October 6th, 2012 19:19 EST
Our Universe is Still Expanding Larger than a Rubber Band at Full Stretch
Who would have thought that our universe which is larger than the human mind can grasp or even try to figure out, is still expanding and growing at a rate that pushes NASA Scientists to put down their morning coffee cups, grab a piece of that large telescope and put their eye towards the sky to try to gather has much data and information on why this phenomenon is still happening and has been for many, many years. In fact, the universe has been expanding since its birth back some 13.7 billion years ago. Scientists have been keeping their eye on the rate of expansion for many years now but have not been able to put their finger on the expansion rate of the universe until now.
NASA`s main team player or should I say their main entity when it comes to finding anything and everything about space and our universe, their Spitzer telescope has been watching the universe from end to end and has finally found a precise measurement or at least has found a measurement on how fast the universe is expanding that is more accurate than NASA scientist have come across in the past.
The Hubble Constant which is another name for the universe is named after the astronomer Edwin P. Hubble who was the first astronomer to astonish the world back in the 1920s by confirming that our universe is in fact expanding and has been since it came into existence has now been proven to be a fact.
NASA`s other entity on space exploration is their Hubble telescope which views space and cosmos in visible light compared to their Spitzer telescope which views the universe or can view the universe in long-wavelength, infrared light which by measuring anything in space in this way gives a more accurate measurement compared to measuring in visible light. The Spitzer telescope was able to delve into the many cosmos, be at one with the planets and ride the tail of the many comets that streak around our universe like a swarm of hungry bees in search of their next honey tree and was able to get more precise measurements of how fast our universe is expanding by zooming in on infrared light that is as abundant in our universe as raindrops are in a thunderstorm and was able to get a more precise number of the rate of expansion.
The overall measurement the Spitzer telescope came up with was an improved factor of three on a seminal study which gives scientists a closer number to be able to define the expansion rate and study the measurement in science terms and is a giant leap for accuracy in cosmological measuring. The new value with the new number given by Spitzer is now at 74.3 plus/minus 2.1 kilometers per second per megaparsec. A megaparsec in space measurements equates out to roughly three-million light years.
Michael Werner who is one of the project scientists for Spitzer located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California gave the Spitzer telescope a big Kudos by saying, Spitzer is yet again doing science beyond what it was designed to do. First, Spitzer surprised us with its pioneering ability to study exoplanet atmospheres and now in the missions later years, it has become a valuable cosmology tool. " (Werner, M. 2012).
These findings by Spitzer were not just noted and put in some file at NASA for later referencing; they were combined with other published data from NASA`s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe to obtain an independent measurement of dark energy. Dark energy is just that, energy that is constantly being studied and has been as big a mystery to scientists as an Agatha Christie novel is to a third grade class. Dark energy acts like two rival football or baseball teams that are set to play each other in the Super bowl (the NFL) or the World Series (MLB). You have one dominant team (dark energy) trash talking the other weaker team (gravity). In science terms scientists have thought that dark energy is winning the battle against gravity, pulling the fabric of the universe apart.
So, as the universe expands the battle between dark energy and gravity rages on. Wendy Freedman who is the lead author at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science located in Pasadena, California (Rose Bowl country) summed this up by saying, This is a huge puzzle. It`s exciting that we are able to use Spitzer to tackle fundamental problems in cosmology; the precise rate at which the universe is expanding at the current time, as well as measuring the amount of dark energy in the universe from another angle. " (Freedman, W.)
Spitzer should prove to be the last link in the puzzle of dark energy and the expansion of the universe that will feed the needed information to NASA`s scientists for them to be able to make a hypothesis on this dark mystery.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Spitzer used infrared to help gauge a better measurement and narrow down the unknown amount the universe is expanding. Infrared allowed the Spitzer telescope to see through dust which provided a better view of variable stars which are called Cepheid`s. Cepheid`s are pulsating stars that are known as the cosmic distance ladder. Glenn Wahlgren who is a Spitzer program scientist commented on this which will give you a better understanding of the role that Cepheid`s play in cosmic measuring by saying, These pulsating stars are vital rungs in what astronomers call the cosmic distance ladder; a set of objects with known distances that when combined with the speeds at which the objects are moving away from us reveal the expansion rate of the universe. " (Wahlgre, G.).
Cepheid`s are a great link in getting a more accurate measurement of distance in space because their distances from Earth can be measured readily (or at real-time) which the measurements now become a variable in the calculation equation of distance. So, like a variable in a math or to be more specific, an algebraic equation; the pulsating action of light in the Cepheid`s, pulse at a rate directly related to their intrinsic brightness which would be the same as the value of a variable in an equation thus providing data to solve the measurement of distance.
To put this in simpler terms let`s take an example of someone walking away from you while carrying a candle. The further away the candle travels the more the light given off by the flame of the candle will dim. The apparent brightness of the flame of the candle would reveal the distance.
The same is true for the principle of Cepheid`s which in this role would take on the role of a standard candle in our cosmos. By measuring how bright the Cepheid`s appear in our sky and taking that brightness data and comparing it to how bright they are known for being if they were close up gives scientists a more precise measurement and easier calculations on the distance they are from Earth. So, if you think about it using infrared to see through space dust gives scientist a more visible view of the brightness of these Cepheid`s which gives a better calculation on distance.
The Spitzer telescope observed ten Cepheid`s in our Milky Way galaxy and observed eighty others in a neighboring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. Without the cosmic dust blocking their view at the infrared wavelength point seen by Spitzer, scientists were able to get a more accurate measurement of the stars apparent brightness and their distances. This information played the key role in obtaining a more accurate estimate of the rate of expansion of the universe.
Wendy Freedman went on to say, Just over a decade ago using the words precision " and cosmology " in the same sentence was not possible and the size and age of the universe was not known to better than a factor of two. Now we are talking about accuracies of a few percent. It is quite extraordinary. " (Freedman, W.).
So, as you peer up in that big and dark wonder that overtakes our planet every evening as the sun sinks slowly in the West and the day seems to take on a sense of history in the books, think about what you are looking at as you see the stars come out and turn the complete darkness and black into a scenery equal to taking a sheet of black construction paper with thousands of pin holes punched in it and a bright light shining behind it; just know that there is really no limits to the amount of darkness you are looking at because our universe is ever expanding and will be until the day comes that we can truly call, the end of time. " (Anselm, R.).
NASA`S INFRAED OBSERVATORY MEASURES EXPANSION OF UNIVERSE, (http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer).
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