Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Scientific Discovery Hints Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Might be Wrong; Universe Expanding Faster

Too big to measure

(Photo : NASA, ESA, A. Feild (STScI), and A. Riess (STScI/JHU)) How to measure the universe's expansion rate with unprecedented accuracy.

The discovery by the most accurate study yet that the universe is expanding up to nine percent faster than it should be is raising concerns Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity might be somewhat wrong, said NASA.

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the research team led by Nobel Laureate and physicist Adam Riess discovered the universe is expanding five percent to nine percent faster than expected. Riess shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery that the expansion of the universe was speeding-up.

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"This surprising finding may be an important clue to understanding those mysterious parts of the universe that make up 95 percent of everything and don't emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter, and dark radiation," said Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and The Johns Hopkins University, both in Maryland.

Riess' team made the discovery by refining the universe's current expansion rate to unprecedented accuracy. It made the refinements by developing innovative techniques that improved the precision of distance measurements to faraway galaxies.

What this redefinition shows is the universe's rate of expansion doesn't match predictions based on measurements of the remnant radiation left over from the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. In effect, the discovery questions the accuracy of the Theory of Relativity that predicts the expansion rate of the universe at a rate slower than that discovered by Riess' team.

Scientists said one possibility for the discrepancy is the universe has unknown subatomic particles similar to neutrinos that travel nearly as fast as the speed of light. Another culprit for this faster-than-expected expansion is dark energy, an anti-gravity force that seems to comprise 68 percent of the known universe.

Its inverse, dark matter, accounts for 27 percent of the universe. Visible matter such as the Earth and the planets only constitute five percent of the universe.

"This may be an important clue to understanding those parts of the universe that make up 95 percent of everything and that don't emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter and dark radiation," said Riess.

The far faster universe raises the possibility the general theory of relativity that is the basis for calculating how the basic building blocks of matter interact is slightly wrong, said NASA.

The announcement was made by both NASA and the European Space Agency.

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