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Apologetics Press :: Sensible Science

Is the Universe Still Wearing Diapers?
by Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

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What does it feel like to suddenly be 3 billion years younger? This is a question we should be asking our Universe in light of new cosmological data. A new discovery has scientists trimming 10-15% off the supposed age of our Universe, and as a result has researchers “re-dating” everything. Given current estimates, this new discovery would decrease the age of the Universe by 3 billion years, leaving evolutionists less time to explain how everything came into existence. The force behind this dramatic time-shift is the revelation that one of the cosmological “constants” may be off. For many years, scientists have used something called Cepheid measurements to help them estimate the distance from the Earth to far-away galaxies. Cepheid variable stars, as they are known, pulsate in a way that is correlated with their natural luminosity, making them useful as “standard candles” for determining relative distances to nearby galaxies. This is also the method scientists used to determine the expansion rate of the Universe in order to try and extrapolate an overall age. Cepheid measurements played a key role in establishing the extragalactic distance scale, and hence the value of the Hubble cosmological “constant.” Recently, Cepheid measurements were found to be different, compared to another independent, highly accurate distance determination using masers (the microwave equivalent of lasers).

Researchers have been measuring distances using Cepheid star variables since 1929. In the September 1999 issue of Nature, eight researchers authored a paper in which they showed the Cepheid method might need some tweaking (Maoz, et al., 1999). Using the Cepheid method to estimate the distance from the Earth, Maoz and his colleagues measured a galaxy known as NGC4258 to be 8.1 mega parsecs. [One mega parsec is equivalent to approximately three million light years.] Using what scientists refer to as “the more accurate” maser method, Maoz and his team found this distance to be only 7.2 mega parsecs. While this difference may not appear significant at first glance, if the maser-based distance is correct, then the Cepheid “distance scale” is in dire need of revision. But such a revision then would cause the value of the Hubble constant to be changed accordingly (an increase of 10-15%), and thus the expansion age of the Universe would decrease by the same amount. Simply put, this means that the Universe is much younger than previously thought by most physicists.

In referring to his recent findings Maoz said: “We discovered a considerable discrepancy between the maser-based and Cepheid-based distance. The bottom line is that it seems that galaxy distances may have been consistently overestimated by about 12%. This would imply that the Universe is expanding faster than expected, and the age of the Universe is lower by a similar factor” [NASA AMES Press Release; for full story click here]. Is our Universe millions or billions of years old? No! And little by little, methodological errors and scientific uncertainty are bearing this out.

REFERENCES

Maoz, Eyal, Jeffery A. Newman, Laura Ferrarese, Peter B. Stetson, et al. (1999), “A Distance to the Galaxy NGC4258 from Observations of Cepheid Variable Stars,” Nature, 401:351-354, September 23.



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