How is it proved that the Universe is expanding? (Intermediate)

Astronomers measure the movement of objects relative to us using Doppler shift. When you hear a train coming, its whistle is heard at a different frequency compared to when it is receding, right? In the same way, light also has a Doppler shift, whereby its frequency is shifted depending on the motion of the emitting object.

Astronomers observed that light from distant objects in the universe is redshifted (shift in the frequency of light towards red color), which tells us that the objects are all receding away from us. This is true in whatever direction you look at: all the distant galaxies are going away from us. This can only be due to the fact that the Universe is expanding.

Further, by measuring the distance to the galaxies, one finds that the velocity of recession is proportional to the distance of the galaxy from us. This is called Hubble law after Edwin Hubble who was the first to discover it.

This page was last updated June 27, 2015.

About the Author

Jagadheep D. Pandian

Jagadheep D. Pandian

Jagadheep built a new receiver for the Arecibo radio telescope that works between 6 and 8 GHz. He studies 6.7 GHz methanol masers in our Galaxy. These masers occur at sites where massive stars are being born. He got his Ph.D from Cornell in January 2007 and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Insitute for Radio Astronomy in Germany. After that, he worked at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii as the Submillimeter Postdoctoral Fellow. Jagadheep is currently at the Indian Institute of Space Scence and Technology.

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