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Nearly 10,000 galaxies seen in one part of the sky by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI

The universe is 13.77 billion years old, according to a new measurement taken using a powerful telescope in Chile.

Why it matters: The precise age of the universe is an important factor for scientists trying to understand the evolution and expansion of the cosmos.

What they found: The Atacama Cosmology Telescope made the measurement by looking at fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the glow left behind after the Big Bang formed the universe.

  • Researchers used the telescope to effectively create a triangle in the sky, measuring distances between the Earth and two points of interest in the CMB and then extrapolate the distance between the two points.
  • Because the universe is expanding, measuring distances gives scientists a sense for how quickly that change is occurring and therefore the age of the universe.
  • The new research is detailed in a study published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics.

The big picture: Scientists have been mired in a debate about how fast the universe is actually expanding — a number known as the Hubble Constant.

  • Dating the universe to 13.77 billion years is in line with the age of the universe previously estimated using data from the Planck satellite, but other methods that measure the distances between stars have dated the universe as significantly younger.
  • "Now we've come up with an answer where Planck and ACT [Atacama Cosmology Telescope] agree," Simone Aiola an author of the study, said in a statement. "It speaks to the fact that these difficult measurements are reliable."

What's next: Scientists are continuing to gather data and double check their analyses in an attempt to resolve the Hubble Constant conflict.

  • "The growing tension between these distant versus local measurements of the Hubble constant suggests that we may be on the verge of a new discovery in cosmology that could change our understanding of how the Universe works," Michael Niemack, an author of the study said in the statement.

Go deeper

47 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook refers Trump ban to independent Oversight Board for review

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook's independent Oversight Board has accepted a referral from the platform to review its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump.

Why it matters: While Trump critics largely praised the company's decision to remove the then-president's account for potential incitement of violence, many world leaders and free speech advocates pushed back on the decision, arguing it sets a dangerous precedent for free speech moving forward.

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