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Universe 'will expand forever'

This image shows the galaxy cluster Abell 1689, with the mass distribution of the dark matter in the gravitational lens overlaid (in purple). Photo by NASA/ESA/ E Jullo (JPL/LAM), P Natarajan (Yale) and J-P Kneib (LAM).

LONDON (PTI): The universe will continue to expand forever and eventually become a "cold, dead wasteland", according to an Indian-origin cosmologist-led study that sheds light on mysterious "dark energy."

Priya Natarajan of Yale University and astronomers at NASA used the Hubble Space Telescope's "galactic magnifying lens" to "narrow in" on what they believe comprises the "dark energy" that pushes universe apart at ever-increasing speed.

They concluded the distribution of dark energy -- that is invisible and makes up a "large chunk of our universe", or 72 per cent of its size -- would mean the universe would never stop growing, the 'Science' journal reported.

The study predicted that the universe would eventually become a dead and cold wasteland.

In their study, the scientists observed how light from distant stars became distorted around a nearby cluster of galaxies called Abell 1689.

The galaxies, found in the constellation of Virgo, is one of the biggest galactic clusters known to science. Due to its huge mass, astronomers say it "acts as a cosmic magnifying glass", causing light to bend around it.

"We have to tackle the dark energy problem from all sides. It's important to have several methods, and now we've got a new, very powerful one.

"What I like about our new method is that it's very visual. You can literally see gravitation and dark energy bend the images of the background galaxies into arcs," said Prof Eric Jullo of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

He said the study's conclusion meant scientists could say for the first time the expansion of the universe "will continue to accelerate and the universe will expand forever".

Added Natarajan: "The content, geometry and fate of the universe are linked, so if you can constrain two of those things, you learn something about the third. We can now apply our technique to other gravitational lenses.


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