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The map of cosmic history. Image: Anand Raichoor (EPFL), Ashley Ross (Ohio State University) and the SDSS Collaboration

A new, sweeping analysis fills in 11 billion years of the history of our universe in unprecedented detail.

The big picture: Previous studies have illuminated the very earliest days of the universe and others have detailed the cosmos' more recent history, but until now, there's been an 11 billion year gap in knowledge of our roughly 13.8 billion year old universe.

Details: A collaboration — called the extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS) — collected data about 2 million galaxies and quasars.

  • That information, which traces the 11 billion year gap, was combined into a map with other data that pieces together the expansion history of the universe from just 300,000 years after the Big Bang to now.
  • It took about 10 years for the astronomers working on eBOSS to gather enough data to come out with these results.
  • "What makes this so difficult is simply that the volume is so large, the signals we are seeking are so weak, and the galaxies are so faint," Kyle Dawson, eBOSS principal investigator, told me via email. "Even with an advanced instrument such as the BOSS spectrograph, it took us a decade to observe enough faint galaxies and quasars to make the measurements that we are reporting today."

The intrigue: The new analysis further complicates measurements of the rate of the expansion of the universe — a value known as the Hubble constant.

  • The eBOSS map suggests that the expansion rate — thought to be spurred on by dark energy — is actually about 10% lower than the rate found when measuring the distances to other galaxies using different means.
  • That number closely hews to others that are in line with the standard model of cosmology, but other means of measuring the Hubble constant have diverged in recent years, complicating that picture.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 2, 2020 - Science

A new type of black hole

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Scientists announced Wednesday the first surefire evidence of a never-before-seen type of black hole in deep space.

Why it matters: Intermediate-mass black holes could be key to understanding how black holes and galaxies form.

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters gathered outside fortified statehouses across the U.S. over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.