Monday, June 8, 2009

Dark Matter, the Gruber Foundation's Cosmology Prize, and Cephid Variables

"Astronomer who found universe's number"
The Australian (June 8, 2009)

"ALMOST 20 years of painstaking intergalactic measuring using pulsating stars to calculate the age of the universe has brought a $US500,000 ($630,000) payoff for three astronomers, including Australian Jeremy Mould.

"Professor Mould, 59, of Melbourne University, is set to receive about $200,000 after he and two colleagues in the US and Britain were awarded the US-based Gruber Foundation's cosmology prize.

"The award recognises their work in discovering one of the most important numbers in astronomy - the rate at which the universe is expanding.

"Using data from the Hubble telescope, which was sent into orbit in 1990, the astronomers discovered over a period of 10 years almost 800 pulsating stars, known as Cepheid variables...."

If you're still reading this post, you're one of those people who really care that the universe is roughly 13,700,000,000 years old, and whether or not it's rate of expansion is increasing, decreasing, or staying the same.

None of which will help you find minestrone soup at the grocery, or which brand of toothpaste is best.

This article is a good overview of what the three scientists found, and what some current thoughts on what dark matter is and how it works.

I understand that dark matter is a viable way of explaining what astronomers have observed, now that we've been able to make more precise measurements of some features in the universe. And, the dark matter and dark energy models may reflect something that's real.

On the other hand, I remember phlogiston. There may be better models, which more accurately reflect the underlying reality.

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