JHU Abstract 2014-The Accelerated Expansion of the Universe

The Accelerated Expansion of the Universe

Derek Bierly (Hereford High School), Danny Mahoney (Hereford High School), Jeremy

Smith (Hereford High School), Tyler Bradley (Towson High School), Dr. Morris Swartz (Johns Hopkins University)


The purpose of our research was to provide evidence for the acceleration of the expansion

of the universe. We researched the work of 2011 Physics Nobel Prize recipients Dr. Adam

Riess, Dr. Saul Perlmutter, and Dr. Brian Schmidt, and attempted to replicate their

investigation of the accelerated expansion of the universe through the examination of

redshifted Type Ia supernovae. Evidence of a disconnect between the observed and

predicted distances to these supernovae supports the accelerating universe theory. We

looked up many supernovae on the Hubble Legacy Archive and attempted to get spectral

data for them. If we had more time we would have acquired these spectra, and solved for

the redshift and distance of each supernova. The theory of the accelerated expansion of

the universe necessitates the existence of dark energy, a hypothetical form of energy

believed to account for this negative vacuum pressure and make up roughly seventy

percent of the universe. The percentage of the universe that is dark energy will continue to

increase as the universe expands due to dark energy’s constant density. Researching the

accelerating expansion of the universe allows us to better understand the fate of the

universe, which could be an eventual “Freeze,” instead of The Big Crunch, which was

previously hypothesized.