Except for gravity that attracts mass towards mass, on a cosmic scale another force exists that pushes bodies away from each other. That is what American and Australian astronomers conclude in Science of February 27th, 1998.
'If it's not some kind of sneaky effect, than history of the universe has to be re-written', Adam Reiss of the universe of California says.
'My own reaction is that of amazement and terror', Brian Schmidt, spokesman of the investigation-team, says. 'Amazed because I never expected this, terror because I know most astronomers will never believe it.'
Common books of nature only mention Newton's law of gravity, describing attraction between bodies. The Big Bang-theory, saying the universe began 15 billion years ago and is expanding ever since, is based completely on that theory.
The team of astronomers from the universities of California, Boston and Sliding Spring derive their counter-theory from pictures made by the Hubble Space Telescope of a dozen far away exploding stars. From that pictures they could calculate how far away these supernova's are and with what speed they move away from the Earth by the expansion of space.
Until now these measurements seemed to point to a universe expanding with constant speed and that it will do so forever. The new measurements on the contrary show an expansion that is increasing in time. The found explosions are more far away than predicted.
According to Schmidt and his colleagues this is only explained by assuming masses are capable of repulsion on a cosmic scale. Disturbing clouds of dust or a coincidental deviation of the watched supernovas were ruled out by the scientists. The team say new measurements have to proof their right.
Cosmologist Dr. Peter Katgert of the Leiden observatory, an expert in measurements of the expansion of the universe, is for that reason careful about the information in Science. 'The team can say they eliminated all errors, but that is for others to decide.'
The Britain astronomer Sir Martin Rees reacted with resignation to the new results. 'If on a cosmic scale Newton's law isn't valid anymore, we just have to accept that', he says, 'maybe the universe isn't that simple as we want it to be.'
The opinion of Felix Caterpillar, master of this website.
Gee, I like to react to this!
It looks like the forces of the universe are similar to the forces in the atom. There you have the strong and weak atomic forces. Maybe the force of expansion is just oppressed on a local scale by the force of gravity.
If the expansion of the universe increases in time, it means that eventually the speed of light will be reached. Then the energy from the force of expansion will create mass, just as the theory of relativity tells us. More mass means more stars and galaxies. It looks like we have found a force that is constantly re-creating the universe!
And what about Einstein's 'cosmological constant'? The invention of that constant has always been the great flaw in his genius life, but maybe he was right in some way after all!