Obscure Visualization

This artist’s concept depicts a hypothetical form of dark energy called quintessence. Credit: Science Photo Library.

January 20, 2020

Dark energy does not exist.

In 1997, two astronomers were studying Type 1a supernovae, when they found that there was “something wrong” with their data. They were shocked to discover that the recessional velocity (redshift) of the most distant Type 1a supernovae indicated that they were accelerating. And not only that, the farther away they were, the faster they were speeding up. This effect was called “dark energy” because no apparent cosmic influence could be seen. As time went on, new observations by various groups resulted in the conclusion that dark energy makes up 75% of the Universe.

Type 1a supernovae are a sub-class of stellar explosions, involving binary stars, but they are thought to occur through a different process. Their particular way of exploding is still considered a mystery in astrophysical circles, but a possible mechanism is described in this fashion by the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing:

“What is agreed is that as the white dwarf gains mass from its companion, it contracts and increases its temperature and density. As the mass approaches the Chandrasekhar limit of 1.4 solar masses, the temperature and pressure in the interior of the star is such that a burning front is formed, where carbon is fused into iron and nickel almost instantaneously. It is what happens next that astronomers are still investigating.”

The two astronomers, Adam Riess and Saul Perlmutter, were studying the supernovae because their rise in luminosity and their subsequent decline are considered predictable. That measurement is a way of determining a supernova’s true brightness or “absolute magnitude“.

The Dark Energy Survey project expands the effort at identifying what dark energy is. More than 120 astronomers and other scientists analyze observations of the southern sky using equipment such as the Dark Energy Camera. It records images of over 300 million galaxies, so that a more precise determination of the hypothetical expanding Universe can be made.

Dark energy is another of the phantoms that arise when redshift is applied to observations. Redshift has been the bane of astrophysics since Hubble first identified what he thought was the Doppler effect in images of faint galaxies. Instead of seeing redshift as an effect of acceleration and distance, it may be that it is an intrinsic property of matter. Astronomer Halton Arp proposed that idea many years ago, and it deserves further investigation, especially when anomalous observations are considered: high redshift objects in front of low redshift objects, for example.

“All of the ‘dark’ things in astronomy are artifacts of a crackpot cosmology. The ‘dark energy’ model of the universe demands that eventually all of the stars will disappear and there will be eternal darkness. In the words of Brian Schmidt, ‘The future for the universe appears very bleak.’ He confirms my portrayal of big bang cosmology as ‘hope less’.” — Wal Thornhill

Stephen Smith

The Thunderbolts Picture of the Day is generously supported by the Mainwaring Archive Foundation.

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