Scientists Close Universe Age Gap

WASHINGTON (06:58 PM ET 10/03/97 - Reuter News Service)

U.S. astronomers said Friday they were helping to close one of the most troublesome age gaps of all time -- the discrepancy between the age of the universe and the stars in it. Many of the measurements taken by scientists indicate that some of the oldest and most distant stars are actually older than the universe -- something obviously impossible and extremely irritating to cosmologists. Physicists at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio said they had come close to sorting out the problem using measurements from the European Space Agency's Hipparcos satellite. They say these distant globular clusters, once thought to be as old as 15 billion years, are 11.5 billion years old. They are also farther away than experts once believed. This fits in with estimates made in February by European scientists. ``If the stars in the globular clusters are actually farther away than we thought, they must also be brighter than we thought,'' said Lawrence Krauss, who led the research. ``If brighter, the stars are burning faster. This means the stars would evolve more quickly, and thus the globular clusters would be younger than we originally thought.'' Age and distance of such stars tell physicists how fast the universe is expanding. This, in turn, tells them how long ago the Big Bang that started everything was, and gives hints as to whether the universe will keep on expanding forever, will eventually flatten out and stop, or implode back in a Big Crunch. Krauss said the latest measurements pointed to a flat universe.

  C.Mallery

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