OBSERVATIONS are providing progressively tighter constraints on cosmological models advanced to explain the formation of large-scale structure in the Universe. These include recent determinations of the Hubble constant 1-3 (which quantifies the present expansion rate of the Universe) and measurements of the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background 4,5. Although the limits imposed by these diverse observations have occasionally led to suggestions6 that cosmology is facing a crisis, we show here that there remains a wide range of cosmological models in good concordance with these constraints. The combined observations point to models in which the matter density of the Universe falls well below the critical energy density required to halt its expansion. But they also permit a substantial contribution to the energy density from the vacuum itself (a positive 'cosmological constanta'), sufficient to recover the critical density favoured by the simplest inflationary models. The observations do not yet rule out the possibility that we live in an ever-expanding 'open' Universe, but a Universe having the critical energy density and a large cosmological constant appears to be favoured.
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