(Submitted February 10, 1999)
Is the Universe's expansion rate slowing down or speeding up?
I have always been taught that it was slowing down, but I read something
in the New York Times that it was found about a year ago that it was
actually speeding up.
Up until a year or two ago, it was thought that the Universe's expansion
rate was decreasing, due to gravity pulling back on the material exploding
form the Big Bang.
However, more recently, scientists have been able to measure how fast the
Universe was expanding, and the data indicate that it is actually speeding
This measurement was made by looking at distant supernovae. If distant
supernovae are different in brightness than nearby supernovae (e.g. if
there is more dust dimming the light than we think) then the measurement
could be wrong. However, most astronomers think that the measurements are
David Palmer and Samar Safi-Harb
for Ask an Astrophysicist