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The results constitute striking confirmation of one of the weirdest discoveries of modern science: that the expansion of the universe seems to be accelerating, the galaxies flying apart faster and faster with time, under the influence of some antigravitational force. The work, astronomers said, opens up a powerful new way of investigating the nature of this "dark energy" and its effect on the destiny of the cosmos.
Chandra unlocking mystery of 'dark energy'
The Chandra Space Telescope has gathered further evidence the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, scientists at NASA and Britain's Institute of Astronomy announced Tuesday. The finding sheds new light on a force known as "dark energy."
"Dark energy is perhaps the biggest mystery in physics," said Steve Allen at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, England.
According to scientists, dark energy is the force that fills the space between galaxies and drives them apart.
"The universe really is accelerating," Allen said. "By using Chandra to study galaxy clusters, we have obtained strong new evidence for dark energy and clear and direct confirmation that the expansion of our universe is accelerating."
The Chandra telescope took X-ray measurements from 26 clusters of galaxies ranging from 1 billion to 8 billion light years from Earth. Chandra's probe of dark energy relies on the X-ray observations to study the hot gas in galaxy clusters.