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Runaway Universe

Program Overview


NOVA follows cosmologists trying to understand why the universe may be expanding at an accelerating rate.

The program:

  • reviews data from two teams of astronomers that seem to indicate some unknown force that is causing the universe to expand faster and faster.

  • explains that the astronomers are basing their theories on observations of type 1A supernovae, which are believed to be uniformly bright and thus can be used as reference points or "mileage markers" to measure the expansion of the universe.

  • reviews the technical and logistical challenges involved in finding the right kind of supernova for further study.

  • shows how astronomers painstakingly compare recent and months-old images of thousands of galaxies looking for minute changes in brightness that signal a supernova.

  • notes that preliminary data indicate that the universe is accelerating in its expansion, not slowing down due to gravity as previously believed.

Teacher's Guide
Runaway Universe
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