cosmological constant

(redirected from Einstein's cosmological constant)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
Cosmological models with different deceleration parametersclick for a larger image
Cosmological models with different deceleration parameters

cosmological constant

(koz-mŏ-loj -ă-kăl) A constant term that can be added to Einstein's field equations of general relativity theory. The cosmological constant was originally put forward by Albert Einstein in 1917 to ensure that the application of general relativity theory to the Universe results in a static Universe rather than an expanding or contracting Universe. The discovery that the Universe is expanding removed the necessity for introducing the cosmological constant but cosmological models with a nonzero cosmological constant have been considered by theoreticians.

For many years it was thought that the value of the cosmological constant is exactly zero but, starting in the late 1990s, evidence began to accumulate that the cosmological constant has a small but nonzero value. This has the consequence that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating. There have been many attempts to show why the value of the cosmological constant is either zero or very small but there is no consensus as to why this should be the case.

Cosmological Constant


the constant A introduced by A. Einstein in 1917 into his equations of gravitation (1916) so that these equations would have solutions describing a static universe and would satisfy the requirement of the relativity of inertia. The physical meaning of the introduction of the constant consists in the assumed existence of special cosmic forces (of repulsion at ∧ > 0 and of attraction at ∧ < 0) that increase with distance. Since the requirement of a static universe became redundant with the discovery that galaxies are receding from one another, Einstein abandoned the cosmological constant in 1931. From this time on, it was assumed that ∧ ≡ 0. Another possibility is being considered at present (the 1970’s), namely, that the cosmological constant is extremely small (∽10−55 cm−2).


Zel’dovich, la. B., and I. D. Novikov. Reliativistskaia astrofizika. Moscow, 1967.


cosmological constant

[¦käz·mə¦läj·ə·kəl ′kän·stənt]
The multiplicative constant for a term proportional to the metric in Einstein's equation relating the curvature of space to the energy-momentum tensor.
References in periodicals archive ?
If instead dark energy grows stronger, exceeding the repulsive force of Einstein's cosmological constant, a more painful scenario awaits: "In a finite amount of time, dark energy gets infinitely dense," says cosmologist Max Tegmark of MIT.
This past may, If dark energy is Einstein's cosmological constant, the universe will expand forever at an accelerating rate.
Einstein's cosmological constant would be a property of empty space.
By combining information on these supernovae with data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Pierre Astier (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, France) and his numerous SNLS colleagues have strengthened the case that dark energy takes its simplest possible form: Albert Einstein's cosmological constant, a mysterious kind of vacuum energy whose density remains unchanged throughout space and time (S&T: March 2005, page 32).

Full browser ?