The new space race.

Author:Beasley, Sandra

Works in Progress - McDonald Observatory - Brief article


Cosmologists associated with the McDonald Observatory in West Texas are competing with their counterparts at half a dozen research centers around the world in a race to understand dark energy, a hypothetical entity that may comprise as much as 74 percent of our universe.

Cosmologist Michael Turner first theorized the existence of dark energy in 1998 in an attempt to explain why the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Dark energy is a force (that isn't dark and may not even be energy) outside the visible and electromagnetic spectrums, undetectable to the five human senses. Physicists employ the term to reconcile the measured shape of space and the total amount of matter in the universe, which in its known forms accounts for less than 30 percent of the critical density necessitated by Einstein's theories. If scientists can further characterize dark energy--by saying, for example, whether it fills space homogenously or fluctuates in strength over space...

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