WASHINGTON: Turns out, in the universe, everything is flying apart quite a bit quicker than previously believed.
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered that the universe is expanding 5 percent to 9 percent faster than expected.
"This surprising finding may be an important clue to understanding those mysterious parts of the universe that make up 95 percent of everything and don't emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter, and dark radiation," said study leader Adam Riess of The Johns Hopkins University.
Riess' team made the discovery by refining the universe's current expansion rate to unprecedented accuracy, reducing the uncertainty to only 2.4 percent. The team made the refinements by developing innovative techniques that improved the precision of distance measurements to faraway galaxies.
One possible explanation could be a new type of subatomic particle that may have changed the balance of energy in the early universe, scientists believe.
Astronomers used Hubble to measure the distances to stars in 19 galaxies with more precision than ever before.
It was Hubble observations that made the bombshell discovery in 1998 that the universe was not only expanding, but expanding at a faster and faster rate.
An invisible force called "dark energy" is hypothesised to be repelling the galaxies but its nature is still a complete mystery.
The results will appear in The Astrophysical Journal.