Nasa’s Webb, Hubble telescopes affirm universe’s expansion rate, puzzle persists | Science & Technology

When you are trying to solve one of the biggest conundrums in cosmology, you should triple check your homework. The puzzle, called the “Hubble Tension,” is that the current rate of the expansion of the universe is faster than what astronomers expect it to be, based on the universe’s initial conditions and our present understanding of the universe’s evolution.

Scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and many other telescopes consistently find a number that does not match predictions based on observations from ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) Planck mission. Does resolving this discrepancy require new physics? Or is it a result of measurement errors between the two different methods used to determine the rate of expansion of space?

Hubble has been measuring the current rate of the universe’s expansion for 30 years, and astronomers want to eliminate any lingering doubt about its accuracy. Now, Hubble and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have tag-teamed to produce definitive measurements, furthering the case that something else — not measurement errors — is influencing the expansion rate.

“With measurement errors negated, what remains is the real and exciting possibility we have misunderstood the universe,” said Adam Riess, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Riess holds a Nobel Prize for co-discovering the fact that the universe’s expansion is accelerating, due to a mysterious phenomenon now called “dark energy.”

As a crosscheck, an initial Webb observation in 2023 confirmed that Hubble measurements of the expanding universe were accurate. However, hoping to relieve the Hubble Tension, some scientists speculated that unseen errors in the measurement may grow and become visible as we look deeper into the universe. In particular, stellar crowding could affect brightness measurements of more distant stars in a systematic way.

The SH0ES (Supernova H0 for the Equation of State of Dark Energy) team, led by Riess, obtained additional…

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