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Friday, February 27, 1998 Published at 04:58 GMT



Despatches
image: [ BBC Correspondent: Nigel Margerison ]Nigel Margerison
London

An international team of astronomers say they have found evidence that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate which can only be explained by the existence of anti-gravity. Their findings are published today in the journal, Science. As the BBC's Nigel Margerison reports, if true, the data would challenge the current thinking on the history of space and time.

The accepted view up to now is that the birth of the Universe in the Big Bang catapulted matter outwards and the Universe has been expanding ever since. But physics decrees that the force of gravity will cause the acceleration to slow.

This new research shows that instead of slowing, the expansion is speeding up and that, say the scientists, can only be explained by anti-gravity, a force opposing the effects of gravity. The findings are based on data gathered from observatories around the world and the Hubble Space telescope.

Some of the most distant objects supernovae or exploding stars, up to 10bn light years from earth, were observed over a period of time and their speed of acceleration measured. Albert Einstein first proposed the concept of anti-gravity but later discarded the idea.

Even the scientists themselves can't believe their results saying they have looked for an error but so far can't find one. If no error is found scientists say the findings will mean the Big Bang happened longer ago than we thought and would mean that in billions of years time many of the stars we now see would have accelerated out of range, making the universe look a very lonely place.





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