The universe likes to play coy about its age, but astronomers believe they have a pretty good idea of the range. Now, a series of new studies has investigated the question using different methods – and they’ve come up with two different answers, separated by more than a billion years.
Currently, the most widely accepted age for the universe is around 13.8 billion years, but determining the age of … well, everything, is no easy feat. There are several key calculations that need to be done, and checked against each other. The problem is, these can be figured out in different ways, resulting in different answers.
Because the universe is expanding at an accelerating pace, the further away an object is, the faster it appears to be moving away from us. This is expressed as the Hubble constant, and it’s a key factor in figuring out the age of the universe. After all, if we can determine how fast objects are moving away from us, we can rewind that process to its logical beginning – the Big Bang.
A second method of figuring out the age of the universe is by mapping the oldest light we can detect. Known as the cosmic microwave background (CMB), this radiation was created when the universe was just 380,000 years old – a mere infant, in the grand scheme of things.