Tom Madigan: The Age of the Universe
Amateur Observers’ Society of New York club member Tom Madigan will be our November guest speaker.
Ever since 1929 when E. Hubble published his groundbreaking paper, concluding that the universe was expanding and this expansion rate increased with distance, we’ve been refining Hubble’s Constant and the corresponding age of the universe.
This conclusion had profound implications, putting upper constraints on when the universe began and how large it is.
Since Hubble’s initial determination, his constant has been refined to where it is today. With a value of about 70 km/sec/megaparsec, an object is receding 70 km/sec faster for every million parsecs distance (a parsec is ~ 3.26 light years). Since this is a “rate of expansion”, we can extrapolate backwards in time to determine its age. Using the accepted value of Hubble’s Constant, this extrapolation yields an age of 13.77 billion years. This value has been refined using many independent methods and lines of inquiry over the intervening 94 years to the value it is today, all with a high degree of concordance.
One of the of the principal reasons the JWST mission was conceived in the first place was to test existing theories and current models of cosmology, dark matter and the large-scale expansion of the universe. We knew JWST would answer some existing questions while leading to new ones. Although the Hubble Space Telescope has contributed mightily to our body of knowledge, it has reached its limitations in just how far back into the cosmic sands of time it can probe.
Set against this backdrop, many studies have been published since NASA’s ERO Program for JWST, some broadly confirming our ideas of the early universe while some suggest revisions are necessary. And this brings us to the present moment.
Using data and imagery obtained with the JWST, a recent study claims the universe is now 26.7 billion years old. The study was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (of which I’m a member) for July 2023 by Rajendra Gupta, an adjunct (?) professor of physics in the Faculty of Science at the University of Ottawa, Canada.
During this presentation, I will broadly describe Gupta’s claim(s) and will demonstrate, using 3 distinct and independent lines of inquiry, that the age of the universe cannot be older than 14 Gyr.