Supermassive black holes reveal universe is expanding faster than previously thought, study finds – The Independent
Science and Nature

Supermassive black holes reveal universe is expanding faster than previously thought, study finds – The Independent

Supermassive black holes in the depths of space have been used for the first time to measure the universe growing, yielding intriguing results.

Astronomers found the universe appears to be expanding faster than previously thought, a discovery that suggests a whole new set of rules is required to understand the cosmos.

The rate of universe expansion is known as the Hubble constant, named after the American astronomer who also gave his name to the famous space telescope.


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It has proved a tricky value to pin down, because while the cosmos has been getting bigger since the Big Bang, the rate seems to vary depending on where astronomers look and how they measure it.

In a new study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists used black holes sitting at the core of distant galaxies as reference points by which to measure the speed of growth.

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1/30 Earth from the ISS

From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry W. Virts took this photograph of the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Gulf Coast at sunset

Nasa

2/30 Frosty slopes of Mars

This image of an area on the surface of Mars, approximately 1.5 by 3 kilometers in size, shows frosted gullies on a south-facing slope within a crater. The image was taken by Nasa’s HiRISE camera, which is mounted on its Mars Reconaissance Orbiter

Nasa

3/30 Orion Capsule splashes down

The Orion capsule jetted off into space before heading back a few hours later — having proved that it can be used, one day, to carry humans to Mars

Nasa

4/30 The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launch

The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, carrying three new astronauts to the International Space Station. It also took caviar, ready for the satellite’s inhabitants to celebrate the holidays

Nasa

5/30 Yellowstone from space

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman shared this image of Yellowstone via his twitter account

Nasa

6/30 Black Hole Friday

Nasa celebrated Black Friday by looking into space instead — sharing pictures of black holes

Nasa

7/30 NuSTAR

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Nasa

8/30 Saturn

This near-infrared color image shows a specular reflection, or sunglint, off of a hydrocarbon lake named Kivu Lacus on Saturn’s moon Titan

Nasa

9/30 Worlds Apart

Although Mimas and Pandora, shown here, both orbit Saturn, they are very different moons. Pandora, “small” by moon standards (50 miles or 81 kilometers across) is elongated and irregular in shape. Mimas (246 miles or 396 kilometers across), a “medium-sized” moon, formed into a sphere due to self-gravity imposed by its higher mass

Nasa

10/30 Solar Flare

An X1.6 class solar flare flashes in the middle of the sun in this image taken 10 September, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory

Nasa

11/30 Solar Flare

An image from Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows a 200,000 mile long solar filament ripping through the Sun’s corona in September 2013

Nasa

12/30 Cassiopeia A c

A false colour image of Cassiopeia A comprised with data from the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes and the Chandra X-Ray observatory

Nasa

13/30 Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy

An image of the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy seen in infrared light by the Herschel Space Observatory. Regions of space such as this are where new stars are born from a mixture of elements and cosmic dust

Nasa

14/30 Mars Rover Spirit

Nasa’s Mars Rover Spirit took the first picture from Spirit since problems with communications began a week earlier. The image shows the robotic arm extended to the rock called Adirondack

Nasa

15/30 Morning Aurora From the Space Station

Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly captured this photograph of the green lights of the aurora from the International Space Station

16/30 Launch of History – Making STS-41G Mission in 1984

The Space Shuttle Challenger launches from Florida at dawn. On this mission, Kathryn Sullivan became the first U.S. woman to perform a spacewalk and Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space. The crew of seven was the largest to fly on a spacecraft at that time, and STS-41G was the first flight to include two female astronauts

17/30 A Fresh Perspective on an Extraordinary Cluster of Galaxies

Galaxy clusters are often described by superlatives. After all, they are huge conglomerations of galaxies, hot gas, and dark matter and represent the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity

18/30 Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant

Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope has unveiled in stunning detail a small section of the Veil Nebula – expanding remains of a massive star that exploded about 8,000 years ago

19/30 Hubble Sees a Galactic Sunflower

The arrangement of the spiral arms in the galaxy Messier 63, seen here in an image from the Nasa Hubble Space Telescope, recall the pattern at the center of a sunflower

20/30 A Hubble Cosmic Couple

The spectacular cosmic pairing of the star Hen 2-427 — more commonly known as WR 124 — and the nebula M1-67 which surrounds it

21/30 Pluto image

Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with colour data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced colour global view of Pluto

22/30 Fresh Crater Near Sirenum Fossae Region of Mars

The HiRISE camera aboard Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired this closeup image of a “fresh” (on a geological scale, though quite old on a human scale) impact crater in the Sirenum Fossae region of Mars. This impact crater appears relatively recent as it has a sharp rim and well-preserved ejecta

23/30 Earth Observations From Gemini IV in 1965

This photograph of the Florida Straits and Grand Bahama Bank was taken during the Gemini IV mission during orbit no. 19 in 1965. The Gemini IV crew conducted scientific experiments, including photography of Earth’s weather and terrain, for the remainder of their four-day mission following Ed White’s historic spacewalk on June 3

24/30 Nasa Celebrates 50 Years of Spacewalking

For 50 years, NASA has been “suiting up” for spacewalking. In this 1984 photograph of the first untethered spacewalk, NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless is in the midst of the first “field” tryout of a nitrogen-propelled backpack device called the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU)

25/30 Hubble Peers into the Most Crowded Place in the Milky Way

This Nasa Hubble Space Telescope image presents the Arches Cluster, the densest known star cluster in the Milky Way

26/30 An Astronaut’s View from Space

Nasa astronaut Reid Wiseman tweeted this photo from the International Space Station on 2 September 2014

27/30 Giant Landform on Mars

On Mars, we can observe four classes of sandy landforms formed by the wind, or aeolian bedforms: ripples, transverse aeolian ridges, dunes, and what are called “draa”

28/30 Expedition 39 Landing

A sokol suit helmet can be seen against the window of the Soyuz TMA-11M capsule shortly after the spacecraft landed with Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

29/30 Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Viewed by Voyager I

30/30 Chandra Observatory Sees a Heart in the Darkness


1/30 Earth from the ISS

From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry W. Virts took this photograph of the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Gulf Coast at sunset

Nasa

2/30 Frosty slopes of Mars

This image of an area on the surface of Mars, approximately 1.5 by 3 kilometers in size, shows frosted gullies on a south-facing slope within a crater. The image was taken by Nasa’s HiRISE camera, which is mounted on its Mars Reconaissance Orbiter

Nasa

3/30 Orion Capsule splashes down

The Orion capsule jetted off into space before heading back a few hours later — having proved that it can be used, one day, to carry humans to Mars

Nasa

4/30 The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launch

The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, carrying three new astronauts to the International Space Station. It also took caviar, ready for the satellite’s inhabitants to celebrate the holidays

Nasa


5/30 Yellowstone from space

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman shared this image of Yellowstone via his twitter account

Nasa

6/30 Black Hole Friday

Nasa celebrated Black Friday by looking into space instead — sharing pictures of black holes

Nasa

7/30 NuSTAR

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Nasa

8/30 Saturn

This near-infrared color image shows a specular reflection, or sunglint, off of a hydrocarbon lake named Kivu Lacus on Saturn’s moon Titan

Nasa


9/30 Worlds Apart

Although Mimas and Pandora, shown here, both orbit Saturn, they are very different moons. Pandora, “small” by moon standards (50 miles or 81 kilometers across) is elongated and irregular in shape. Mimas (246 miles or 396 kilometers across), a “medium-sized” moon, formed into a sphere due to self-gravity imposed by its higher mass

Nasa

10/30 Solar Flare

An X1.6 class solar flare flashes in the middle of the sun in this image taken 10 September, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory

Nasa

11/30 Solar Flare

An image from Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows a 200,000 mile long solar filament ripping through the Sun’s corona in September 2013

Nasa

12/30 Cassiopeia A c

A false colour image of Cassiopeia A comprised with data from the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes and the Chandra X-Ray observatory

Nasa


13/30 Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy

An image of the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy seen in infrared light by the Herschel Space Observatory. Regions of space such as this are where new stars are born from a mixture of elements and cosmic dust

Nasa

14/30 Mars Rover Spirit

Nasa’s Mars Rover Spirit took the first picture from Spirit since problems with communications began a week earlier. The image shows the robotic arm extended to the rock called Adirondack

Nasa

15/30 Morning Aurora From the Space Station

Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly captured this photograph of the green lights of the aurora from the International Space Station

16/30 Launch of History – Making STS-41G Mission in 1984

The Space Shuttle Challenger launches from Florida at dawn. On this mission, Kathryn Sullivan became the first U.S. woman to perform a spacewalk and Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space. The crew of seven was the largest to fly on a spacecraft at that time, and STS-41G was the first flight to include two female astronauts


17/30 A Fresh Perspective on an Extraordinary Cluster of Galaxies

Galaxy clusters are often described by superlatives. After all, they are huge conglomerations of galaxies, hot gas, and dark matter and represent the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity

18/30 Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant

Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope has unveiled in stunning detail a small section of the Veil Nebula – expanding remains of a massive star that exploded about 8,000 years ago

19/30 Hubble Sees a Galactic Sunflower

The arrangement of the spiral arms in the galaxy Messier 63, seen here in an image from the Nasa Hubble Space Telescope, recall the pattern at the center of a sunflower

20/30 A Hubble Cosmic Couple

The spectacular cosmic pairing of the star Hen 2-427 — more commonly known as WR 124 — and the nebula M1-67 which surrounds it


21/30 Pluto image

Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with colour data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced colour global view of Pluto

22/30 Fresh Crater Near Sirenum Fossae Region of Mars

The HiRISE camera aboard Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired this closeup image of a “fresh” (on a geological scale, though quite old on a human scale) impact crater in the Sirenum Fossae region of Mars. This impact crater appears relatively recent as it has a sharp rim and well-preserved ejecta

23/30 Earth Observations From Gemini IV in 1965

This photograph of the Florida Straits and Grand Bahama Bank was taken during the Gemini IV mission during orbit no. 19 in 1965. The Gemini IV crew conducted scientific experiments, including photography of Earth’s weather and terrain, for the remainder of their four-day mission following Ed White’s historic spacewalk on June 3

24/30 Nasa Celebrates 50 Years of Spacewalking

For 50 years, NASA has been “suiting up” for spacewalking. In this 1984 photograph of the first untethered spacewalk, NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless is in the midst of the first “field” tryout of a nitrogen-propelled backpack device called the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU)


25/30 Hubble Peers into the Most Crowded Place in the Milky Way

This Nasa Hubble Space Telescope image presents the Arches Cluster, the densest known star cluster in the Milky Way

26/30 An Astronaut’s View from Space

Nasa astronaut Reid Wiseman tweeted this photo from the International Space Station on 2 September 2014

27/30 Giant Landform on Mars

On Mars, we can observe four classes of sandy landforms formed by the wind, or aeolian bedforms: ripples, transverse aeolian ridges, dunes, and what are called “draa”

28/30 Expedition 39 Landing

A sokol suit helmet can be seen against the window of the Soyuz TMA-11M capsule shortly after the spacecraft landed with Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan


29/30 Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Viewed by Voyager I

30/30 Chandra Observatory Sees a Heart in the Darkness

These bodies constantly spew out radiation, placing them among the brightest points in the universe.

“Black holes are the most luminous persistent sources of the universe and allow us to measure its expansion rate at very early times,” explained Dr Elisabeta Lusso from Durham University.

Using data collected from 1,600 supermassive black holes as the universe expands and they move away from each other, the scientists were able to record the rate of this expansion.

Previous efforts had used the light produced by exploding supernovae to measure the growth of the universe, but such measurements could only go back so far in time.

The luminous black holes allowed Dr Lusso and her colleague Dr Guido Risaliti to peer back further, providing a clearer picture of early universe expansion.

The discrepancy they recorded matched the contradictory results previously obtained by the European Space Agency and Nasa.


Nasa releases first video of most distant object in universe

These results suggest the early expansion of the universe is different from that predicted by the standard model of cosmology, which describes the age, history and contents of the universe.

According to Dr Lusso, one explanation for this could be the mysterious force known as dark energy – a theoretical form thought to occupy most of the universe and account for much of its energy.

“We may need to explore new physics, for example rethinking the potential properties of dark energy,” she said.

Dr Risaliti, of the Università degli Studi di Firenze, said if this dark energy is evolving – with a density that increases as time passes – this could provide an explanation for their results.

“However, this is only one of the many models – all including new physics – proposed by the theorists, and much more work is needed to find a unique solution,” he said.

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