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STOCKHOLM (AP) — Three U.S.-born scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for overturning a fundamental assumption in their field by showing that the expansion of the universe is constantly accelerating.
Their discovery created a new portrait of the eventual fate of the universe: a place of super-low temperatures and black skies unbroken by the light of galaxies moving away from each other at incredible speed.
Physicists had assumed for decades that the expansion of the universe was getting ever-slower, meaning that in billions of years it would resemble today's universe in many important ways.
Then, working in separate research teams during the 1990s, Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess found that the light from more than 50 distant exploding stars was far weaker than they expected, meaning that galaxies had to be racing away from each other at increasing speed.
The acceleration is driven by what scientists call dark energy, a cosmic force that is one of the great mysteries of the universe.
The Nobel-winning discovery implies instead that the universe will get increasingly colder as matter spreads across ever-vaster distances in space, said Lars Bergstrom, secretary of the Nobel physics committee.
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