A new study shows that the universe may be expanding at a faster rate than previously calculated. That's according to new calculations by a team of astronomers who used the Hubble Space Telescope to measure the distance between 19 galaxies with unparalleled precision. The numbers suggest the universe is expanding up to 10 percent faster than previously thought. This expansion rate is known as the Hubble Constant.

Researchers believe the discrepancy may offer clues into how dark matter works. Under Hubble’s Law, objects like galaxies and quasars both accelerate and decelerate over time, and Hubble’s Constant reconciles these gravitational peculiarities.

Dark matter and the universe.

"This surprising finding may be an important clue to understanding those mysterious parts of the universe that make up 95 percent of everything and don't emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter, and dark radiation," said Adam Riess, the study’s lead author and an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University, in a press release.

Astronomers believe that dark matter makes up 26.5 percent of the universe’s matter-energy and the rest is dark energy (73 percent). The “ordinary” visible matter we can see with the ‘naked eye’ make up roughly 0.5 percent (see photos).

The new Hubble Constant

Dark matter also transports dark energy, which scientists believe is behind the universe’s acceleration and expansion. To calculate the universe’s expansion rate, known as the Hubble constant, the researchers measured the movements of 2,400 stars and 300 supernovas.

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These precise measurements gave a Hubble Constant of 73.2 kilometers per second per megaparsec (there are 3.3 light years to a parsec). That means the expansion rate is roughly 73.2 kilometers per 3.3 million light years. The distance to our closest galaxy Andromeda is 0.76 megaparsec, or about 2,480,000 light years from Earth.

Hubble Constant Conflict.

The new Hubble Constant comes into direct conflict with the rate of the universe's expansion as determined by NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and the European Space Agency’s Planck data.

The team behind the new study said there are a couple theories as to why there is a discrepancy between their calculations and previous ones. They believe that dark energy, the driving force behind the acceleration of the universe's expansion, may be stronger than previously thought. Another reason may be that a new type of subatomic particle, like quarks or neutrinos, traveling at near light speed after the Big Bang, affected the universe's expansion rate.

The Hubble Constant is widely used by astronomers to make calculations on the vast distances between objects in our universe, and this new constant needs to be reconciled with the current one. Until then, astronomers are faced with the challenge of having to decide which Hubble Constant to use.

Check out some of the far-flung images captured by the Hubble Telescope.

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