Here’s Ethan Siegel’s explanation, supplemented by many charts, graphs, and photos:
The true fact of the matter is that, observationally, dark energy is behaving as though it’s a form of energy inherent to the fabric of space itself. WFIRST, NASA’s flagship astrophysics mission of the 2020s (after James Webb), should allow us to reduce the measured constraints on w down to the 1-or-2% level. If it still looks indistinguishable from a cosmological constant (with w = -1) then, we’ll have no choice but to reckon with the quantum vacuum itself.
Why does empty space have the properties that it does? Why is the zero-point energy of the fabric of the Universe a positive, non-zero value? And why does dark energy have the behavior we observe it to have, rather than any other?
There are an infinite number of models we can cook up to describe what we see, but the simplest model — of a non-zero cosmological constant — requires no additions or modifications to match the data. Until we make progress on understanding the quantum vacuum itself, dark energy will remain the biggest unsolved puzzle in all of modern theoretical physics.Ethan Siegel, “This Is Why Dark Energy Is The Biggest Unsolved Problem In The Universe” at Forbes
Well, it keeps cosmology writable and cosmologists in business.
See also: Rob Sheldon: Are “multiple measurements ”closing in on dark energy? Nope.
Researchers: Either dark energy or string theory is wrong. Or both are. But dark energy is so glitzy! Isn’t it a line of cosmetics already?
Researchers: The symmetrons needed to explain dark energy were not found
Rob Sheldon: Has dark energy finally been found? In pop science mags?
Are recent dark energy findings a blow for multiverse theory?
Science at sunset: Dark energy might make a multiverse hospitable to life… if it exists