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Cosmology

The ANU SkyMapper telescope at the Siding Spring Observatory has discovered the oldest kno...

A team of astronomers at The Australian National University (ANU) working on a five-year project to produce the first comprehensive digital survey of the southern sky has discovered the oldest known star in the Universe. Just a 6,000 light year astronomical hop, skip and jump from Earth, the ancient star formed shortly after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.  Read More

Looking back on a year filled with scientific accomplishment

The close of 2013 gives us an excellent opportunity, though satiated with holiday feasts, to look back on a year that has been filled with scientific accomplishment. So it's time to get comfortable on your Binary Chair, sip your hot cocoa from a phase-change mug while your Foodini prints out a batch of cookies and reflect on science stories of note from the past year.  Read More

The Universe is big, and so is the challenge of understanding its large-scale structure (P...

Our knowledge of the large-scale structure of the Universe is gradually taking shape. However, our improved vision is mostly being statistically squeezed from huge data sets. Working backward from a statistical analysis to a putative fact about the (singular) Universe, to which statistics do not apply on a cosmological scale, is a dicey business. A case in point is a recent look at the biggest known structures in the Universe – large quasar groups.  Read More

A cross-sectional view of the LUX dark matter detector (Image: LUX)

The Large Underground Xenon experiment, buried nearly a mile beneath South Dakota, has completed 85 days of seeking dark matter particles. The results are consistent with a null result, and essentially rule out the 8.6 GeV dark matter candidate noted in the data of other experiments.  Read More

Is dark energy needed to accelerate the expansion of the universe? (Image: Shutterstock)

Fans of Doctor Who will be very familiar with the stupefied phrase uttered by all new visitors to his Tardis: "It's...bigger...on the inside." As it turns out, this apparently irrational idea may have something to contribute to our understanding of the universe. A team of cosmologists in Finland and Poland propose that the observed acceleration of the expansion of the universe, usually explained by dark energy or modified laws of gravity, may actually be the result of regions of spacetime that are larger on the inside than they appear from the outside. The researchers have dubbed these "Tardis regions."  Read More

HD 140283 - the Methuselah star (Photo: Hubble via W.M. Keck Observatory)

An international team of scientists using one of the pair of 10-meter telescopes at the W.M. Keck Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii has now shown that the early moments of our Universe closely followed the theoretical model for the genesis of the elements. Improved observational and modeling methods show that the elemental composition of the post-Big Bang universe agrees with the predictions of that model, eliminating what was thought to be a substantial discrepancy between theory and observation.  Read More

Massive galaxy LRG 3-757 forms a gravitational lens for a second galaxy (blue ring) at a d...

Gravitational lenses, which are massive galaxies or galaxy clusters that act as a magnifying glass by bending light passing them, are one of the Universe's golden gifts to astronomers. To help unlock the mysteries that might lie behind these untapped celestial resources, Zooniverse, a program of the Citizens Science Alliance, has begun the Space Warps project. It allows citizen scientists to put their skills at pattern/image recognition to use, toward finding these fugitive gravitational lenses.  Read More

Hubble Ultra Deep Field, showing thousands of galaxies back to a time only a few hundred m...

It is dangerous to bet against Einstein. Cosmological research shows that the rate at which the Universe expands is increasing, rather than decreasing as was previously thought. The concept of "dark energy" with a negative pressure was introduced to describe this acceleration. Now measurements of the proton to electron mass ratio (PEMR) over the past seven billion years strongly suggest that the models of dark energy are far more contrived in explaining accelerating expansion than is Einstein's self-proclaimed "biggest blunder" – the cosmological constant.  Read More

The Spitzer space telescope has peered through dust and gas to establish a new value for t...

The size and age of our Universe is not only a critically important issue in cosmology, but is also among the most controversial and delicate of the cosmological questions. Infrared observations made using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have now given us the most precise estimate yet of the rate at which our Universe is expanding. The key was not the discovery of a new method for measuring distance. Rather, astronomers discovered how to measure brightness more accurately. The new value for the Hubble constant, good to within three percent, is 74.3 kilometers per second per megaparsec (km/s/Mpc).  Read More

Vignettes from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image. 'Space is big. You just won't believe ho...

In mankind's attempts to gain some understanding of this marvelous place in which we live, we have slowly come to accept some principles to help guide our search. One such principle is that the Universe, on a large enough scale, is homogeneous, meaning that one part looks pretty much like another. Recent studies by a group of Australian researchers have established that, on sizes greater than about 250 million light years (Mly), the Universe is indeed statistically homogeneous, thereby reinforcing this cosmological principle.  Read More

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