Hawaii Telescope Aids In Nobel Prize Winning Discovery

According to a press release The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize for Physics for 2011. The award this year was split in half, the first half awarded to Saul Perlmutter, and the second half awarded jointly to Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Reiss. In an interesting twist the Nobel Laureates were expecting to measure the rate of cosmic deceleration, but instead found that the cosmos were accelerating. They had planned on studying distant supernovae and how their position changed, expecting to see that they were moving  away from each other at a slower rate. The two teams studied supernovae, or exploding stars, and were in a race of sorts to publish their findings. Throughout their research they inadvertently crossed paths a few times, studying the same supernovae. After years of studying and analyzing data collected about the movements of far off stars and galaxies they have come to the conclusion, by chance, that the expanding of the universe is accelerating. The implication here is that the Universe is being pushed apart by an unknown form of energy, which has often been referred to as dark energy. This phenomenon is estimated to make up roughly 70% of the Universe. Much of their research relied on technology found at the W.M. Keck Observatory. W.M. Keck Observatory reports that spectroscopy technology at their observatory was relied on during the period between 1995 and 1997 by the two groups. The observatory is located on the summit of Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano located on the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island. The telescopes can be found atop the 13,796-foot summit, and are twin Keck telescopes, which happen to be the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes.

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