The Hunt for Dark Energy on a Chilean Mountain Top
According to Fermilab, the brand new Dark Energy Camera is “the most powerful sky mapping machine ever created”.
COQUIMBO – According to representatives from Fermilab, the camera has the ability to see light from over 100,000 galaxies up to 8 billion light years away in each snapshot. After a long, long journey, this 8 billion-year-old starlight has finally found its way to Chile.
The camera’s array of 62 charged-coupled devices has an unprecedented sensitivity to red light. Along with the Blanco telescope’s large light-gathering mirror (which spans 13 feet across), this will allow scientists from around the world to pursue investigations ranging from studies of asteroids in our own Solar System to the understanding of the origins and the fate of the universe.”
Physicists are hoping their newest toy will help shed light on why the expansion of the universe is accelerating.
Dark energy is the number one suspect.
The Dark Energy Camera is the culmination of eight years of planning on three continents. Through this global cooperation we now have the ability to take 570-megapixel images of the sky, which first occurred on September 12, 2012.
“The achievement of first light through the Dark Energy Camera begins a significant new era in our exploration of the cosmic frontier,” said James Siegrist, Associate Director of Science for High Energy Physics with the U.S. Department of Energy. “The results of this survey will bring us closer to understanding the mystery of dark energy, and what it means for the universe.”
The Dark Energy Camera has been mounted on top of the Victor M. Blanco telescope at the National Science Foundation’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in the mountains east of Coquimbo, Chile. It is the southern branch of the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).
In December, the work really begins. It is called the Dark Energy Survey and will be the “largest galaxy survey ever undertaken”.
On the five year horizon, we can expect detailed color images of 1/8 of the sky. This includes 300 million galaxies, 100,000 galaxy clusters and 4,000 supernovae.
It also gives astronomy enthusiasts the opportunity to learn a new term, frisson.
For more information, visit www.darkenergysurvey.org