Understanding Dark Energy in the Universe

Understanding Dark Energy in the Universe

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “ Understanding Dark Energy in the Universe”. This topic has relevance in the Science and Technology section of the UPSC CSE exam.

GS 3: Science and Technology

Why in the news?

The composition of energy in the universe is characterized by a subtle equilibrium among various forms of matter and radiation.

Taking up a substantial 68%, dark energy significantly influences and directs the expansion of the universe.


Dark energy, a mysterious and enigmatic form of energy, constitutes a substantial portion of the total energy content of the universe. This elusive force is believed to be the driving factor behind the observed accelerated expansion of the cosmos, with approximately 68% of the universe attributed to dark energy, while dark matter accounts for about 27%. Remarkably, all the ordinary matter on Earth and everything observed in the universe with scientific instruments amounts to less than 5% of the total cosmic composition.

Key Points to Grasp about Dark Energy:

  • Invisible Force Steering Expansion:
      • Dark energy, an unseen force, plays a pivotal role in the accelerated expansion of the universe. Unlike gravity, which attracts objects, dark energy acts as a repulsive force, pushing galaxies away from each other.
  • Characteristics of Space:
      • Contrary to the conventional idea of space as an empty void, dark energy introduces a new perspective. Space is not merely an empty expanse; it is a dynamic, stretchable medium that responds to the presence of energy.
  • Expansion Dictated by Energy Forms:
      • The universe’s expansion is not uniform, and different forms of energy contribute uniquely to this process. Whether it’s matter, radiation, or dark energy, each type influences how a specific region of space expands or contracts.
  • Balancing Act:
      • Dark energy dominates the universe’s energy budget, dictating the overall rate of space expansion. Striking a delicate balance with other forms of energy is crucial for the stability of the cosmos.
  • Implications:
      • The quantity of dark energy holds significant implications for the observable universe. Too much positive energy could result in galaxies moving away faster than light, limiting visibility. Excessive negative energy might lead to the universe collapsing.
  • Diluteness of Dark Energy:
    • Although it holds a position of dominance, dark energy is remarkably sparse throughout the immense expanse of the universe. In a cubic kilometer, it’s as sparse as a single sugar crystal, raising questions about the nature and distribution of this mysterious force.

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Possible Explanations of Dark Energy:

  • Property of Space:
      • Albert Einstein’s gravity theory with a cosmological constant suggests that “empty space” possesses its own energy, causing the universe to expand faster as more space comes into existence.
  • Quantum Theory of Matter:
      • The quantum theory of matter proposes that “empty space” is filled with temporary (“virtual”) particles continuously forming and disappearing.
  • Fifth Fundamental Force:
    • Speculative theories propose a fifth fundamental force to explain dark energy, often referred to as “quintessence.” However, none of these theories have been conclusively proven, rendering dark energy as “the most profound mystery in all of science.”


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