Three U.S. scientists have discovered that the expansion of the universe is actually accelerating, not slowing down as previously thought.
The discovery, found by measuring the light from distant supernova explosions, turned the world of physics upside down – as well as the lives of the three American scientists who have been awarded a Nobel Prize for their findings.
Half of the 10 million Swedish crown – $1.5million – Nobel Prize money went to Saul Perlmutter and the rest to two members of a second team which conducted similar work – American-born Brian Schmidt, who is based in Australia, and Adam Riess.
Nobel Committee for Physics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in its statement that the discovery was made by looking at distant supernovae – which should have been becoming “brighter” as their acceleration away from our planet slowed down.
But instead of their light becoming brighter, it was fading.
“The surprising conclusion was that the expansion of the universe is not slowing down. Quite to the contrary, it is accelerating,” the Nobel committee said.
At Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Adam Riess, who was still in his 20s when the research was published, joked to a colleague that he had been quick to react to a pre-dawn call from Stockholm:
“When I picked up the phone early this morning and I heard Swedish voices, I knew it wasn’t IKEA.”
Among the most exciting possible developments from study of dark energy would be a way to reconcile anomalies between physical laws observed at the subatomic level – quantum physics – with the laws Albert Einstein described.