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Here's what I just read from Wikipedia's page on the Hubble Space Telescope:

While Hubble helped to refine estimates of the age of the universe, it also cast doubt on theories about its future. Astronomers from the High-z Supernova Search Team and the Supernova Cosmology Project used ground-based telescopes and HST to observe distant supernovae and uncovered evidence that, far from decelerating under the influence of gravity, the expansion of the universe may in fact be accelerating. The cause of this acceleration remains poorly understood; the most common cause attributed is dark energy.

I don't take this at face value because we should expect more distant objects to have higher observed speeds and therefore higher observed red-shifts. Here's why.

  1. Let's start with a model where the Universe expanded very fast early on, but has been slowing down ever since due to gravity, as one would normally expect.

  2. Remember that, the farther away a cosmic object is, the farther back in the past we are observing it. An object 1,000 light years away, if it's light is reaching us now, is being observed in its state that existed 1,000 years ago. We are effectively looking through a time machine.

  3. So if we observe a more distant object, we're observing an older state of that object. Therefore, we are observing it at a time when the Universe was expanding faster than it is now, so it has higher red-shifts.

And isn't that what we observe today? The more distant the galaxy, the higher its red-shift? This is not inconsistent with a "normal" model where the expansion is slowing down due to gravity.

What am I missing? Why are scientists trying to explain such things with weird dark matter and dark energy that otherwise have never been detected or found evidence of and aren't needed for any other model, and in fact get in the way of our models of physics and quantum dynamics?

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  • $\begingroup$ they took multiple measurements and found that the later ones indicated a higher recession velocity. $\endgroup$
    – Astrony
    Jun 13 '15 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Astrony can you provide any numbers or a citation for that? If it was only a few years timespan between measurements, that seems like a pretty short time on the scale of the Universe and I can't imagine that our instruments would pick up any noticeable change. $\endgroup$
    – DrZ214
    Jun 13 '15 at 7:20
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    $\begingroup$ That Wikipedia article is not saying what you seem to be thinking it says. The SN results are not consistent with a constant Hubble constant and are consistent with models with the Hubble constant increasing with time. If you are interested in the detail see here $\endgroup$ Jun 13 '15 at 10:36
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    $\begingroup$ The yeast becomes more active over time. Eventually the universe will be over proofed. $\endgroup$ Jul 15 '15 at 12:34
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I don't take this at face value because we should expect more distant objects to have higher observed speeds and therefore higher observed red-shifts.

That's true. That was the original Hubble discovery - the farther away things were, the faster they were moving away from us.

Here's why. Let's start with a model where the Universe expanded very fast early on, but has been slowing down ever since due to gravity, as one would normally expect.

Yes - that's what everybody thought following Hubble's discovery.

Remember that, the farther away a cosmic object is, the farther back in the past we are observing it. An object 1,000 light years away, if it's light is reaching us now, is being observed in its state that existed 1,000 years ago. We are effectively looking through a time machine.

This is not lost on Astrophysicists.

So if we observe a more distant object, we're observing an older state of that object. Therefore, we are observing it at a time when the Universe was expanding faster than it is now, so it has higher red-shifts.

OK, 2 points. 2nd point first. The red-shift has to do with relative velocity, not speeding up or slowing down. Something can be more red-shifted and slowing down and something can be less red-shifted and speeding up, especially since the acceleration/deceleration is comparatively slow compared to the relative velocity.

and other point - lets keep in mind, we don't know what a galaxy 3 billion light years away is doing now. We can guess and we can run models, but we can only see what it's doing 3 billion years ago.

And isn't that what we observe today? The more distant the galaxy, the higher its red-shift? This is not inconsistent with a "normal" model where the expansion is slowing down due to gravity.

Yes, the more distant the galaxy the higher it's red-shift. But no, that's not inconsistent with expansion. That's what you'd see, expansion or contraction, because red-shift is just relative velocity.

What am I missing? Why are scientists trying to explain such things with weird dark matter and dark energy that otherwise have never been detected or found evidence of and aren't needed for any other model, and in fact get in the way of our models of physics and quantum dynamics?

A lot of these ideas are confusing. They're confusing to scientists too, especially when they were first discovered - so you're not alone.

Dark matter was observed because galaxies were behaving strangely. The stars in the outer arms of the galaxy were observed to be moving much too fast and faster than the stars more towards the middle of the galaxy and that made no sense. The galaxies also weighed too much and the only way to explain this was extra mass in kind of a halo around the galaxy, but this extra mass, also, didn't interact with electromagnetic waves like the mass here on earth does - so they called this extra mass (and there's a lot of it, more than there is regular mass), but since it's invisible, they called it "dark matter" and it's not dark like dirt or coal, it's dark as in - invisible. It's completely transparent to light, but it has mass and they still don't know what it is. They have some OK theories, but nothing definite.

Now, dark energy - think about the big bang and all matter flying apart - the galaxies twice as far are moving away twice as fast, BUT, as you said, because of gravity, we should see the galaxies that are twice as far moving away more than twice as fast, cause the nearer the galaxy, the more time it's had to slow down - aha, they thought, if we can compare the speed of the galaxies 4 billion light years away to the speed of the galaxies 2 billion light years away to the speed 1 billion light years - etc, etc and measure it all carefully, we can measure the rate at which gravity is slowing down the universe. - that makes sense right.

And with careful measurement of Type 1A supernovas, which temporarily outshine entire galaxies - with remarkable consistency (what they call a standard candle - a very bright standard candle, but a standard candle all the same) - with that, they thought they could measure the gravitational slow down of expansion - exactly what you're talking about.

The problem was, the measurements told them the opposite of what they expected to find. The measurements told them that the galaxies 2 billion light years away were traveling slightly more than half as fast as the galaxies 4 billion light years away, and so on. They checked this, cause it had to be wrong, then they re-checked it, and re-checked again and the only conclusion was, stuff out there is speeding up, not slowing down - cause that's what the telescopes tell us.

Dark energy wasn't a hair-brained scheme that mad scientists thunk up. It was an observed reality that nobody expected (well, cept just maybe for Einstein and his cosmological constant, but that's another story).

Dark energy's just a name anyway. They have to call it something, even if they're not sure what it is or how it works.

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  • $\begingroup$ This starts to explain it. I was actually thinking a similar thing for the discrepancy in orbital speeds of certain parts of the galaxy, and was hoping someone would mention it, but i thought i'd better pick either that or the expanding universe so i don't get closed for being too broad. However, when you measure something like a Type 1a supernova and get unexpected results, doesn't that imply that maybe something is wrong with your stellar model? Or the model of Type 1a supernovas? Also, how do you know the distance to a galaxy? You have to assume its absolute magnitude first, don't you? $\endgroup$
    – DrZ214
    Jun 13 '15 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ From WIki: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_Ia_supernova "The typical visual absolute magnitude of Type Ia supernovae is Mv = −19.3 (about 5 billion times brighter than the Sun), with little variation" It is their absolute magnitude that made the measurement's possible. $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Jun 13 '15 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ There is some variety in the luminosity (+/-1.5%), but combined with the decline rate, they think they have a pretty good standard candle. - source: astronomy.swin.edu.au/cosmos/T/Type+Ia+supernova $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Jun 14 '15 at 0:18
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According to this paper I understood that scientists have found that redshift (z) of supernovae depends on relative distance (x) according to formula: z = 2 sinh(x)/(1 + x). And IF nothing is pushing galaxies away with force then redshift should drop linearly with decrease of distance between galaxies. But it isn't so as relationship z(x) is a nonlinear one.

Lets draw a graph: enter image description here In other words - when distance to a supernova drops in half, the redshift must drop in half too (i.e. linearly), if gravity is stopping expansion. But it isn't the case as can be seen in the graph. The only reasonable explanation: that there exists some force which doesn't let that happen and keeps increasing the expansion rate.

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    $\begingroup$ That's not quite right. The linear drop in redshift (the red line on that graph) is what we'd see if the expansion were pure Hubble expansion, dependent only on distance (& hence time), with no gravity or dark energy affecting it. From gravity slowing down the expansion, we'd expect the true curve to dip below the red line. But instead supernova data give us that black curve above the red line, so something (which we currently call dark energy) is somehow creating an anti-gravitational effect that's larger than the gravitational effect on the expansion. $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Oct 18 '20 at 0:46
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When they look at the light from distant galaxies, they see peaks and troughs.

The peaks and troughs are from the spectra of the atoms in the galaxies - for instance hydrogen, oxygen, etc.

From frequency and the patterns of emission and absorption of the light - or the peaks and troughs, they can identify the element.

When they compare the spectra of an elements from the galaxies to the spectra of the elements in the lab, they find they're shifted to the red - or red shifted.

The point is, they are not measuring velocity - they are inferring velocity.

To infer velocity measurements from the spectra, one has to assume the processes which created the spectra in the star billions of years ago is identical to the processes which created the spectra in the lab.

And they have to assume there are no non-velocity red shifts.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Cinaed, welcome to our site. This is a good basic explanation of redshifts, with an insightful comment about assumptions thrown in - but I'm not sure it answers the original question. Perhaps you might edit your post to respond to the question title and the OP's last paragraph? For further guidance, see How to Answer, and don't forget to take the site Tour. :-) $\endgroup$ Mar 21 '19 at 4:55
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The comparison of near and far supernovae by the High-Z Supernova Search Team (Riess et al. 1998) and by the Supernova Cosmology Project team (Perlmutter et al. 1999) revealed the surprising transition of Universe’s expansion from deceleration to acceleration.

The research teams found that remote supernovae were 10% to 25% dimmer and therefore further away than expected as compared to the nearby local supernovae.

Using type Ia supernovae, the research teams put forward “the first conclusive evidence for cosmic deceleration that preceded the current epoch of cosmic acceleration” (Riess et al. 2004).

The deceleration parameter (q0 = ΩM/2) gives an idea how the expansion of the Universe decelerates.

Surprisingly, when the expansion rate data was analysed in terms of mass density (ΩM), ΩM was found to be –0.36. Since there is no such thing as negative mass, therefore, getting a negative value for the mass density made no sense, unless the Universe was accelerating (Riess 2012).

Since q0 = ΩM/2, therefore, a negative value for the mass density (ΩM) clearly implied a negative value for the deceleration parameter (q0) (a positive value for the deceleration parameter (q0 > 0) implies deceleration, whereas a negative value for the deceleration parameter (q0 < 0) implies acceleration).

On introducing cosmological constant “Λ” to the deceleration parameter equation, the equation becomes q0 = (ΩM/2) – ΩΛ (ΩΛ denotes the energy density associated with empty space).

The above equation now helps explain the observed acceleration of the Universe’s expansion under the repulsive influence of an energy component (dark energy). Based on this, the significance of the cosmological constant was calculated, “99.7% to 99.8% confidence no matter what the mass density” (Riess 2012). This strongly confirmed cosmic acceleration.

However, there are problems associated with this.

The apparent transition of Universe’s expansion from deceleration to acceleration cannot be explained without invoking a mysterious and hypothetical energy component (dark energy) of unknown origin having no explanation in fundamental physics.

120-orders-of-magnitude discrepancy involved with it further complicates the problem to an unimaginable extent.

According to Durrer (2011), (as compared to dark matter) “Dark energy, however, is very disturbing. On the one hand, the fact that such an unexpected result has been found by observations shows that present cosmology is truly data driven and not dominated by ideas that can be made to fit sparse observations. Present cosmological data are too good to be brought into agreement with vague ideas. On the other hand, a small cosmological constant is so unexpected and difficult to bring into agreement with our ideas about fundamental physics that people have started to look into other possibilities”.

An experiment conducted by Sabulsky et al. (2019) by using atom interferometry to detect dark energy acting on a single atom placed inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber showed no trace of any mysterious energy.

It is very true that remote supernovae are further away than expected, however, keeping in mind that “people have started to look into other possibilities”, therefore, could there still be another reason that can place remote supernovae further away than expected without acceleration?

Rather than “cosmic deceleration that preceded the current epoch of cosmic acceleration (Riess et al. 2004)”, I strongly suggest “consecutive expansion epochs of the Universe that preceded the current expansion epoch were responsible for placing remote supernovae further away than expected”.

The following observation strongly supports this interpretation – “superluminal remote expansion (expansion >> c)” indicates a slower rate of expansion (deceleration) as compared to “subluminal local expansion (expansion << c)” that indicates a faster rate of expansion (acceleration).

How can superluminal expansion scientifically be justified as deceleration as compared to subluminal expansion? It is completely counterintuitive!

One can explain why remote supernovae are further away than expected without acceleration on the basis of “consecutive expansion epochs of the Universe that preceded the current expansion epoch”.

As expected, the deceleration parameter (q0) also turns out to be negative (q0 < 0) while using such interpretation.

Given below is the abstract from my manuscript along with the link.

The comparison of redshift-distance relationship for high and low-redshift supernovae revealed the surprising transition of Universe’s expansion from deceleration to acceleration. As compared to local supernovae, remote supernovae are further away than expected. The expansion rate obtained for local supernovae is higher with low redshifts as compared to the expansion rate obtained for remote supernovae with high redshifts. Since observed redshifts provide an estimate of recession velocities in order to determine the expansion rate (km/s/Mpc) of the Universe, therefore, it is very disturbing to find that low recession velocities (just 1% of speed of light) indicate a faster rate of expansion (acceleration), whereas high recession velocities (60% of speed of light) indicate a slower rate of expansion (deceleration). In this paper I unravel an undiscovered aspect that perfectly mimics cosmic acceleration. Rather than “cosmic deceleration that preceded the current epoch of cosmic acceleration”, I show in this paper that “consecutive expansion epochs of the Universe that preceded the current expansion epoch were responsible for placing remote supernovae further away than expected”. As a consequence of consecutive expansion, expansion began for remote structures before it did for local structures; remote supernovae are therefore not only further away than expected, but they also happen to yield a slower rate of expansion even with “superluminal expansion velocities”. As a result of consecutive expansion, preceding expansion epochs appear to be decelerating as compared to the expansion epoch that succeeds it. The analysis is based on the redshift-distance relationship plotted for 580 type Ia supernovae from the Supernova Cosmology Project, 7 additional high-redshift type Ia supernovae discovered through the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope from the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey Treasury program, and 1 additional very high-redshift type Ia supernova discovered with Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 on the Hubble Space Telescope. The results obtained by the High-Z Supernova Search Team through observations of type Ia supernovae have also been analysed. The results obtained in this paper have been confirmed by plotting velocity-distance relationship, expansion rate vs. time relationship, expansion factor vs. time relationship, scale factor vs. time relationship, scale factor vs. distance relationship, distance-redshift relationship, and distance modulus vs. redshift relationship, moreover, deceleration parameter (q0) is also found to be negative (q0 < 0).

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343484700


Answer to PM 2Ring’s comment:

The expansion rate for local structures ranges between 68 km/s/Mpc and 74 km/s/Mpc, whereas for remote structures, the expansion rate ranges between 40 km/s/Mpc and 60 km/s/Mpc.

What we don’t know is the current (present) expansion rate for the remote structures, and, it is simply assumed that the expansion rate derived from the local structures is the present expansion rate for the entire Universe.

According to the Copernican principle, we are not any special or privileged observers, therefore, enforcing or simply assuming that the expansion rate for the entire Universe is the same as the expansion rate for the local Universe also appears to conflict with the Copernican principle since the expansion rate for the local Universe is being prioritized over the entire Universe.

It is not correct to assume that the expansion rate for the entire Universe is the same by prioritizing the local expansion rate over the entire Universe without actually knowing the current (present) expansion rate for the remote structures.

Direct evidence for an accelerating Universe came from observations of type Ia supernovae that showed that remote supernovae are further away than expected as they appeared 10% to 25% dimmer than the local supernovae.

Possibilities included pervasive screen of grey dust between the local and the remote Universe, and the evolution of type Ia supernovae. These possibilities have been addressed and are no longer a concerning factor.

If remote structures began expanding into the Universe before the expansion got initiated for the local structures, then in this case also remote structures would end up being further away than expected. This is exactly what we observe – remote supernovae are indeed further away than expected as compared to the local supernovae.

Now, to prove this that remote structures began expanding into the Universe before the expansion got initiated for the local structures we require a confirmation that would test this possibility.

Direct confirmation for this possibility comes again from analysing those direct observations of type Ia supernovae that made the research team conclude that the Universe is accelerating.

Remote structures are not only further away than expected, but they also yield a slower rate of expansion even with high recession velocities (recession velocities ranging from 30% to 60% of speed of light) as compared to the higher rate of expansion for the local structures even with low recession velocities (recession velocities ranging from 1% to 10% of speed of light).

There can’t be any other reason for such a trend where an object with high recession velocity is not only further away than expected, but is also yielding a slower rate of expansion as compared to the expansion rate obtained for an object with low recession velocity. This is only possible if remote structures began expanding into the Universe before the expansion got initiated for the local structures.

The expansion rate for remote structures ranges between 40 km/s/Mpc and 60 km/s/Mpc – it is not the same for all remote structures, but depends upon their distance and recession velocity, or more precisely when they began expanding into the Universe.

It is not possible that all structures would have expanded at the same time into the Universe, objects with high recession velocity that began expanding before are further away than expected and yield a slower rate of expansion, whereas objects that began expanding comparatively later yield a faster rate of expansion.


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  • $\begingroup$ From the abstract of your paper: "I show in this paper that remote structures began expanding into the Universe before the expansion got initiated for the local structures, for this reason, remote structures are not only further away than expected, but they also happen to yield a slower rate of expansion as compared to the expansion rate obtained for the local structures." That's a somewhat surprising claim, and it appears to conflict with the Copernican principle. $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Oct 18 '20 at 5:25
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) Why would remote structures begin expanding before local structures, and why do remote structures at a given distance in all directions appear to have the same expansion rate? $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Oct 18 '20 at 5:25

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