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Dark energy search gets murkier

Supernova measurements muddle scientists’ efforts to explain universe’s accelerating expansion

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2:57pm, October 31, 2013

LOOKING DARKER  Using supernova measurements from the Pan-STARRS PS1 telescope on Maui, researchers calculated a cosmological parameter related to dark energy. If verified, the findings could force cosmologists to develop a new explanation for this energy, which pushes the universe apart.

New measurements of light from distant supernovas could complicate cosmologists’ already-frustrating attempts to explain the mysterious dark energy that is pushing apart the universe.

In the new analysis, scientists combined data from 146 recently discovered supernovas with previously published results and calculated an important cosmological parameter. Their result is inconsistent with the simplest explanation for the universe’s accelerating expansion, which suggests that the strength of dark energy has remained constant over the life of the universe.

If confirmed, the finding could imply that matter in the universe will eventually be torn apart, a scenario known as the Big Rip. But before reaching that conclusion, the researchers say they must ferret out potential sources of error and uncertainty in their measurements. “It’s very possible, and I think a lot of people would say likely, that one of the big measurements is off,” says study

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