Scientists are rethinking their convictions about the age of the universe. As they study data collected from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, they’re revising their past calculations and dating.
A new study by Nobel Prize-winner Adam Riess concluded that the universe is about a billion years younger than physicists and astronomers thought. According to the study, the universe is also expanding faster than it used to.
At issue is a number that physicists use to measure the speed of expansion. That number is called the Hubble constant. Some scientists call it the most important number in their study of the origin of the universe. The new data shows that the so-called “constant,” isn’t—constant, that is. It’s higher now than it used to be, they say—about 9% higher than the previous calculation. That means the universe is expanding faster than it did at first creation.
But the real trouble is that Riess and others think both the old and the new calculations are correct—and that’s boggling scientific minds. How can both be true at the same time? The conflict is so confounding that they are talking about coming up with “new physics” to address it. There must be some “yet-to-be-discovered particle” or other cosmic “fudge factor” at work, they say.
NASA astrophysicist John Mather, also a Nobel winner, offers two options: “1. We’re making mistakes we can’t find yet. 2. Nature has something we can’t find yet.”
The old calculation looked at hot and cold spots in radiation from the universe. Studying size and distance, scientists came up with one age estimation. The new calculation looked at Cepheid stars—stars that pulse at a steady rate—and calculated their distance against other celestial steadies, like supernovae. That produced a younger estimate.
Both calculations make sense and “nobody can find anything wrong at this point,” says University of Chicago astrophysicist Wendy Freedman. Other outside experts praised both teams’ research.
“It’s looking more and more like we’re going to need something new to explain this,” says Riess.
For much of human history, people have studied creation both to understand how it works and to understand and honor its Creator. But many scientists reject the idea of a God who exists outside of His creation but spoke it into being and set it in motion. The “something new” that Riess and his colleagues need to explain the universe’s origins may, in fact, be Someone very “old”—even eternal.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. — Romans 1:20