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ASTRONOMERS CRUNCH NUMBERS, UNIVERSE GETS BIGGER
Ohio State University ^ | 03 August 2006 | Staff (press release)

Posted on 08/03/2006 12:52:54 PM PDT by PatrickHenry

That intergalactic road trip to Triangulum is going to take a little longer than you had planned.

An Ohio State University astronomer and his colleagues have determined that the Triangulum Galaxy, otherwise known as M33, is actually about 15 percent farther away from our galaxy than previously measured.

This finding implies that the Hubble constant, a number that astronomers rely on to calculate a host of factors -- including the size and age of the universe -- could be significantly off the mark as well.

That means that the universe could be 15 percent bigger and 15 percent older than any previous calculations suggested.

The astronomers came to this conclusion after they invented a new method for calculating intergalactic distances, one that is more precise and much simpler than standard methods. Kris Stanek, associate professor of astronomy at Ohio State, and his coauthors describe the method in a paper to appear in the Astrophysical Journal (astro-ph/0606279).

In 1929, Edwin Hubble formulated the cosmological distance law that determines the Hubble constant. Scientists have disagreed about the exact value of the constant over the years, but the current value has been accepted since the 1950s. Astronomers have discovered other cosmological parameters since then, but the Hubble constant and its associated methods for calculating distance haven't changed.

"The Hubble constant used to be the one parameter that we knew pretty well, and now it's lagging behind. Now we know some things quite a bit better than we know the Hubble constant," Stanek said. "Ten years ago, we didn't even know that dark energy existed. Now we know how much dark energy there is -- better than we know the Hubble constant, which has been around for almost 80 years."

Still, Stanek said he and his colleagues didn't start this work in order to change the value of the Hubble constant. They just wanted to find a simpler way to calculate distances.

To calculate the distance to a faraway galaxy using the Hubble constant, astronomers have to work through several complex steps of related equations, and incorporate distances to closer objects, such as the Large Magellanic Cloud.

"In every step you accumulate errors," Stanek said. "We wanted an independent measure of distance -- a single step that will one day help with measuring dark energy and other things."

The new method took 10 years to develop. They studied M33 in optical and infrared wavelengths, checking and re-checking measurements that are normally taken for granted. They used telescopes of all sizes, from fairly small 1-meter telescopes to the largest in the world -- the 10-meter telescopes at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii .

"Technologically, we had to be on the cutting edge to make this work, but the basic idea is very simple," he said.

They studied two of the brightest stars in M33, which are part of a binary system, meaning that the stars orbit each other. As seen from Earth, one star eclipses the other every five days.

They measured the mass of the stars, which told them how bright those stars would appear if they were nearby. But the stars actually appear dimmer because they are far away. The difference between the intrinsic brightness and the apparent brightness told them how far away the stars were -- in a single calculation.

To their surprise, the distance was 15 percent farther than they expected: about 3 million light-years away, instead of 2.6 million light-years as determined by the Hubble constant.

If this new distance measurement is correct, then the true value of the Hubble constant may be 15 percent smaller -- and the universe may be 15 percent bigger and older -- than previously thought.

"Our margin of error is now 6 percent, which is actually pretty good," Stanek said. Next, they may do the same calculation for another star system in M33, to reduce their error further, or they may look at the nearby Andromeda galaxy. The kind of binary systems they are looking for are relatively rare, he said, and getting all the necessary measurements to repeat the calculation would probably take at least another two years.

[Co-author info and funding sources omitted from original article.]


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: astronomy; cosmology
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Like it says: "... the universe could be 15 percent bigger and 15 percent older than any previous calculations suggested."
1 posted on 08/03/2006 12:52:55 PM PDT by PatrickHenry
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To: VadeRetro; Junior; longshadow; RadioAstronomer; Doctor Stochastic; js1138; Shryke; RightWhale; ...
SciencePing
An elite subset of the Evolution list.
See the list's explanation at my freeper homepage.
Then FReepmail to be added or dropped.

2 posted on 08/03/2006 12:54:19 PM PDT by PatrickHenry (The Enlightenment gave us individual rights, free enterprise, and the theory of evolution.)
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To: PatrickHenry
Does Algore know about this Global Expansion?

I'm waiting on the edge of my seat to find out how mankind has caused it...

3 posted on 08/03/2006 12:54:44 PM PDT by C210N (Bush SPYED, Terrorists DIED!)
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To: PatrickHenry

You know why this is... its global warming causing the universe to expand and... I think this President's administration is behind it but no one was available to leak it to the NY Times yet....developing ;)


4 posted on 08/03/2006 12:56:27 PM PDT by getbillnow
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To: PatrickHenry


"... and Leon's getting larger!!"
5 posted on 08/03/2006 12:58:26 PM PDT by PackerBronco
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To: PatrickHenry

Interesting. Science changes as new information is found. What a novel idea....oh, wait, thus has it always been.


6 posted on 08/03/2006 12:59:30 PM PDT by MineralMan (non-evangelical atheist)
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To: PatrickHenry

In two years, the universe will be older still, and they will have to start over.


7 posted on 08/03/2006 1:00:50 PM PDT by js1138 (Well I say there are some things we don't want to know! Important things!")
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To: KevinDavis

Ping


8 posted on 08/03/2006 1:01:46 PM PDT by raygun (Whenever I see U.N. blue helmets I feel like laughing and puking at the same time.)
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To: PatrickHenry

So if the universe expands, wouldn't that create universal cooling?


9 posted on 08/03/2006 1:02:58 PM PDT by Toby06 (True conservatives vote based on their values, not for parties.)
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To: PatrickHenry


Same thing happens with our state budget deficit every year.


10 posted on 08/03/2006 1:03:02 PM PDT by Fido969 (Don't tread on me.)
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To: PatrickHenry

I have a naive question : ) If by Universe they mean everything outside our Galaxy how could it possibly be defined by size? Are they only speaking of the portion of the Universe that we can either see or measure from Earth or by other means? I've always considered the universe to be infinite. Am I missing something?


11 posted on 08/03/2006 1:03:07 PM PDT by labowski ("The Dude Abideth")
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To: PatrickHenry
getting all the necessary measurements to repeat the calculation would probably take at least another two years.

Job security.
12 posted on 08/03/2006 1:05:34 PM PDT by UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide (Give Them Liberty Or Give Them Death! - IT'S ISLAM, STUPID! - Islam Delenda Est! - Rumble thee forth)
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To: betty boop; Alamo-Girl; cornelis
[ ASTRONOMERS CRUNCH NUMBERS, UNIVERSE GETS BIGGER ]

Bigger than what?...

13 posted on 08/03/2006 1:08:06 PM PDT by hosepipe (CAUTION: This propaganda is laced with hyperbole..)
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To: C210N

I'm waiting on the edge of my seat to find out how mankind has caused it...


Not mankind...only Americans!


14 posted on 08/03/2006 1:10:06 PM PDT by camofilly (The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.)
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To: PatrickHenry
Gheez!

Of course it is! Even blondes know that!

Didn't they tell us that the universe is expanding?

Well, it probaby's been a coupla months since they last checked.

15 posted on 08/03/2006 1:10:38 PM PDT by Publius6961 (overwhelming force behaving underwhelmingly is a waste.)
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To: PatrickHenry

Very cool.

Thanks for posting this.


16 posted on 08/03/2006 1:12:10 PM PDT by Skooz (Chastity prays for me, piety sings...Modesty hides my thighs in her wings...)
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To: PatrickHenry

We're gonna' need a bigger boat.


17 posted on 08/03/2006 1:12:58 PM PDT by Dilbert56
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To: PatrickHenry

Science is an intellectual dead end. It's a lot of little guys in tweed suits cutting up frogs on foundation grants.


18 posted on 08/03/2006 1:14:45 PM PDT by MilesMonroe
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To: PatrickHenry
"... the universe could be 15 percent bigger and 15 percent older than any previous calculations suggested."

Yes, just plug new constants in the model whenever you have a problem.

If it could have been off that much, it could be off by 100% or 1000000% or whatever. The fact is, we don't know how big the universe is or even if it is infinite.

19 posted on 08/03/2006 1:14:57 PM PDT by robert jones
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To: Toby06

I think the boundary conditions need to be considered.


20 posted on 08/03/2006 1:14:58 PM PDT by doc30 (Democrats are to morals what and Etch-A-Sketch is to Art.)
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To: labowski

Our universe (and there may well be many more universes besides our own) isn't infinite, but there also isn't anything "outside" the universe - the universe is defined as space itself, but space itself has been expanding since the Big Bang. There's no "empty space" outside the universe it's expanding into, though.

I realize it all makes your brain hurt...try reading any of the books from Brian Greene or Michio Kaku.


21 posted on 08/03/2006 1:18:39 PM PDT by Strategerist
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To: Strategerist; labowski

There may be other universes, but by "the universe" astronomers and physicists mean all the matter (and the space it occupies) that we will ever be able to see, know about or communicate with. According to our current understanding of the laws of nature, if other universes exist there is no way for light, or anything else, to travel from them to us, or any part of our universe, or we to them.

It is a consequence of the theory of General Relativity that our Universe is finite, but it does not exclude the possibility of other universes.


22 posted on 08/03/2006 1:24:11 PM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets (NYT Headline: 'Protocols of the Learned Elders of CBS: Fake But Accurate, Experts Say.')
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To: PatrickHenry

Good thing I filled up before I left town!


23 posted on 08/03/2006 1:25:07 PM PDT by wolfcreek (You can spit in our tacos and you can rape our dogs but, you can't take away our freedom!)
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To: MilesMonroe
No frogs were harmed in the creation of this distance measurement.
24 posted on 08/03/2006 1:25:12 PM PDT by Physicist
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To: PatrickHenry

For what it's worth, the age of the universe during Einstein's time was 1.5 billion years. Now it is ten times that.


25 posted on 08/03/2006 1:32:35 PM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: PatrickHenry

I hope they get a lot more data points.


26 posted on 08/03/2006 1:34:04 PM PDT by Moonman62 (The issue of whether cheap labor makes America great should have been settled by the Civil War.)
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To: Strategerist

The reason it makes your brain hurt is that it does't make sense. Space is space. Nothingness is space too. Why can't the scientists just use the magic words: "I DON'T KNOW!"?


27 posted on 08/03/2006 1:35:18 PM PDT by dinoparty
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets

This makes more sense, explained this way.


28 posted on 08/03/2006 1:36:23 PM PDT by dinoparty
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To: labowski

Here is what you are missing. According to Greene, mentioned above, the radius of the universe is 25 billion times bigger than the Hubble radius. The Hubble radius is as far as the Hubble telescope can see, which is nearly all the universe that can ever be seen since the rest of it is leaving us faster than the speed of light. That is, we can see a grain of sand and take that for the entire earth--similar relative scale.


29 posted on 08/03/2006 1:36:33 PM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: js1138
In two years, the universe will be older still,

By two years, at least.

30 posted on 08/03/2006 1:36:40 PM PDT by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets
but it does not exclude the possibility of other universes.

Any such "other" universes would have to be strictly orthogonal to our own (no interaction allowed). If you can in any way sense or detect another universe then it's not another universe, it's more of this one.

Which means that there can be no provable nor useful science about "other universes". Any observation of another universe is - by definition - not an observation of another universe.

We should probably stop throwing these loose Star-Trek tropes around IMO. "Parallel Universes", "Alternate Universes" etc - they're fine if you're a lazy SciFi writer and want a quick plot line about evil Spock or a leather-clad Intendant Kira (Freepers will know the DS9 episode I mean!) but they're appalling science.

31 posted on 08/03/2006 1:37:21 PM PDT by agere_contra
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To: RightWhale
Nothing can leave faster then the speed of light.

It can be so red shifted as to be very hard to observe.

32 posted on 08/03/2006 1:40:12 PM PDT by Dinsdale
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To: PatrickHenry

This could be very bad news for the universe


33 posted on 08/03/2006 1:40:15 PM PDT by woofie
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To: Dinsdale

Why not? Is that what they told you?


34 posted on 08/03/2006 1:41:19 PM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets

Hmmm...this seems to not be news. Bonanos, Stanek, et al.'s estimate is 61 km per second per million parsecs.

http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/lect/cosmology/hubble_constant.html

has it between 50 and 100.

There's an interesting essay by Isaac Asimov -- "The Proton-Reckoner" -- published in 1966 -- Hubble's constant was thought to lie between 75 and 175. Asimov takes the lower limit of 75 and calculates an observable universe of radius equal to 13 billion light years. A value of 50 would indicate an observable universe equal to 20 billion light years.


35 posted on 08/03/2006 1:43:22 PM PDT by scrabblehack
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To: labowski
Are they only speaking of the portion of the Universe that we can either see or measure from Earth or by other means?

Kinda. There's pretty good evidence that everything in the universe started from a single point (the 'Big Bang') and so the 'edge' of the universe is wherever the objects are that have gotten farthest from that point.

Whatever might be outside that is unknown. Perhaps there's an expanding wave front from some other Big Bang a zillion light years or so away, which will someday overlap with the expanding wavefront from our Big Bang. It may even have already happened. All we know is that nothing outside our own 'universe' has appeared.

Perhaps there truly is an infinite (in three dimensions, at least) empty space beyond the farthest material from our own Big Bang (though there are some strange observations that imply the universe closes in on itself so that traveling in a 'straight line' doesn't really take you off into infinity).
36 posted on 08/03/2006 1:44:26 PM PDT by Gorjus
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets

Actually, GR sort of does exclude other universes. It works like this: the laws of our universe are 'balanced' (defined) by the conditions of our universe, thus our particular space and time are fundamental to the definitions of the laws, but prior to the big bang there is no space and time, so ours is the only universe of reality related to space and time ... IOW, it is impossible to experiment or produce data to verify the existence of other universes. Now if you mean to say branes instead of 'other universes' you may have a point there.


37 posted on 08/03/2006 1:44:27 PM PDT by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote life support for others.)
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To: labowski

No, the universe is definitely finite, though the 'radius' of a 15 billion year old universe might be 40+ billion years thus the horizon is beyond our ever getting information from it. For all we know, the whole 'shebang' may be contracting at some where/when out beyond our information horizon, and in a few million or billion years, we'll be 'incorporated' in the 'renormalization' (collapse).


38 posted on 08/03/2006 1:47:50 PM PDT by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote life support for others.)
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To: PatrickHenry
Odd thing about this is they don't mention delta cepheid variables. All local galaxies can be measured fairly reliably by using them (they are the milepost of astronomy). Why bother with anything else?

(Or did they imply it in the part about absolute vs apparent magnitude?)
39 posted on 08/03/2006 1:51:31 PM PDT by Conan the Librarian (The Best in Life is to crush my enemies, see them driven before me, and the Dewey Decimal System)
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To: MilesMonroe
Science is an intellectual dead end. It's a lot of little guys in tweed suits cutting up frogs on foundation grants.

And...when was it that "they" removed your brain?

40 posted on 08/03/2006 1:51:53 PM PDT by TXnMA ("Allah" = Satan in disguise)
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Make that diameter, not radius


41 posted on 08/03/2006 1:55:52 PM PDT by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote life support for others.)
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To: Conan the Librarian
Odd thing about this is they don't mention delta cepheid variables. All local galaxies can be measured fairly reliably by using them (they are the milepost of astronomy). Why bother with anything else? (Or did they imply it in the part about absolute vs apparent magnitude?)

An excellent question. Upon reading it, I assumed that they had to be using Cepheids, but the article says:

They studied two of the brightest stars in M33, which are part of a binary system, meaning that the stars orbit each other. As seen from Earth, one star eclipses the other every five days.

They measured the mass of the stars, which told them how bright those stars would appear if they were nearby. But the stars actually appear dimmer because they are far away. The difference between the intrinsic brightness and the apparent brightness told them how far away the stars were -- in a single calculation.

They appear to have used a different method, starting with mass to indicate what brightness should be. I'm not up on that method, but it seems to complement the Cepheid variable method -- if you have a handy pair of binaries that reveal their mass. I need to read up on this.
42 posted on 08/03/2006 2:02:19 PM PDT by PatrickHenry (The Enlightenment gave us individual rights, free enterprise, and the theory of evolution.)
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To: TXnMA

"And...when was it that "they" removed your brain?"

now that's just plain mean. tuesday.


43 posted on 08/03/2006 2:02:35 PM PDT by MilesMonroe
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To: TXnMA

I'm what you would call a teleological, existential atheist. I believe that there's an intelligence to the universe, with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey.


44 posted on 08/03/2006 2:09:42 PM PDT by MilesMonroe
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To: Toby06
So if the universe expands, wouldn't that create universal cooling?

Yes; that explains how the Universe starts out in a hot condition at the "Big Bang" and cools to its current observed condition without shedding heat to an external heat sink. It's a gigantic adiabatic cooling process that is the consequence of the expansion of space.

A star is just the opposite: a gravitational contraction of gas and dust heats up the matter. If there is enough matter (more than 0.1 solar masses) undergoing adiabatic contraction, it gets heated to the point where nuclear fusion reactions begin deep inside, and star is formed.

45 posted on 08/03/2006 2:13:35 PM PDT by longshadow (FReeper #405, entering his ninth year of ignoring nitwits, nutcases, and recycled newbies)
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To: MineralMan
Interesting. Science changes as new information is found. What a novel idea....oh, wait, thus has it always been.

And they are getting closer to reconciling the calculated age of the universe with the calculated ages of stars. Cool.

46 posted on 08/03/2006 2:14:21 PM PDT by lepton ("It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift)
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To: dinoparty
Space is space. Nothingness is space too.

There's only a fininte amount of nothingness.

47 posted on 08/03/2006 2:16:42 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch ist der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: lepton

When the universe was 1.5 billion years old, during Einstein's day, earth was also 1.5 billion years old. To Einstein that was kind of a problem.


48 posted on 08/03/2006 2:18:37 PM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: PatrickHenry; Physicist; ThinkPlease
I'd like to know how they ruled out dust/absorption as the explanation for the dimmer-than-expected light. And without lots of confirmatory observations, how can they infer that ALL distances to ALL galaxies, and hence the Hubble constant, is wrong? Moreover, M33 seems too close to use as an indicator of the Hubble constant; local motion can easily swamp it, as is the case for Andromeda, which is at a comparable distance.

Or am I missing something here?

49 posted on 08/03/2006 2:18:45 PM PDT by longshadow (FReeper #405, entering his ninth year of ignoring nitwits, nutcases, and recycled newbies)
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To: Gorjus
... the 'edge' of the universe is wherever the objects are that have gotten farthest from that point.

Not quite geometrically correct. There is no "that point"; all points are equally that. It's the whole thing that's expanding.

50 posted on 08/03/2006 2:19:26 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch ist der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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