Introduction to special issueBREAKTHROUGH OF THE YEAR

ASTRONOMY: Cosmic Motion Revealed

Science  18 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5397, pp. 2156-2157
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5397.2156a

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In 1998, astronomers peered into the universe and found that it is flying apart ever faster, suggesting that Einstein was right when he posited a mysterious energy that fills "empty" space, and in fact that most of the energy of the universe is in this form. Two independent teams of astronomers found that not only is there too little matter in the universe to ever halt the expansion of the universe on its own, but the outward motion appears to be speeding up, not slowing down. At the same time, the finding raises such profound questions about the nature of space that cosmologists are wondering whether the ultimate fate of the universe can ever be known for certain. We therefore name their findings, which transform our view of the universe and pose fundamental new questions for physics, as Breakthrough of the Year for 1998.