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More accurate benchmark for cosmic distances

An international team of astronomers under the leadership of prof. Grzegorz Pietrzyński from Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences measured the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) with the exceptional accuracy of 1%.

The LMC was named after the famous traveler Ferdynand Magellan who observed it during his journey around the world. Just like our Galaxy, the LMC hosts billions of stars. Because of its proximity, it is a perfect laboratory for studies of various objects and astrophysical processes. These studies require the knowledge of the distance. The distance to the LMC is also a benchmark for cosmic distances in the same way as the standard meter bar defines distances measured on Earth. Therefore, the distance to the LMC is so important for many fields in modern astrophysics, in particular cosmology.

After the discovery of accelerating expansion of the Universe (Nobel Prize in 2011), the explanation of the nature of mysterious dark energy is one of the greatest challenges in modern science. The nature of dark energy can be explored thanks to the measurements of the famous Hubble constant, which describes the expansion rate of the Universe. The remarkably accurate measurement to the LMC distance gives a unique opportunity to significantly improve the measurement of the Hubble constant and hence to solve one of the biggest puzzles of the Universe.

In order to measure the distance to the LMC, a Polish team together with colleagues from Chile, France, Germany and the USA developed a new method commonly known as the Polish space ruler. This method allows to measure extremely accurate distances to nearby galaxies.

The work was published in a prestigious journal Nature.

Polish team participating in the study:
prof. dr hab. Grzegorz Pietrzyński
dr Dariusz Graczyk
dr Bogumił Pilecki
mgr Paulina Karczmarek
dr Marek Górski
dr Ksenia Suchomska
mgr Mónica Taormina
mgr Bartłomiej Zgirski
mgr Piotr Wielgórski
dr Zbigniew Kołaczkowski
mgr Piotr Konorski
dr hab. Radosław Smolec
dr inż. Weronika Narloch


Read the original paper in Nature.


Picture: Janusz Bogucki.