Monday, July 24, 2023

Webb Space Telescope: Data Doubles Age of Universe?


Digitized Sky Survey image of the oldest known star, with a well-determined age, in our Milky Way Galaxy. Star HD 140283, better known as Methuselah, may be about 14.6 billion years old. (Image Sources: European Space Agency, NASA, Hubble Space Telescope,, By ESA/Hubble, CC BY 4.0,

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

A provocative new study, from the University of Ottawa, proposes that data from the James Webb Space Telescope may nearly double the age of the Universe, previously calculated by scientists.

In 2021, astronomers calculated the age of the Universe at about 13.797 billion years. This came from use of a cosmological model known as the Lambda-CDM Concordance Model.

The University of Ottawa now hypothesizes that the true age of the Universe may be closer to 26.7 billion years!

The James Webb Space Telescope data has found some of the most distant galaxies observed by the telescope are surprisingly mature, if they were actually only a half-billion years old. While these galaxies have been estimated to have formed about 300 million years after the Big Bang, their maturity is consistent with billions of years of cosmic evolution.

The “Big Bang”, which scientists contend created our Universe, is the physical theory scientists use to explain how our Universe expanded from an initial state of high density and temperature to its current state.

Scientists have also been puzzled by ancient stars, such as Methuselah (HD 140283), that appear to be older than the estimated age of the Universe, as originally calculated. While a study from 2013, using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, estimated the age of this star to be about 14.6 billion years-old, later studies have estimated the star's age at 12 or 13.7 billion years old.

For many years, scientists have used two guide-posts to measure the age of the Universe:

  • Astronomical Red-shift of light, coming from distant galaxies, indicating the speed the galaxies are moving away from us. Hubble's Law states that galaxies are moving away from Earth at speeds proportional to their distance from Earth;

  • Elapsed time since the Big Bang, considering the cooling time of the observed Cosmic Background Radiation and extrapolating backwards from measurements of the expansion rate of the Universe.

Rajendra Gupta, author of the University of Ottawa study, says "Our newly-devised model stretches the galaxy formation time by several billion years, making the universe 26.7 billion years old, and not 13.7 as previously estimated”. Dr. Gupta is Adjunct Professor of Physics in the Faculty of Science at the University of Ottawa. His scientific paper, “JWST early Universe observations and Lambda-CDM cosmology”, has been published in the journal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Twentieth century Swiss Astronomer Fritz Zwicky proposed a “tired light theory” where the Red-shift of light coming from distant galaxies is not due to their speed from moving away from the Earth. He hypothesized that this Red-shift is the result of the gradual loss of energy of the light's photons after traveling vast distances through the Cosmos. This theory did not receive much acceptance in the scientific community because astronomical observations conflicted with the theory.

Now, Dr. Gupta has found that "by allowing this theory to coexist with the expanding universe, it becomes possible to reinterpret the redshift as a hybrid phenomenon, rather than purely due to expansion."

Dr. Gupta also proposes to use “Coupling Constants” as another way to explain a possible older-than-suspected Universe. Hypothesized by 20th century English Theoretical Physicist Paul Dirac (considered to be one of the founders of Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Electrodynamics), Coupling Constants are fundamental physical constants that govern the interactions between particles. Dr. Dirac believed that these constants may have varied over great lengths of time.

Dr. Gupta believes that by allowing these constants to evolve, the formation of early galaxies observed by the James Webb Space Telescope at high Red-shifts may have taken several billion years, rather than just a few million years. He believes that this is a more feasible interpretation of the data, for the advanced level of development and mass observed in these ancient galaxies.

Additionally, Dr. Gupta suggests a revision in the “Cosmological Constant”, which uses Dark Energy as the 'push' responsible for the accelerating expansion of the Universe. He proposes a new constant that accounts for the evolution of the Coupling Constants.

This could help explain the puzzle of small galaxy sizes in the early Universe. This modification of the Cosmological Model may allow for more accurate future observations.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Science Journal Abstract --- R Gupta, JWST early Universe observations and ΛCDM cosmology, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2023)

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The Big Bang: Link >>>

James Webb Space Telescope:

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Hubble Space Telescope: Link >>> 

Star HD 140283, Methuselah: Link >>> 

Swiss Astronomer Fritz Zwicky: Link >>>

English Theoretical Physicist Paul Dirac: Link >>>

Related Blog-Posts ---

"Finally! Live-Stream: Christmas Launch of Next Great Space Telescope." Fri., 2021 Dec. 24.

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"Free: NASA Webb Space Telescope Science Guide on iTunes." Thur., 2012 Dec. 27.

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Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss          

               Monday, 2023 July 24.

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Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator                                                               (For more than 50 years! - Since Monday Morning, 1972 June 12):
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Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), America's fifth major planetarium and Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, the fourth of only five libraries where both construction and endowment funded by famous industrialist & philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
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