Texas A&M researchers Nicholas Suntzeff and Kevin Krisciunas are part of the ESSENCE project that has been studying supernovae since 2002 in an attempt to prove or disprove Einstein's self-proclaimed “biggest blunder” – his postulation of a cosmological constant (λ).
The international team is studying supernovae to figure out if dark energy (the accelerating force of the universe) is consistent with Einstein’s cosmological constant.
“The magic value is -1 exactly. If the number turns out to be precisely -1, then this dark energy is a relatively simple thing – it is Einstein’s cosmological constant.” -- Kevin Krisciunas
The team won’t have the final results until later next year, but according to Suntzeff, the measurement is coming in at -1 plus or minus 10 percent error, so the initial data seems to point to Einstein being correct.
In 1917, Einstein was working on his Theory of General Relativity and was trying to come up with an equation that describes a static universe – one that stands still and does not collapse under the force of gravity. In order to keep the universe static in his theory, Einstein introduced a cosmological constant – a force that opposes the force of gravity.
12 years later, Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is not static – it is actually expanding. So Einstein scrapped his idea of a cosmological constant and dismissed it as his biggest blunder.
In 1998, two teams of scientists, one of which Suntzeff co-founded, discovered that the universe is not only expanding, but its expansion is actually accelerating. This observation formed the basis of dark energy: A force that not only overcomes gravity but is driving the universe into an exponential acceleration.