Universal Growth


If you're planning to hold a birthday party for the universe, you'd better put fewer candles on the cake--nine billion instead of 15 billion.

The Crimson learned that research by John P. Huchra, lecturer in Astronomy and a staff member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and two other scientists indicated that the universe is significantly younger than previously believed.

Their observations also showed that if you're planning to take a trip to the edge of the universe, you won't need quite so much gas as some thought--it's only nine billion light years away.

The astronomers reached their cosmic conclusions after several years of investigating Hubble's constant, one of the most important figures used to determine the properties and dimensions of the universe; equations for computing the size, age and density of the cosmos depend on plugging in Hubble's constant.

Huchra and his colleagues concluded that astronomers came up with an incorrect value for the constant because they limited their observations to nearby clusters of galaxies--those less than 70 million light years away.