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How fast is the universe expanding? Scientists will use rare events to calculate

Astronomers are on the verge of a significant breakthrough in understanding one of the deepest mysteries of the universe: the speed at which it is expanding.

With NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope scheduled to launch in May 2027, scientists are preparing to embark on a new approach to unraveling this enigma.

The Roman Space Telescope will provide an unprecedented panoramic view of the cosmos, capturing wide swaths of images that will be meticulously searched for gravitationally lensed supernovae.

These rare cosmic events are key to measuring the expansion rate of the universe, known as the Hubble constant. However, this constant has been the subject of debate due to discrepancies in values ​​obtained with different measurement techniques, a phenomenon known as “Hubble tension.”

The Roman Space Telescope will map the universe much faster than its predecessors. (Photo: NASA)

Roman’s mission will delve into the mysterious dark energy that influences the expansion of the universe over time. One of the main methods involves comparing the intrinsic brightness of type Ia supernovae with their observed brightness to measure distances.

In contrast, Roman will also focus on gravitationally lensed supernovae, offering a unique method based on geometry rather than relying on brightness.

Lou Strolger, of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and co-leader of the team preparing Roman’s study of these objects, expressed enthusiasm for the telescope’s capabilities. “Roman is the ideal tool to get the study of gravitationally lensed supernovae off the ground,” he said.

The telescope’s vast field of view and high-resolution images will significantly increase the chances of detecting these elusive phenomena.

To date, only eight gravitationally lensed supernovae have been discovered using observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. Of them, only two have been suitable for measuring the Hubble constant.

Roman’s mission will delve deeper into mysterious dark energy. (Photo: NASA)

Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive object, such as a galaxy or galaxy cluster, bends light from a distant stellar explosion, creating multiple delayed images of the supernova as seen from Earth.

Measuring the time differences between these images can provide critical distance measurements that help constrain the Hubble constant.

Justin Pierel, co-director of Strolger, highlighted the importance of this new approach: “Testing these distances in a fundamentally different way than more common methods can help shed light on why various measurement techniques have given different results.”

The Roman Space Telescope will map the universe much faster than its predecessors, with the ability to capture more than 100 times the area of ​​Hubble in a single image.

Published by:

Sibu Kumar Tripathi

Published in:

February 8, 2024

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