Will a spiral galaxy reveal the secrets of the expansion of our universe?

Will a spiral galaxy reveal the secrets of the expansion of our universe?

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a stunning spiral galaxy in a broader quest to track the rate of expansion of our universe.

The new image of the spiral galaxy Mrk (Markarian) 1337 shows its twinkling stars that they shine about 120 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. The Hubble Space Telescope has prioritized ultraviolet and infrared (heat seeking) wavelengths, rendered in false colors.

Studying distant galaxies like this one helps astronomers gain more perspective on the structure of our galaxy, the Milky Way, especially if they are of the same type. "Mrk 1337 is a weakly barred spiral galaxy, which as the name suggests has spiral arms that radiate from a central bar of gas and stars," European Space Agency representatives wrote.

More in general, however, the image of this galaxy is part of a research aimed at understanding how fast the universe is expanding. The effort is led by Adam Riess, a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for showing that the universe is accelerating as it expands.

Credits: NASA / ESA Hubble

Riess hopes to get to know the acceleration rate as accurately as possible because the universe is expanding faster than expected, and in 2019 he suggested we may need a new physics to truly solve the problem of what is observed versus what models predict.

“This discrepancy has grown and has now reached a point that is truly impossible to easily liquidate,” said Riess. More recently, he added that the controversies over the "Hubble constant" of the universe's expansion point to subtleties that we have yet to understand dark energy, dark matter and dark radiation, all invisible forces affecting the rate of expansion. br>
One way to measure the constant is to plot the rate of expansion between large objects such as galaxies. Given that the Hubble telescope was the key to the 2011 Nobel Prize, it's no surprise that astronomers are once again turning to it as they try to perfect the rate of expansion. Hubble has struggled for several weeks to recover from a sync glitch that occurred on October 23, but there is a lot of data to process as engineers slowly bring its tools back online.

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