“With this camera we will get back to about seven or eight billion years ago,” said Brenna Flaugher, Project Manager for Fermilab’s Dark Energy Camera. “Which is about half of the age of the universe.”
By getting a glimpse into the past with a revolutionary camera, Fermi National Laboratory is shaping the future of how scientists study the expansion of the universe.
The lab’s newest experiment is known as the “Dark Energy Survey” and began on August 31st.
The project uses the world’s most powerful 570-megapixel super-camera placed on a telescope in the mountains of Chile to give scientists a glimpse into the phenomenon known as dark energy.
“Dark energy is a thing that is pushing the universe apart,” said Flaugher. “It’s causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. What I just told you is about all we know; it’s pushing the universe apart.”
For the next five years, the camera will focus its five lenses on one-eighth of the sky taking pictures of 300 million different galaxies and 100,000 galaxy clusters.
It’s expected to discover 4,000 new supernovae reaching deep into the universe up to eight billion light years away.
Although the camera isn’t able to see dark energy directly, the data it can gather will give scientist precise measurements of its properties.
“By looking at the spectrum of light or the colors of light coming from the different galaxies and galaxy clusters, we can also tell how old they are,” explained Flaugher. “So by putting that information together tells us about the formation of the universe over time.”
Much of what the Dark Energy Survey team finds over the next five years will be breakthroughs in the field allowing them to prove or disprove their current hypotheses.
“It’s really going to take the next step in understanding what this dark energy stuff is,” said Flaugher. “There’s lots and lots of ideas. Theorists are very, very creative and can think up many ideas but we need more data to narrow down the options.”
And the public can get in on the action as well, through DECam Interactive: an online application that allows users to see what the camera sees. Find it at darkenergysurvey.org.
Fermilab is also blogging their way through the project. You can check out darkenergydetectives.org for pictures, articles, and the latest information on the Dark Energy Survey.
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