Observational Evidence from Supernovae for an Accelerating Universe and a Cosmological Constant Academic Article uri icon


  • We present spectral and photometric observations of 10 Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) in the redshift range 0.16 z 0.62. The luminosity distances of these objects are determined by methods that employ relations between SN Ia luminosity and light curve shape. Combined with previous data from our High-z Supernova Search Team and recent results by Riess et al., this expanded set of 16 high-redshift supernovae and a set of 34 nearby supernovae are used to place constraints on the following cosmological parameters: the Hubble constant (H0), the mass density (), the cosmological constant (i.e., the vacuum energy density, ), the deceleration parameter (q0), and the dynamical age of the universe (t0). The distances of the high-redshift SNe Ia are, on average, 10%-15% farther than expected in a low mass density ( = 0.2) universe without a cosmological constant. Different light curve fitting methods, SN Ia subsamples, and prior constraints unanimously favor eternally expanding models with positive cosmological constant (i.e., > 0) and a current acceleration of the expansion (i.e., q0 < 0). With no prior constraint on mass density other than 0, the spectroscopically confirmed SNe Ia are statistically consistent with q0 < 0 at the 2.8 and 3.9 confidence levels, and with > 0 at the 3.0 and 4.0 confidence levels, for two different fitting methods, respectively. Fixing a "minimal" mass density, = 0.2, results in the weakest detection, > 0 at the 3.0 confidence level from one of the two methods. For a flat universe prior ( + = 1), the spectroscopically confirmed SNe Ia require > O at 7 and 9 formal statistical significance for the two different fitting methods. A universe closed by ordinary matter (i.e., = 1) is formally ruled out at the 7 to 8 confidence level for the two different fitting methods. We estimate the dynamical age of the universe to be 14.2 1.7 Gyr including systematic uncertainties in the current Cepheid distance scale. We estimate the likely effect of several sources of systematic error, including progenitor and metallicity evolution, extinction, sample selection bias, local perturbations in the expansion rate, gravitational lensing, and sample contamination. Presently, none of these effects appear to reconcile the data with = 0 and q0 0.

published proceedings

  • The Astronomical Journal

altmetric score

  • 377.38

author list (cited authors)

  • Riess, A. G., Filippenko, A. V., Challis, P., Clocchiatti, A., Diercks, A., Garnavich, P. M., ... Tonry, J.

citation count

  • 13024

complete list of authors

  • Riess, Adam G||Filippenko, Alexei V||Challis, Peter||Clocchiatti, Alejandro||Diercks, Alan||Garnavich, Peter M||Gilliland, Ron L||Hogan, Craig J||Jha, Saurabh||Kirshner, Robert P||Leibundgut, B||Phillips, MM||Reiss, David||Schmidt, Brian P||Schommer, Robert A||Smith, R Chris||Spyromilio, J||Stubbs, Christopher||Suntzeff, Nicholas B||Tonry, John

publication date

  • September 1998