Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 December 2
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Rumors of a Strange Universe
Credit: High-Z Supernova Search Team, HST, NASA

Explanation: Three years ago results were first presented indicating that most of the energy in our universe is not in stars or galaxies but is tied to space itself. In the language of cosmologists, a large cosmological constant is directly implied by new distant supernovae observations. Suggestions of a cosmological constant (lambda) are not new -- they have existed since the advent of modern relativistic cosmology. Such claims are not usually popular with astronomers, though, because lambda is so unlike known universe components, because lambda's value appears limited by other observations, and because less-strange cosmologies without lambda have previously done well in explaining the data. What is noteworthy here is the seemingly direct and reliable method of the observations and the good reputations of the scientists conducting the investigations. Over the past three years, two independent teams of astronomers have continued to accumulate data that appears to confirm the unsettling result. The above picture of a supernova that occurred in 1994 on the outskirts of a spiral galaxy was taken by one of these collaborations. Still, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and so cosmologists the world over continue to await more data and confirmation by independent methods.

Tomorrow's picture: Dueling Auroras

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.