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Department Colloquium | Dark Energy and the Hubble Constant from a Different Distance Ladder

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
12:00 AM
340 West Hall

Speaker: Adam Riess (Johns Hopkins University)


The expansion rate and its evolution must be empirically determined for our Universe to reveal its composition, scale, age, and fate. The Hubble Space Telescope is unique in its ability to measure the keystones of cosmic expansion, distant type Ia supernovae and Cepheid variables in their hosts.  In 1998, high-redshift SNe Ia provided the first and only direct evidence for an accelerating Universe and the existence of dark energy.  More recently, ACS and NICMOS on HST have become tools to calibrate the Hubble diagram of SNe Ia with modern data.

We report results from a program to determine the Hubble constant to 5% precision from a refurbished distance ladder based on extensive use of differential measurements.  We show that the factor of 2.2 improvement in the precision of H_0 is a significant aid to the determination of the equation-of-state parameter of dark energy, w = P/(r c²).  We show that future improvements in the measurement of $H_0 are likely and should further contribute to multi-technique studies of dark energy.