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Study: Universe 13 Billion Years Old
AP | Wednesday, April 24, 2002; 4:21 PM | Paul Recer

Posted on 04/24/2002 6:30:34 PM PDT by longshadow

By Paul Recer
AP Science Writer
Wednesday, April 24, 2002; 4:21 PM

WASHINGTON –– The universe is about 13 billion years old, slightly younger than previously believed, according to a study that measured the cooling of the embers in ancient dying stars.

Experts said the finding gives "very comparable results" to an earlier study that used a different method to conclude that the universe burst into existence with the theoretical "Big Bang" between 13 and 14 billion years ago.

Harvey B. Richer, an astronomer at the University of British Columbia, said the Hubble Space Telescope gathered images of the faintest dying stars it could find in M4, a star cluster some 7,000 light years away.

Richer said the fading stars, called white dwarfs, are actually burnt out coals of stars that were once up to eight times the size of the sun. After they exhausted their fuel, the stars collapsed into Earth-sized spheres of cooling embers that eventually will turn cold and wink out of sight.

Earlier studies had established the rate of cooling for these stars, said Richer. By looking at the very faintest and oldest white dwarfs possible, astronomers can use this cooling rate to estimate the age of the universe.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Richer said the dimmest of the white dwarfs are about 12.7 billion years old, plus or minus about half a billion years.

Richer said it is estimated that star formation did not begin until about a billion years after the Big Bang. He said this means his best estimate for age of the universe is "about 13 billion years."

Three years ago, astronomers using another method estimated the age at 13 to 14 billion years. That was based on precise measurements of the rate at which galaxies are moving apart, an expansion that started with the Big Bang. They then back-calculated – like running a movie backward – to arrive at the age estimate.

"Our results are in very good agreement" with Richer's estimate, said Wendy L. Freedman, an astronomer at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, Calif., and a leader of the group performing the universe age calculations three years ago.

Bruce Margon, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, said both conclusions are based on "a lot of assumptions" but the fact that two independent methods arrived within 10 percent of the same answer is important.

"To find an independent way to measure the age and then get essentially the same answer is a fantastic advance," said Margon. It may not be the final answer for the universe's age, he said, but is "very, very, very close."

To get the new age estimate, the Hubble Space Telescope collected light from M4 for eight days over a 67-day period. Only then did the very faintest of the white dwarfs become visible.

"These are the coolest white dwarf stars that we know about in the universe," said Richer. "These stars get cooler and cooler and less luminous as they age."

He added: "We think we have seen the faintest ones. If we haven't, then we'll have to rethink" the conclusions.

The faintest of the white dwarfs are less than one-billionth the apparent brightness of the dimmest stars visible to the naked eye.

M4 is a globular cluster, thought to be the first group of stars that formed in the Milky Way galaxy, the home galaxy for the sun, early in the history of the universe. There are about 150 globular clusters in the Milky Way; M4 was selected because it is closest to Earth.

The new age estimate for the universe is the latest in a long series of attempts to measure the passage of time since the Big Bang. Edwin Hubble, the famed astronomer who first proved that the universe is uniformly expanding, estimated in 1928 that the universe was two billion years old.

Later studies, using the very expansion that Hubble discovered, arrived at an estimate of about nine billion years for the universe age. This created a paradox for astronomers because some stars were known to be more ancient and it is impossible for stellar bodies to be older than the universe where they formed.

Freedman and others then determined, using proven values for the brightness and distance of certain stars, that the universe throughout its history has not expanded at a constant rate. Instead, the separation of galaxies is actually accelerating, pushed by a poorly understood force known as "dark energy." By adding in calculations for this mysterious force, the Freedman group arrived at the estimate of 13 to 14 billion years.

–––––

On the Net:

Hubble Images: http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pr/2002/10

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov


TOPICS: Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: astronomy; cosmology; science; stringtheory; universe
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To: longshadow
So what's the furthest distance from me that anything in the universe can be?
51 posted on 04/24/2002 8:09:18 PM PDT by apochromat
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To: longshadow
I was referring to "astronomers using another method estimated the age at 13 to 14 billion years." 14,000,000,000 minus 13,000,000,000 equals 1,000,000,000 years. If the actual age of earth was 13,000,000,000 years and they guessed 14,000,000,000 years, they were within 1,000,000,000 years worst case.

My cynicism for the wide range of years for the age of the earth is borne from the periodically-appearing news reports that yet another "scientist" or "group of scientists" has determined that the earth is really _______ (fill in the blank) years old.
52 posted on 04/24/2002 8:11:08 PM PDT by DennisR
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To: jlogajan
Touche...I stand corrected. Thank you.
53 posted on 04/24/2002 8:12:43 PM PDT by DennisR
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To: longshadow
I do not remember saying the multiple methods "were" erroneous; I said "if," a hypothetical.
54 posted on 04/24/2002 8:14:08 PM PDT by DennisR
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To: Politically Correct
Because 20 years ago they all agreed that it was a different age.

Actually, that's not quite true.

20 years ago, give or take a few years, the consensus was that the Universe was somewhere between 10 and 20 billion years old. There was a fair amount of "slop" in their estimates at that point in time. Today, they have more refined techniques available, and much more data. So they now think it's about 13.5 (+/- 0.5) billion years old, which is well withing the estimates of 20 years ago.

55 posted on 04/24/2002 8:14:28 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: longshadow
I'm sorry; you lost me.

OK, I'll say it in laymen's terms so you can find yourself -IMO, these scientists are blowing hot air and wasting taxpayers money. The universe has been around longer than thirteen billion years, and I don't need 12 years of college education to come to that conclusion.

56 posted on 04/24/2002 8:14:32 PM PDT by Reaganwuzthebest
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To: DennisR
You are kidding, right?

No; you made the assertion that this was "another contradictory story."

Where is the contradiction in this story? You made the assertion; the burden is YOURS, not mine, to find it.

57 posted on 04/24/2002 8:16:50 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: longshadow
Did you do the search on google? If so, what did you find?
58 posted on 04/24/2002 8:18:17 PM PDT by DennisR
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To: DennisR
The age of the earth is believed to be approximately 4.6 billion years.
59 posted on 04/24/2002 8:22:09 PM PDT by jlogajan
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
The universe has been around longer than thirteen billion years, and I don't need 12 years of college education to come to that conclusion.

Well, just how did you come to the conclusion. Come on, don't be shy.

60 posted on 04/24/2002 8:23:05 PM PDT by jlogajan
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To: apochromat
So what's the furthest distance from me that anything in the universe can be?

If the Inflationary Cosmology is correct, and thus the geometry of Space is Euclidean (or even if Inflation is wrong, but space is still Euclidean or Hyperbolic), there should be no limit on distance between two points in the Universe. If the Universe is closed, the maximum distance is finite.

Note: this is not the same as the maximum distance we can measure another object from us.

61 posted on 04/24/2002 8:23:25 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: DennisR
My cynicism for the wide range of years for the age of the earth .....

We were discussing the age of the Universe. The methods used to determine the age of the Universe have nothing to do with the methods used to determine that age of the Earth.

62 posted on 04/24/2002 8:25:16 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: DennisR
I do not remember saying the multiple methods "were" erroneous; I said "if," a hypothetical.

And if pigs could fly (hypothetically), they'd make great pets.

Either you have evidence that the methods are erroneous, or you don't.

If you do, post them.

If you don't, why did you bring it up? It makes as much sense as my bring up flying pigs.

63 posted on 04/24/2002 8:27:46 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: PatrickHenry
They're always working with the data they have. When new data arrives, from new telescopes and better technology, what do you suggest they do? Supress the new information? They don't do that. They welcome the opportunity to revise their understanding, in the light of the best available information. Why do you find this objectionable?

I don't.
Maybe it's how you worded it or how I read it, but you made it sound like that it was now pretty much a settled thing because so many of them agreed with each other.

When in fact many things that seemed settled 20 years ago..... today aren't.
New information will show up and everything will change.
I try and keep up with all this but there are still huge unsettled speculations that this is all built on.
So you can read all you want but you'll be much more ignorant when you finish than when you began.
Because you will have a better feeling for how little we really know.

And that's not a bad thing.......just a little humbling.

64 posted on 04/24/2002 8:29:03 PM PDT by Politically Correct
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
The universe has been around longer than thirteen billion years, and I don't need 12 years of college education to come to that conclusion.

And your evidence for your assertion is....?

And your evidence that two different INDEPENDENT methods for estimating the age of the Universe are BOTH in error is....?

65 posted on 04/24/2002 8:30:12 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: PatrickHenry
eventually it all comes to an end, so it doesn't really matter

That is not acceptable. Come up with a better theory.

66 posted on 04/24/2002 8:30:51 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: DennisR
Did you do the search on google? If so, what did you find?

Burden of proof of YOUR assertion is YOURS.

Post your evidence at your leisure.

67 posted on 04/24/2002 8:31:23 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: jlogajan
On post #35, I stated that it's my opinion the universe goes on in infinity, there are galaxies way beyond what we can see. If this true, then they'll never know the real age of the universe because as of now they're basing their theories only on what our limited technology can show them. The scientists, or at least some of them apparently believe the universe has an ending.

How about you, do you think it ends, or goes on forever?

68 posted on 04/24/2002 8:31:34 PM PDT by Reaganwuzthebest
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To: apochromat
In 1998, Pearlmutter announced a supernova that exploded 10 billion years ago and that was estimated to be 18 billion light years away. There must be a lot of dark energy acceleration at work to push it that far away, since light speed would limit things in the Universe to being 13 billion light years apart otherwise. The greater the acceleration, the larger the estimate should become, as far as I know.
69 posted on 04/24/2002 8:32:18 PM PDT by apochromat
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
The universe has been around longer than thirteen billion years

Doesn't look that way. The Big Bang is unacceptable, of course, but why would it look only 13 gigayears old?

70 posted on 04/24/2002 8:34:07 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
They haven't got a clue, neither do I, and neither do you.

Actually, I do. You might take Physicist's and Longshadow's advice. Just because you fail to understand something does not mean that everyone else fails to.

Few, if any, scientists have claimed the universe is contracting. Hubble's measurements have been improved upon, but not refuted.

71 posted on 04/24/2002 8:36:01 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
the universe goes on in infinity

Maybe not. What if we are inside a gravastar?

72 posted on 04/24/2002 8:36:37 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: apochromat
announced a supernova that exploded 10 billion years ago and that was estimated to be 18 billion light years away.

Is it 18 giga-lightyears away now, or was it 18 giga-lightyears away when it exploded?

73 posted on 04/24/2002 8:39:12 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: DennisR
Personally, I believe the discoveries coming, will turn physics and cosmology on it's head and blow lid off just about everything once thought to be credible and established theories. I base this on the advances computers and telescope technology.
74 posted on 04/24/2002 8:40:09 PM PDT by Joe Hadenuf
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
The universe has been around longer than thirteen billion years, and I don't need 12 years of college education to come to that conclusion.

Please cite evidence for "a lot longer than thirteen billion years" from a refereed journal. Any such evidence would certainly be of interest.

75 posted on 04/24/2002 8:40:19 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic
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To: apochromat
The greater the acceleration, the larger the estimate should become, as far as I know.

This was discussed in the press conference today.

The greater the "repulsive" effect (dark energy?), the older the Universe is, relative to the age that would be acertained by the Hubble parameter alone.

The example given in the press conference was that based only on Hubble expansion observations (no repulsion/accelerating expansion effect), the age of the Universe would be about 9 billion years. When they factored in the repulsive effects on expansion, the result was about 14 billion years, which coincidentaly, is almost exactly the figure that these scientists came up with using the completely independent white dwarf cooling model methodology.

76 posted on 04/24/2002 8:42:16 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
there are probably galaxies a hundred trillion light years away, and farther.

It doesn't look that way. The galaxies seem to be closer together the deeper. If you go much farther, the trend is that the galaxies will all be jammed together solid.

77 posted on 04/24/2002 8:45:06 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: longshadow
Actually, that's not quite true.

I apologize, I was engaging in a little hyperbole.
Just trying to make the point that an argument from consensus is flawed.
They all come to the same conclusion because they all use the same model.
But there are huge assumptions underlying the current popular model, most of which still have little support.

Thus I'll bide my time and keep a jaundiced eye on the whole endevor.
For instance the use of a globular cluster to arrive at this data point is fraught with difficulties since the age distribution of stars in globular clusters varies significantly from that of our galaxy.
We have no idea how they form.
Or even why they are where they are.

78 posted on 04/24/2002 8:45:18 PM PDT by Politically Correct
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To: Doctor Stochastic
A simple search into Google and I come up with this esteemed "theory" the universe may be contracting. It's just that, a theory, like the one that says it's expanding.
79 posted on 04/24/2002 8:46:49 PM PDT by Reaganwuzthebest
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To: longshadow
Because you stated it as though having multiple independent methods would, incontrovertably, seal your argument for the age of the universe. I was simply pointing out that that is not necessarily the case. Do you agree or not?
80 posted on 04/24/2002 8:50:33 PM PDT by DennisR
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To: Doctor Stochastic
Please cite evidence for "a lot longer than thirteen billion years" from a refereed journal. Any such evidence would certainly be of interest.

It's only my opinion that the universe goes on much farther than we know, so predicting its age is not possible. If there are galaxies 100 trillion light years away we can't see, then that means the universe is at least 100 trillion years old.

81 posted on 04/24/2002 8:50:57 PM PDT by Reaganwuzthebest
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To: longshadow
Huh? Can't be. Just two weeks ago astronomers announced they had discovered the oldest galactic cluster yet, 13.5 billion light years distant. It took at least a billion years for such clusters to form after the Big Bang, putting the age of the Universe at no less than about 15 billion years old. But I do love these contradictions!
82 posted on 04/24/2002 8:53:10 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
How about you, do you think it ends, or goes on forever?

Well, what do we see? When we look at distant galaxies we see something called spectral redshifts -- doppler shifts in the spectral emissions of well known elements. Everywhere we look these objects seem to be moving away from us. How odd. The closer ones are moving away slower, and the farther ones are moving away faster.

If you project those motions backward, it is inescapable that we came from a central point -- a "big bang."

Well, how long ago? We know the rate of speed because the doppler shift obeys specific physical laws. We didn't initially know the distances.

One of the earliest methods was to use the brightness of a certain class of variable stars, called Cephids. They could use paralax, triangulation, on close Cephids and get a correlation between their rate of variation, their brightness, and hence their distance. This seemed a good plan because the Cephids were remarkably uniform in that regard. They were a good measuring stick.

So that was one of the early estimates of the size of the universe. But eventually a second class of Cephids were discovered and all the brightness/rate variaition/ distance calculations had to be recomputed.

Those are the two early methods I can recall off the top of my head.

So we haven't seen anything further out than these most distant objects, and they all have that receding redshift indicative of being sourced from the central big bang. So that puts an upper limit on the age of the universe and the Cephid (and now other means) puts a limit on the distance.

There is no evidence that the universe is infinite nor more than 14 billion years old. I won't speculate beyond the limits of evidence.

83 posted on 04/24/2002 8:53:55 PM PDT by jlogajan
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To: RightWhale
Maybe not. What if we are inside a gravastar?

Good question. My next door neighbor said something long time ago that stuck with me - "how big is big"? In other words, what seems enormous to us may be nothing compared to something else. What he meant was it's possible we're just beings inside some other life form, and if that's the case the universe would not be infinite.

84 posted on 04/24/2002 8:55:39 PM PDT by Reaganwuzthebest
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
if that's the case the universe would not be infinite

Did you happen to see the threads on gravistars the past couple of days? If not, I might be able to link to them.

85 posted on 04/24/2002 8:59:34 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: RightWhale
It would make more sense to me if it was an estimate of the current distance. An estimate of the distance seen, instead, would be more directly based on the red-shift. I think they should give both distances, to make it clear.
86 posted on 04/24/2002 9:00:27 PM PDT by apochromat
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To: Politically Correct
For instance the use of a globular cluster to arrive at this data point is fraught with difficulties since the age distribution of stars in globular clusters varies significantly from that of our galaxy.

Oh, but the age disparity is precisely what makes this methodology so useful. Globular clusters have the OLDEST stars in the galaxy. They look at the oldest stars in the galaxy, and then looked for the faintest white dwarfs among them (meaning the oldest of the oldest, so to speak).

Thus, the age of the oldest visible white dwarf defines a lower bound for the age of the Universe. To this age (12.7 x 109) they add a billion years, which is the minimum estimate of the length of time it takes for stars to form AFTER the Universe started. Thus the minimum age for the Universe is 13.7 billion years (+/- 0.5 billion) by this method.

87 posted on 04/24/2002 9:01:19 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: apochromat
if it was an estimate of the current distance

It would. But I am afraid it might not be. That would turn things inside out.

88 posted on 04/24/2002 9:03:12 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
Whoaaaa!

That's like a deja vu with Professor Donald Sutherland in the potsmoking party in Animal House!

89 posted on 04/24/2002 9:04:24 PM PDT by Erasmus
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
Where can I get a job like that?

First, you go to college. The catch is that you have to spend most of your time there acutally studying, as opposed to protesting and harassing women like certain ex-POTUSes who shall remain nameless.

90 posted on 04/24/2002 9:05:21 PM PDT by steve-b
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To: longshadow
the age of the oldest visible white dwarf defines a lower bound for the age of the Universe

Exactly.

91 posted on 04/24/2002 9:05:22 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: DennisR
Because you stated it as though having multiple independent methods would, incontrovertably, seal your argument for the age of the universe.

I don't recall stating that it was "incontrovertible" anywhere.

But what is clearly true is that the confidence in the age of the Universe becomes MUCH greater if it is supported by multiple independent methodologies.

You do agree, don't you?

92 posted on 04/24/2002 9:05:29 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: Erasmus
Not at all. The idea of universes inside of universes is much easier on the brain than the idea of a single Big Bang universe or even an infinity of Big Bang universes coming out of a higher dimension.
93 posted on 04/24/2002 9:08:03 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: longshadow
My understanding is that the acceleration rates in most models have different epochs, with plateus and peaks, rather than being a constant or exponential acceleration. There are more than a few distinctly different epoch models, as far as I know.
94 posted on 04/24/2002 9:08:59 PM PDT by apochromat
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
Interesting paper. I cannot connect to New Scientist from here so I can't see what the actual idea is. One problem I can see (from the Oz site which may be incomplete) is that the dark matter and dark energy stuff seems to be spread out within the universe. The web site talks about contracting regions which isn't the same as the entire universe contraction. Thanks for finding it.
95 posted on 04/24/2002 9:10:36 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
If you suggest the size of the universe is 100 trillion years, you run into Olber's Paradox again. Things just don't look that way.
96 posted on 04/24/2002 9:13:19 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic
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Comment #97 Removed by Moderator

To: longshadow
Without adding the quotation marks and without referencing the websites, which are easily found by entering +universe +age +billion into the search field on google.com:

1. the age of the universe is apparently 8 to 12 billion years
2. the age of the Universe would be 8-11 billion years
3. the new 13 billion year estimated age of the Universe
4. the age of the universe as inferred from the Hubble constant would be about 9 billion years
5. EVOLUTIONARY AGE OF THE UNIVERSE 14-15 billion years
6. the Hubble constant and the geometry of the Universe typically yield ages of 10-20 billion years for the age of the Universe
7. while previous calculations meant estimates of the universe's age could vary by as much as 10 billion years
8. the "best, ie, most consistent, age of the universe is estimated to be 14-17 billion years
9. the Universe's age drops to 7--15 billion years
10. the age of the universe of 7.5 billion years
11. Present estimates for the universe's age range from eight to twenty billion years
12. Estimates range from as low as about 10 billion years to as high as 40 billion years
13. So it seems safe to estimate that the age of the Universe is at least 15 billion years old, but probably not more than 20 billion years old
14. is determining the age of the universe. Some measurements of the Hubble constant suggest an age as low as 8 billion years
15. and the universe's age at 9 billion years
16. Recent reports on the age of the universe suggest it's only 8-12 billion years old
17. universe might only be eight or ten billion years old
18. The observations of the density of the universe, favorable to a flat universe lead to an age of the universe of 9 billion years
19. project the age of the universe to be 8 billion years 20. the age of the universe may be as small as 8 billion years
21. the age of the universe is about eight-twelve billion years
22. These new results yield ranges for the age of the Universe from 9-12 billion years, and 11-14 billion years, respectively
23. somewhere between about 7 to 10 billion years ago, when the Universe was between a quarter and half its present age
24. At the present time estimates of the age of the universe range between 7 and 20 billion years
25. such as the age of the Universe which ranges between 17 and 18 billion years

Maybe it's just me, but I see a lot of contradiction here.
98 posted on 04/24/2002 9:15:05 PM PDT by DennisR
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To: jlogajan
So we haven't seen anything further out than these most distant objects, and they all have that receding redshift indicative of being sourced from the central big bang.

The big bang theory and the expanding universe may be strong possibilities given the research and what we know. But does current technology prevent us from seeing out farther than we do now? Could it even be possible to discover galaxies 100 billion or more light years away? This is why I'm skeptical of any claims to age, because there's so much out there we don't know yet.

99 posted on 04/24/2002 9:15:39 PM PDT by Reaganwuzthebest
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To: longshadow
"But what is clearly true is that the confidence in the age of the Universe becomes MUCH greater if it is supported by multiple independent methodologies."

No doubt about it, as long as these methodoligies are accurate and repeatable.
100 posted on 04/24/2002 9:16:36 PM PDT by DennisR
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