How fast is the universe expanding? Galaxies provide one answer.

March 9, 2021

NGC1453_color750px NGC 1453, a giant elliptical galaxy situated in the constellation Eridanus, was one of 63 galaxies used to calculate the expansion rate of the local universe. Last year, the MASSIVE survey team determined that the galaxy is located 166 million light years from Earth and has a black hole at its center with a mass nearly 3 billion times that of the sun. (Photo courtesy of the Carnegie-Irvine Galaxy Survey)

Determining how rapidly the universe is expanding is key to understanding our cosmic fate, but with more precise data has come a conundrum: Estimates based on measurements within our local universe don’t agree with extrapolations from the era shortly after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

A new estimate of the local expansion rate — the Hubble constant, or H0 (H-naught) — reinforces that discrepancy.

“For measuring distances to galaxies out to 100 megaparsecs, this is a fantastic method,” said cosmologist Chung-Pei Ma, the Judy Chandler Webb Professor in the Physical Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, and professor of astronomy and physics. “This is the first paper that assembles a large, homogeneous set of data, on 63 galaxies, for the goal of studying H-naught using the SBF method.”

Ma leads the MASSIVE survey of local galaxies, which provided data for 43 of the galaxies — two-thirds of those employed in the new analysis.

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