Dark Energy – 60 Second Adventures in Astronomy (9/14)

60-Second Adventures in Astronomy. Number
9: Dark Energy. Why is the universe expanding? Albert Einstein was absolutely
certain the universe was stable but he couldn’t work out why his snazzy new
relativity equations suggested it was contracting, so Einstein figured space
must have an inbuilt tendency to fling itself apart, which would balance out the
pull from gravity. This flinging out-ness got called the cosmological
constant and meant the universe could be kept static, which was great until it was
proved by Edwin Hubble that the universe is in fact expanding and that
cosmological constant became what Einstein described as ‘the biggest
blunder of my career’. Then in 1998 scientists discovered that the universe
was not only expanding but that expansion was actually getting faster. So
either space does have a tendency to fling itself apart or there must be some
other hidden weird stuff in the universe causing it, referred to as ‘dark energy’.
Astronomers are looking for it right now by measuring tiny kinks in space and in
its simplest form this dark energy is pretty much a cosmological constant, so
Einstein was right all along. Apart from the time he said he’d
blundered, the big thicko.


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