Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have stumbled on a rare and surprising find: A very distant spiral galaxy, swirling billions of light years away, which formed at a time when such spiral galaxies were thought to be nonexistent. Researchers say it’s an astounding discovery — partly because it raises some questions about prevailing theories of galaxy formation.
For today's Nobel Laureates in Physics, it was pretty much a matter of when, not if. When the three winners and their teams announced back in 1998 that the universe was not only expanding, but accelerating, they shook cosmology to its core: Their findings said the universe would end not with a bang, but a whimper.
And the question of why — the mysterious force of dark energy, which accounts for about three-fourths of the mass-energy of the entire universe — is one of the greatest questions in modern science.
After a five-year study of 200,000 galaxies, scientists are more certain than ever that dark energy acts as a repulsive force, tearing the universe apart at an accelerating rate. The research confirms the idea that dark energy dominates gravity throughout the cosmos. But no one has any idea what dark energy actually is or how it works.
Europe's Euclid space telescope could pick up on distorted light from distant galaxies, and pick up clues on the existence of dark energy.
S. Colombi (IAP), CFHT Team
Dark energy may not have much in common with aliens, unless there's a flotilla of freaky monoliths out there with really weird physical properties. But astrophysicists hope to build a two-in-one space telescope that can search for signs of dark energy along with exoplanets.