off the surface of a planet or asteroid and translate that into an actual light-year reading. But for celestial bodies farther out in the universe, it’s not practical.

Beyond our solar system, parallax measurement is preferred as it relies on comparing distances to an object based on measurements from multiple angles. This method relies on telescopes and satellites to compute various distance readings over time and scientists to extrapolate accurate positions from the data. But beyond 100 light-years, even parallax measurement is inefficient.

At great distances, main sequence fitting and cepheid variables are the preferred measurement tools. Main sequence fitting relies on a basic understanding of a star’s brightness and color compared to its age to determine distance. Cepheid variables focus on the actual “twinkle” or pulsating factor to determine age and position.

So what does this all mean?

Photo of a cosmic phenomenon in the night sky
Credit: NASA JPL-Caltech

If we haven’t given you a headache yet, it means that even though astronomers and experts have a great grasp on the general size of the universe, figures can change as our methods for analyzing data improve. And for the average Joe, just know that the universe is huge, and we’re in one little corner of it!

Huge Cosmic Structures Already Existed When the Universe Was a Baby



Huge Cosmic Structures Already Existed When the Universe Was a Baby

This image shows the region where the ancient galactic structure was found. The blue shading shows the area it covers. The red objects in the zoomed-in bits are the 12 galaxies.

This image shows the region where the ancient galactic structure was found. The blue shading shows the area it covers. The red objects in the zoomed-in bits are the 12 galaxies.
(Image: © NAOJ/Harikane et al.)

Astronomers have discovered the oldest cluster of galaxies ever seen, which dates to the early universe.

The discovery, which could help explain the shape of the modern cosmos, reveals 12 galaxies that existed in a clump 13 billion years ago — just about 700 million years after the Big Bang. We can see them now because they’re so far away in the expanding universe (13 billion light-years) that their starlight is only now reaching Earth. One of the galaxies, a mammoth named Himiko after a mythological Japanese queen, was discovered a decade ago by the same team.

Surprisingly, the other 11 galaxies aren’t clustered around the giant Himiko, the researchers wrote in a paper that will be published on Sept. 30 in The Astrophysical Journal and is available as a draft on the website arXiv. Instead, Himiko sits at the edge of the system, which the researchers call a “protocluster” because it’s so small and ancient compared to most of the clusters we can see in the universe..

Related: 11 Fascinating Facts About Our Milky Way Galaxy

“It is reasonable to find a protocluster near a massive object, such as Himiko. However, we’re surprised to see that Himiko was located not in the center of the protocluster but on the edge, 500 million light-years away from the center,” Masami Ouchi, a co-author of the paper and an astronomer at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the University of Tokyo, said in a statement.

Understanding how galaxy clusters came to be turns out to be important for understanding the galaxies they contain. Most galaxies, including the Milky Way, show up in clumps with other galaxies, so the galaxies aren’t evenly distributed throughout the universe. And that clumping seems to affect their behavior, astronomers have said. Galaxies in high-density, clumped environments full of galaxies form stars in different ways than do galaxies in low-density environments empty of galaxies. And the impact of clumping seems to have changed over time, the researchers said.

In more recent times, the researchers wrote in the paper, “there is a clear trend that the star-formation activity of galaxies tends to be lower in high-density environment than low-density environment.”

So, clumped-up galaxies these days form stars less often than their more independent cousins do. It’s as if they’re aging faster in their clusters, the researchers wrote, becoming geriatric and giving up on making new stars.

But in the ancient universe, the trend seems to have been reversed. Galaxies in highly packed clusters formed stars faster, not slower, remaining young and spry compared with their cousins not in dense clusters.

Still, “protoclusters” like this one from the early eons of the universe are rarely found and are poorly understood, the researchers wrote. These clumps tend to be much smaller than modern examples, which can contain hundreds of galaxies.

The further back telescopes peer into time, the fewer proto-clusters turn up. It’s possible many of them are simply obscured by intergalactic dust. The astronomers hope, they wrote, that the new discovery will help flesh out the picture and explain how the state of things 13 billion years ago changed over time to produce that clustered universe we see today.

Originally published on Live Science.

Could Our Universe Be Inside Of A Black Hole?



Black hole shock: Our universe could be INSIDE a black hole – shock claim

BLACK holes could be a portal to another universe and our cosmos could have been born from one, a scientist has sensationally claimed.

Black holes: Scientist reveals how Earth could be destroyed



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While the accepted theory on the universe began is the big bang, there are other equally baffling theories. One such is that our universe was born from a black hole opening in another parallel universe and that each black hole in our cosmos could be a gateway to another universe. At the beginning of time, 13.8 billion years ago, there was a dense and super-hot energetic point where the laws of physics did not apply – what is known as a singularity.

The only other time in the universe where a singularity occurs and the laws of physics are thrown out of the window is at the event horizon of a black hole, which is unexplainable by current scientific methods.

There are a few ways in which a black hole can form.

Scientists believe the most common instance is when a star, thousands of times the size of our sun, collapses in on itself when it dies – known as a supernova.

Another way is when a large amount of matter, which can be in the form of a gas cloud or a star collapses in on itself through its own gravitational pull.

black hole universe

Black hole shock: Our universe could be INSIDE a black hole – shock claim (Image: GETTY)

black hole

Our universe could have been born from a black hole opening in another parallel universe (Image: GETTY)

Finally, the collision of two neutron stars can cause a black hole.

The gist of all three ways is that a massive amount of mass located in one spot can cause a black hole with it essentially ripping a hole in the fabric of space-time.

This has led some to believe that the Big Bang was actually a black hole opening in another universe, allowing the matter which has spewed through from that portal to create our own portal.

The matter that has been spewing through for 13.8 billion years could also explain why the universe is ever-expanding.

READ MORE: Black hole bombshell: Scientists stunned by ‘freaky’ first


“Every black hole would produce a new, baby universe inside” (Image: GETTY)

Sravanthi Sureshkumar, a physicist from Meenakshi College, India, explained on Q+A site Quora: “Every black hole would produce a new, baby universe inside. If that is true, then the first matter in our universe came from somewhere else.

“Our universe may exist inside a black hole. This may sound strange, but it could actually be the best explanation of how the universe began, and what we observe today.

Black hole warning: Astronomer’s dire prediction over Earth’s future [COMMENT]
Are unexplained space shapes ‘evidence of prior universe’? [RESEARCH]
NASA footage shows black hole CONSUME a star in ‘tidal disruption’ VIDEO]


What is a black hole? (Image: EXPRESS)

“Just as we cannot see what is going on inside black holes in the cosmos, any observers in the parent universe could not see what is going on in ours.

“The motion of matter through the black hole’s boundary called an ‘event horizon’, would only happen in one direction, providing a direction of time that we perceive as moving forward.”

Physicists Just Released Step-by-Step Instructions for Building a Wormhole



Physicists Just Released Step-by-Step Instructions for Building a Wormhole

spinning black hole with spacecraft entering

(Image: © Shutterstock)

Everybody wants a wormhole. I mean, who wants to bother traveling the long-and-slow routes throughout the universe, taking tens of thousands of years just to reach yet another boring star? Not when you can pop into the nearest wormhole opening, take a short stroll, and end up in some exotic far-flung corner of the universe.

There’s a small technical difficulty, though: Wormholes, which are bends in space-time so extreme that a shortcut tunnel forms, are catastrophically unstable. As in, as soon as you send a single photon down the hole, it collapses faster than the speed of light.

But a recent paper, published to the preprint journal arXiv on July 29, has found a way to build an almost-steady wormhole, one that does collapse but slowly enough to send messages — and potentially even things — down it before it tears itself apart. All you need are a couple of black holes and a few infinitely long cosmic strings.


The wormhole problem

In principle, building a wormhole is pretty straightforward. According to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, mass and energy warp the fabric of space-time. And a certain special configuration of matter and energy allows the formation of a tunnel, a shortcut between two otherwise distant portions of the universe.

Related: 8 Ways You Can See Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in Real Life

Unfortunately, even on paper, those wormholes are fantastically unstable. Even a single photon passing through the wormhole triggers a catastrophic cascade that rips the wormhole apart. However, a healthy dose of negative mass — yes, that’s matter but with an opposite weight — can counteract the destabilizing effects of regular matter trying to pass through the wormhole, making it traversable.

OK, matter with negative mass doesn’t exist, so we need a new plan.

Let’s start with the wormhole itself. We need an entrance and an exit. It’s theoretically possible to connect a black hole (a region of space where nothing can escape) to a white hole (a theoretical region of space where nothing can enter). When these two odd creatures join together, they form a brand-new thing: a wormhole. So you can jump into either end of this tunnel and instead of getting crushed into oblivion you just harmlessly waltz out the other side.

Oh, but white holes don’t exist, either. Man, this is getting tricky.

Charge it up

Since white holes don’t exist, we need a new plan. Thankfully, some clever math reveals a possible answer: a charged black hole. Black holes can carry an electric charge (it’s not common because of the way they’re formed naturally, but we’ll take what we can get). The inside of a charged black hole is a strange place, with the normal point-like singularity of a black hole stretched and distorted, allowing it to form a bridge to another oppositely charged black hole.

Voila: a wormhole, using only things that might actually exist.

But this wormhole-via-charged-black-holes has two issues. One, it’s still unstable, and if something or someone actually tries to use it, it falls apart. The other is that the two oppositely charged black holes will be attracted to each other — both through gravitational and electric forces — and if they fall together you just get a single, big, neutrally charged and altogether useless black hole.

wormhole illustration

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Put a cosmic bow on it

So to make this all work we need to make sure the two charged black holes stay safely far away from each other, and make sure the tunnel of the wormhole can hold itself open. A potential solution: cosmic strings.

Cosmic strings are theoretical defects, similar to the cracks that form when ice freezes, in the fabric of space-time. These cosmic leftovers formed in the early, heady days of the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang. They are truly exotic objects, no wider than a proton but with a single inch of their length outweighing Mount Everest. You never want to encounter one yourself, since they would slice you clean in half like a cosmic lightsaber, but you don’t have to worry much since we’re not even sure they exist, and we’ve never seen one out there in the universe.

Still, there’s no reason they can’t exist, so they’re fair game.

They have another very useful property when it comes to wormholes: enormous tension. In other words, they really don’t like being pushed around. If you thread the wormhole with a cosmic string, and allow the string to pass along the outside edges of the black holes and stretch out of either end all the way to infinity, then the tension in the string prevents the charged black holes from being attracted to each other, holding the two ends of the wormhole far away from each other. Essentially, the distant ends of the cosmic string act like two opposing tug-of-war teams, holding back the black holes.

Calming the tremors

One cosmic string solves one of the problems (holding the ends open), but it doesn’t prevent the wormhole itself from collapsing if you were to actually use it. So, let’s toss in another cosmic string, also threading the wormhole, but also looping it through normal space between the two black holes.

When cosmic strings are closed in a loop, they wiggle — a lot. These vibrations churn the very fabric of space-time around them, and when tuned just right the vibrations can cause the energy of space in their vicinity to go negative, effectively acting like negative mass within the wormhole, potentially stabilizing it.

It seems a little complex, but in the recent paper, a team of theoretical physicists gave step-by-step instructions for constructing just such a wormhole. It’s not a perfect solution: Eventually the inherent vibrations in the cosmic strings — the same ones that might keep the wormhole open — pull energy, and therefore mass, away from the string, making it smaller and smaller. Essentially, over time the cosmic strings wiggle themselves into oblivion, with complete collapse of the wormhole not far behind. But the kludged-together wormhole may stay stable long enough to allow messages or even objects to travel down the tunnel and actually not die, which is nice.

But first we need to find some cosmic strings.

Paul M. Sutter is an astrophysicist at The Ohio State University, host of Ask a Spaceman and Space Radio, and author of Your Place in the Universe.

Originally published on Live Science.

Astronomers Create 8 Million Baby Universes Inside A Computer



Astronomers Create 8 Million Baby Universes Inside a Computer and Watch Them Grow. Here’s What They Learned.

helix nebula

(Image: © Shutterstock)

A team of astrophysicists has just spawned 8 million unique universes inside a supercomputer and let them evolve from just tots to old geezers. Their goal? To nail down the role that an invisible substance called dark matter played in our universe’s life since the Big Bang and what it means for our fate.

After discovering that our universe is mostly composed of dark matter in the late 1960s, scientists have speculated on its role in the formation of galaxies and their ability to give birth to new stars over time.

According to the Big Bang theory, not long after the universe was born, an invisible and elusive substance physicists have dubbed dark matter began to clump together by the force of gravity into massive clouds called dark matter haloes. As the haloes grew in size, they attracted the sparse hydrogen gas permeating the universe to come together and form the stars and galaxies we see today. In this theory, dark matter acts as the backbone of galaxies, dictating how they form, merge and evolve over time.

Related: The 11 Biggest Unanswered Questions About Dark Matter

To better understand how dark matter shaped this history of the universe, Peter Behroozi, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, and his team created his own universes using the school’s supercomputer. The computer’s 2,000 processors worked without pause over a span of three weeks to simulate more than 8 million unique universes. Each universe individually obeyed a unique set of rules to help researchers understand the relationship between dark matter and the evolution of galaxies.

“On the computer, we can create many different universes and compare them to the actual one, and that lets us infer which rules lead to the one we see,” Behroozi said in a statement.

While previous simulations have focused on modeling single galaxies or generating mock universes with limited parameters, the UniverseMachine is the first of its scope. The program continuously created millions of universes, each containing 12 million galaxies, and each allowed to evolve over nearly the entire history of the real universe from 400 million years after the Big Bang to the present day.

“The big question is, ‘How do galaxies form?’” said study researcher Risa Wechsler, a professor of physics and astrophysics at Stanford University. “The really cool thing about this study is that we can use all the data we have about galaxy evolution —  the numbers of galaxies, how many stars they have and how they form those stars — and put that together into a comprehensive picture of the last 13 billion years of the universe.”

Related: From the Big Bang to Present: Snapshots of Our Universe Through Time

Creating a replica of our universe, or even of a galaxy, would require an inexplicable amount of computing power. So Behroozi and his colleagues narrowed their focus to two key properties of galaxies: their combined mass of stars and the rate at which they give birth to new ones.

“Simulating a single galaxy requires 10 to the 48th computing operations,” Behroozi explained, referring to an octillion operation, or a 1 followed by 48 zeros. “All computers on Earth combined could not do this in a hundred years. So to just simulate a single galaxy, let alone 12 million, we had to do this differently.”

As the computer program spawns new universes, it makes a guess on how a galaxy’s rate of star formation is related to its age, its past interactions with other galaxies and the amount of dark matter in its halo. It then compares each universe with real observations, fine-tuning the physical parameters with every iteration to better match reality. The end result is a universe nearly identical to our own.

According to Wechsler, their results showed that the rate at which galaxies give birth to stars is tightly connected to the mass of their dark matter haloes. Galaxies with dark matter halo masses most similar to our own Milky Way had the highest star-formation rates. She explained that star formation is stifled in more massive galaxies by an abundance of blackholes

Their observations also challenged long-held beliefs that dark matter stifled star formation in the early universe.

“As we go back earlier and earlier in the universe, we would expect the dark matter to be denser, and therefore the gas to be getting hotter and hotter. This is bad for star formation, so we had thought that many galaxies in the early universe should have stopped forming stars a long time ago,” Behroozi said. “But we found the opposite: Galaxies of a given size were more likely to form stars at a higher rate, contrary to the expectation.”

Now, the team plans to expand the Universe Machine to test more ways dark matter might affect the properties of galaxies, including how their shapes evolve, the mass of their black holes and how often their stars go supernova.

“For me, the most exciting thing is that we now have a model where we can start to ask all of these questions in a framework that works,” Wechsler said. “We have a model that is inexpensive enough computationally, that we can essentially calculate an entire universe in about a second. Then we can afford to do that millions of times and explore all of the parameter space.”

The research group published their results in the September issue of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Originally published on Live Science.

What Is the Universe Made of?



What Is the Universe Made of?

Image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744 shows dark matter locations

In this image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744, a blue overlay shows the location of dark matter, which makes up about 75% of the cluster’s mass.
(Image: © NASA/ESA/ESO/CXC, and D. Coe (STScI)/J. Merten (Heidelberg/Bologna))

The universe is filled with billions of galaxies and trillions of stars, along with nearly uncountable numbers of planets, moons, asteroids, comets and clouds of dust and gas – all swirling in the vastness of space.

But if we zoom in, what are the building blocks of these celestial bodies, and where did they come from?

Hydrogen is the most common element found in the universe, followed by helium; together, they make up nearly all ordinary matter. But this accounts for only a tiny slice of the universe — about 5%. All the rest is made of stuff that can’t be seen and can only be detected indirectly. [From Big Bang to Present: Snapshots of Our Universe Through Time]

Mostly hydrogen

It all started with a Big Bang, about 13.8 billion years ago, when ultra-hot and densely packed matter suddenly and rapidly expanded in all directions at once. Milliseconds later, the newborn universe was a heaving mass of neutrons, protons, electrons, photons and other subatomic particles, roiling at about 100 billion degrees Kelvin, according to NASA.

Every bit of matter that makes up all the known elements in the periodic table — and every object in the universe, from black holes to massive stars to specks of space dust — was created during the Big Bang, said Neta Bahcall, a professor of astronomy in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University in New Jersey.

“We don’t even know the laws of physics that would have existed in such a hot, dense environment,” Bahcall told Live Science.

About 100 seconds after the Big Bang, the temperature dropped to a still-seething 1 billion degrees Kelvin. By roughly 380,000 years later, the universe had cooled enough for protons and neutrons to come together and form lithium, helium and the hydrogen isotope deuterium, while free electrons were trapped to form neutral atoms.

Because there were so many protons zipping around in the early universe, hydrogen — the lightest element, with just one proton and one neutron — became the most abundant element, making up nearly 95% percent of the universe’s atoms. Close to 5% of the universe’s atoms are helium, according to NASA. Then, about 200 million years after the Big Bang, the first stars formed and produced the rest of the elements, which make up a fraction of the remaining 1% of all ordinary matter in the universe.

Unseen particles

Something else was created during the Big Bang: dark matter. “But we can’t say what form it took, because we haven’t detected those particles,” Bahcall told Live Science.

Dark matter can’t be observed directly — yet — but its fingerprints are preserved in the universe’s first light, or the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), as tiny fluctuations in radiation, Bahcall said. Scientists first proposed the existence of dark matter in the 1930’s, theorizing that dark matter’s unseen pull must be what held together fast-moving galaxy clusters. Decades later, in the 1970’s, American astronomer Vera Rubin found more indirect evidence of dark matter in the faster-than-expected rotation rates of stars.

Based on Rubin’s findings, astrophysicists calculated that dark matter — even though it couldn’t be seen or measured — must make up a significant portion of the universe. But about 20 years ago, scientists discovered that the universe held something even stranger than dark matter; dark energy, which is thought to be significantly more abundant than either matter or dark matter. [Gallery: Dark Matter Throughout the Universe]

Hubble Space Telescope Image

Captured in 2014 by the Hubble Space Telescope, this picture of the evolving universe is among Hubble’s most colorful deep-space images.

(Image credit: NASA/ESA)

An irresistible force

The discovery of dark energy came about because scientists wondered if there was enough dark matter in the universe to cause expansion to sputter out or reverse direction, causing the universe to collapse inward on itself.

Lo and behold, when a team of researchers investigated this in the late 1990s, they found that not only was the universe not collapsing in on itself, it was expanding outward at an ever faster rate. The group determined that an unknown force — dubbed dark energy — was pushing against the universe in the apparent void of space and accelerating its momentum; the scientists’ findings earned physicists Adam Riess, Brian Schmidt and Saul Perlmutter the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011.

Models of the force required to explain the universe’s accelerating expansion rate suggest that dark energy must make up between 70% and 75% of the universe. Dark matter, meanwhile, accounts for about 20% to 25%, while so-called ordinary matter — the stuff we can actually see — is estimated to make up less than 5% of the universe, Bahcall said.

Considering that dark energy makes up about three-quarters of the universe, understanding it is arguably the biggest challenge facing scientists today, astrophysicist Mario Livio, then with the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, told Live Science sister site in 2018.

“While dark energy has not played a huge role in the evolution of the universe in the past, it will play the dominant role in the evolution in the future,” Livio said. “The fate of the universe depends on the nature of dark energy.”

Originally published on Live Science.

New Hubble Data Breaks Scientists’ Understanding of the Universe



New Hubble Data Breaks Scientists’ Understanding of the Universe

A new attempt to find the universe’s age revealed troubling flaws.

Dan Robitzski 7 hours ago

There may be fundamental flaws with our understanding of the universe.

The problem came to light as scientists tried to calculate and measure a value called the Hubble Constant, which represents how rapidly the universe is expanding outward.

The value was first calculated by astronomer Edwin Hubble in the 1920s. But since then, astronomers observing and measuring the universe’s expansion have arrived at different values of the Hubble Constant, none of which seem to agree with one another. The discrepancy calls into question not only our idea of how old the universe is, but also our ability to fundamentally understand the physics that drive its behavior.

“Naturally, questions arise as to whether the discrepancy is coming from some aspect that astronomers don’t yet understand about the stars we’re measuring, or whether our cosmological model of the universe is still incomplete,” University of Chicago astronomer Wendy Freedman said in a NASA press release. “Or maybe both need to be improved upon.”

Freedman is responsible for the latest measurement of the Hubble Constant, which she calculated using a different kind of cosmic landmark from previous experiments.

Her team measured the brightness of red giant stars in distant galaxies. Because these stars reach uniform size and brightness, their distance from Earth can more readily be calculated than some other stars. Freedman’s work, which has been accepted but not yet published by The Astrophysical Journal, found that the universe is expanding at 69.8 kilometers per second per megaparsec, per the press release.

That’s a slower rate of expansion than was calculated in another recent study that focused on a different kind of star but a faster rate than was calculated in yet another study that measured light leftover from the big bang called the Cosmic Microwave Background.

Freedman originally hoped her research would serve as a tie-breaker between those other two studies — but instead it added yet another, possible value for the Hubble Constant for astronomers to reconcile.

“The Hubble constant is the cosmological parameter that sets the absolute scale, size and age of the universe; it is one of the most direct ways we have of quantifying how the universe evolves,” Freedman said in the press release. “The discrepancy that we saw before has not gone away, but this new evidence suggests that the jury is still out on whether there is an immediate and compelling reason to believe that there is something fundamentally flawed in our current model of the universe.”

Further complicating the issue, statistical analysis validates both of those two previous studies, according to a New Scientist article published last week, before Freedman’s study was announced. There’s just a one-in-3.5 million chance that their findings came from random chance.

In the middle of the next decade, NASA hopes to launch the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope into orbit, at which point scientists will be able to more precisely measure the distance of celestial objects, per the press release. When that happens, there’s a chance that astronomers will be able to reconcile their various Hubble Constant values.

“The Hubble constant is the biggest problem in cosmology that we have access to right now, and the hope is that this crack in our understanding is going to lead us to some even bigger cracks like dark energy and dark matter,” Duke University astronomer Daniel Scolnic told New Scientist. “We just have to chase the crack.”


More on the Hubble Constant: Figuring out How Fast the Universe Is Expanding Might Require a New Type of Physics

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NASA/Victor Tangermann

Black hole BOMBSHELL: NASA astronomer hints universe could be a HOLOGRAM



Black hole BOMBSHELL: NASA astronomer hints universe could be a HOLOGRAM

BLACK holes could hold all of the secrets of the universe and prove once and for all we live in a “giant hologram”, a NASA astronomer has spectacularly claimed.

NASA claim that WATER is present on the moon’s surface



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Black holes are incredible wells of gravity, where the force of attraction traps everything including light. Black holes are often found at the hearts of galaxies and up until April this year have been purely theoretical. In April, astronomers behind the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration photographed the first ever shadow of a black hole millions of light-years from Earth. But little is still known about the exact nature of these terrifying objects and speculation is rampant.

This is why astronomer Michelle Thaller, who is the assistant director of Science Communications at , said dark holes challenge our understanding of physics.

The  experts appeared in a science video for Big Think, where she discussed the idea black holes are key to cracking the secrets of the universe.

And perhaps most shockingly, the astronomer suggested the universe in which we live is nothing more than a two-dimensional hologram.

Dr Thaller said: “Things are stopped in time as they fell into the black hole. And right at the boundary, there is almost kind of a sphere, a two-dimensional surface that somehow contains all the information about what’s inside the black hole.


Black hole shock: The universe is a hologram

Black hole SHOCK: Black holes and the universe could be a hologram in a shock twist (Image: GETTY)

“And this reminds people of something that humans invented, called a hologram.

“Now, a hologram is a two-dimensional object. You can make it out of glass or a piece of film. And you shine a light through it and all of a sudden, there seems to be three-dimensional projections.

“And the idea is that we are looking at some fundamental way the universe stores information. Around a black hole, where space and time have been crushed out of existence, could there be a shell of information, something like a hologram?”

But how does this cosmic revelation suggest the universe at large is a form of a hologram?


According to Dr Thaller, black holes could be a miniaturised representation of how the universe works on a big scale.

This all sounds incredibly strange

Dr Michelle Thaller, NASA

In this scenario, all of the information in the universe is spread out across a 2D surface and we could be part of it.

But the astronomer said this does not in any way imply intent or creative design behind the hologram.

She said: “We’re just talking about the universe may really be information contained in a two-dimensional structure, not the three dimensions that we’re aware of now. This all sounds incredibly strange.


Black hole in space: Universe is a hologram

Black holes are incredible wells of gravity peppered throughout the cosmos (Image: GETTY)

Black hole: Dr Michelle Thaller

Black hole: Dr Michelle Thaller said the universe could be two-dimensional information (Image: BIG THINK)

“I’m always a little bit afraid to talk about it. But I think that the thing to really kind of gain from this is that black holes are staring us right in the face. We’re now observing them.

“They’re right there. And we cannot really describe how the universe should work with one of these things. They don’t make sense.”

On April 10, 2019, the EHT collaboration published the world’s first ever photograph of a distant black hole at the heart of galaxy Messier 87.

The historic achievement confirmed the existence of black holes 100 years after they were theorised by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and by astronomer Karl Schwarzschild.

Astronomers just discovered a super massive black hole from the dawn of the universe



Astronomers just discovered a supermassive black hole from the dawn of the universe

And it’s much bigger than we expected.

black hole and quasar

An artist’s image of a black hole with an accretion disk and a quasar shooting away from it.

Robin Dienel, courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science

There was a bang. A big one. It was the beginning of everything, but for several hundred million years, all was darkness. Then, lights started flickering to life, stars and gases and galaxies all coming online.

One of the brightest lights during that dawn had a dark and hungry hole at its heart. More massive than 800 million suns, the black hole existed just 690 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was still an infant.

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Researchers, including Eduardo Bañados, reported the existence of the black hole and its accompanying bright quasar in a paper in Nature this week. The astronomers were looking for evidence of black holes in these early days of the universe, but they were still surprised at the sheer size of this one, named J1342+0928.

Black holes are points in the universe where gravity is so intense that nothing can escape. Not rocks, not gas, not even light. Near large black holes, surrounding material swirls around to form something called an accretion disk. Material in the disk spins at thousands of miles per second, heating up as it moves and slams into other bits of dusts and gas, all riding the same frantic carousel toward doom.

The material itself spins down into the black hole, never to be seen again, but its jostling releases energy that heads out into the universe in the form of immensely bright heat and light. That light made the quasar that Bañados and his co-authors were able to detect, which they used to estimate J1342+0928’s surprising mass.

Bañados says that a typical black hole, forming as a star collapses, might have the mass of 50 to 100 suns. “If you make it grow, feed it material like gas from its surroundings and let it grow for 690 million years, you wouldn’t be able to reach the size of this supermassive black hole,” Bañados says.

To figure out how this black hole could have gotten so large so quickly, observational astronomers like Bañados must team up with theoretical astronomers and astrophysicists. In the process, they’re also looking into ever-so-slightly broader questions, like the evolution of everything. “This object is so distant and so luminous that it provides a laboratory to study the early universe,” Bañados says.

Bañados has discovered about half of the most distant quasars on record, but this one—while not the most massive—is the furthest of them all. Because light takes time to travel, the more distant an object is, the earlier back in history we’re peering when we look at it. So this object comes from earlier in the universe’s lifespan than any of the others scientists have observed.

“This record is nice, but we’re not doing this for the record,” Bañados says. “This is so mature that I would be very surprised if this is the first quasar ever formed. I hope we or someone else will break this record soon.”

This particular quasar is so bright that it outshines the galaxy where it’s located—it’s 1000 times more luminous. And it’s not like that galaxy is a slouch either, even though the quasar at its heart drowns it out in both the optical and ultraviolet wavelengths of light. Fortunately, if you look at the galaxy in longer wavelengths, you can start to see some details. Bañados is a co-author on another paper that came out this week in The Astrophysical Journal Letters that focuses on the galaxy around the black hole. They the galaxy was positively choked with interstellar dust, producing somewhere around 100 new solar masses (the mass of our star) per year. Our galaxy only makes about one solar mass per year.

They were also able to detect something about the neighborhood of space around the black hole, finding that about half of the area had un-ionized hydrogen (which would have blocked out light, leading to those first few hundreds of millions of years of darkness in the universe) and half had ionized hydrogen, indicating that this black hole could have existed at the time when the universe switched from being dominated by the former to the latter.

“How this happened and when this happened have fundamental implications for the evolution of the universe later on,” Bañados says. “But we need to find and keep searching for more objects even further away and try to repeat that experiment.”

Luckily, there are now more opportunities to look into those universal origins. In 2018, Bañados and other researchers around the world will use a variety of telescopes to explore this object more thoroughly and look for others in the night sky.

“We’re a very fortunate generation,” Bañados says. “We’re the first human beings to have the technology to study and characterize in detail some of the first galaxies and black holes that formed in the universe. If that’s not fascinating, I don’t know what is.”