Gemini Preprint #95

The Extragalactic Distance Scale

J. B. Jensen
Gemini Observatory, 670 N. A'ohoku Place, Hilo, HI 96720

J. L. Tonry
Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, 2680 Woodlawn Drive, Honolulu, HI, 96822

J. Blakeslee
John Hopkins University, Department of Physics and Astronomy, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218-2686


Significant progress has been made during the last 10 years toward resolving the debate over the expansion rate of the Universe. The current value of the Hubble parameter, H0, is now arguably known with an accuracy of 10%, largely due to the tremendous increase in the number of galaxies in which Cepheid variable stars have been discovered. Increasingly accurate secondary distance indicators, many calibrated using Cepheids, now provide largely concordant measurements of H0 well out into the Hubble flow, and deviations from the smooth Hubble flow allow us to better measure the dynamical structure of the local Universe. The change in the Hubble parameter with redshift provided the first direct evidence for acceleration and "dark energy" in the Universe. Extragalactic distance measurements are central to determining the size, age, composition, and fate of the Universe. We discuss remaining systematic uncertainties, particularly related to the Cepheid calibration, and identify where improvements are likely to be made in the next few years.

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Last updated by Virginia Smith / / May 7, 2003