The universe may be twice as old as previously thought

17 Jul 2023

Image: © pongpinun/

A study by Canada’s Dr Rajendra Gupta looks at data from the James Webb telescope to reconsider one of the most fundamental estimations in astronomy.

Scientists have long believed the universe is very, very old. Nearly 13.8bn years old was the most common estimation. But now, this belief based on years of observations and calculations has been flung into question by a new study that estimates the age of everything we to know to be double.

Published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal earlier this month, the study was authored by Dr Rajendra Gupta, an adjunct professor of physics at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

In a strong counter to the dominant cosmological model, Gupta looked at deep space observations made by the James Webb Space Telescope and concluded that the universe is actually 26.7bn years old.

“Our newly devised model stretches the galaxy formation time by several billion years, making the universe 26.7bn years old, and not 13.7bn as previously estimated,” said Gupta, whose study sheds new light on the so-called ‘impossible early galaxy’ problem.

The problem refers to a phenomenon that has long baffled scientists – that some galaxies thought to have come into existence long after the Big Bang appear to be, in fact, much older than the universe’s estimated age.

In February, for instance, researchers looking at the first dataset released by the James Webb found ancient galaxies that appear to contain hundreds of billions of stars, making them far larger than what was previously thought possible so soon after the Big Bang.

Galaxies and stars like the Methuselah appear to have a level of maturity and mass typically associated with billions of years of cosmic evolution, indicating they may have been around for more than 13.8bn years. However, studies prior to Gupta’s have estimated they came into existence hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang.

Joel Leja, an assistant Professor at Penn State, who was involved in the study, said in February that the team only expected to find “young, baby galaxies” when peering into this ancient period.

“We’ve discovered galaxies as mature as our own in what was previously understood to be the dawn of the universe,” Leja said. “This is our first glimpse back this far, so it’s important that we keep an open mind about what we are seeing.”

Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky’s tired light theory proposes that the redshift of light from distant galaxies is due to the gradual loss of energy by photons over vast cosmic distances. However, it was seen to conflict with latest observations.

In his study, Gupta found that “by allowing this theory to coexist with the expanding universe, it becomes possible to reinterpret the redshift as a hybrid phenomenon, rather than purely due to expansion”.

He also advocates a revision of the traditional interpretation of the cosmological constant, which represents dark energy responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic