The Dark Energy Camera – the most powerful sky-mapping machine ever created – has recorded first images in hunt for dark energy, according to astronomers from the Dark Energy Survey collaboration.
“The achievement of first light through the Dark Energy Camera begins a significant new era in our exploration of the Cosmic Frontier,” said Dr James Siegrist, DOE associate director of science for high-energy physics. “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 is mounted on the Victor M. Blanco telescope at the National Science Foundation’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
“The Dark Energy Survey will help us understand why the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, rather than slowing due to gravity,” said Dr Brenna Flaugher, project manager and scientist at Fermilab. “It is extremely satisfying to see the efforts of all the people involved in this project finally come together.”
The Dark Energy Camera is the most powerful survey instrument of its kind, able to see light from over 100,000 galaxies up to 8 billion light years away in each snapshot.
Scientists in the Dark Energy Survey collaboration will use the 570-megapixel camera to carry out the largest galaxy survey ever undertaken, and will use that data to carry out four probes of dark energy, studying galaxy clusters, supernovae, the large-scale clumping of galaxies and weak gravitational lensing. This will be the first time all four of these methods will be possible in a single experiment.
The Dark Energy Survey is expected to begin in December, after the camera is fully tested, and will take advantage of the excellent atmospheric conditions in the Chilean Andes to deliver pictures with the sharpest resolution seen in such a wide-field astronomy survey. In just its first few nights of testing, the camera has already delivered images with excellent and nearly uniform spatial resolution.
Over five years, the survey will create detailed color images of one-eighth of the sky, or 5,000 square degrees, to discover and measure 300 million galaxies, 100,000 galaxy clusters and 4,000 supernovae.