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Dark energy camera snaps first images ahead of survey

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Dark energy camera snaps first images ahead of survey

The highest-resolution camera ever built has begun its quest to pin down the mysterious stuff that makes up nearly three-quarters of our Universe.

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The camera comprises 62 separate CCDs, the same kind of detector familiar from consumer cameras

The Dark Energy Survey's 570-million-pixel camera will scan some 300 million galaxies in the coming five years.

The goal is to discover the nature of dark energy, which is theorized to be responsible for the ever-faster expansion of the Universe.

Its first image, taken 12 September, focussed on the Fornax galaxy cluster.

In time, along with its massive haul of individual galaxies, it will study 100,000 galaxy clusters - the largest stable structures we know of - and 4,000 supernovae, the bright dying throes of stars.

This enormous survey is a collaboration between US, UK, Brazilian, Spanish and German astronomers.

The phone box-sized Dark Energy Camera or DECam is mounted on the 4m Victor M Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile's Atacama desert.

DECam is particularly sensitive to red and infrared light, to better study cosmic objects as distant as eight billion light-years away.

More distant objects are moving away from us - and each other - faster than nearer objects, which causes a shift of their apparent colour toward the red end of the spectrum - a "redshift".

Careful studies of the shifted light from distant supernovae were what first demonstrated this expansion, leading to the 2011 Nobel prize in physics.

What is believed to be causing this increase in the speed of expansion is called dark energy, making up more than 70% of the "stuff" of the Universe and the focus of the DECam's mission.

Other efforts hope to get to the bottom of the mystery, including the Boss survey and a future space telescope dedicated to the effort called Euclid.

But for now, Will Percival from the University of Portsmouth, a Dark Energy Survey collaborator, said DECam is an exciting prospect.

"This will be the largest galaxy survey of its kind, and the galaxy shapes and positions will tell us a great deal about the nature of the physical process that we call dark energy, but do not currently understand," he said.

The survey will tackle the problem in four ways.

It will study the same kind of supernovae that led to the Nobel prize, in a bid to unravel the "expansion history" of the Universe - when its expansion increased and decreased over billions of years.

It will also map out in 3D the distribution of galaxy clusters, measuring what are known as baryon acoustic oscillations - literally relics of the sound echoes of the Big Bang.

By counting the clusters and plotting out when they evidently formed, the survey can feed back to computer models that map out how we think the Universe organised itself in its earliest years.

And studies of the way galaxies and galaxy clusters bend passing light - in a process called weak gravitational lensing - will help to pin down the equally mysterious "dark matter" that is believed to make up more than 80% of the Universe's mass.

DECam will now be run through a series of tests and will begin the official survey in December.

With each snapshot it acquires, it will see an apparent area of the sky 20 times larger than the full moon.

In its full five-year run, it should capture an eighth of the full sky.

"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 at the US Department of Energy, which oversaw the instrument's construction.

"The results of this survey will bring us closer to understanding the mystery of dark energy and what it means for the Universe."

http://www.bbc.co.uk...onment-19634700

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570 million megapixels?! :shock:

Incroyable!

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I have a feeling these high resolution cameras will be in our phones 20 years from now haha

Interesting article

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570 megapixel...

Can I have that on my phone?

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Man this kind of stuff fascinates me... I'm huge into Astrophysics, follow this kind of stuff regularly.

Here's an amazing clip of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, answering a basic question asked by a member of TIME magazine, it helps that that song playing in the background is one of my all time favorite songs.

Before watching maybe try and answer the question to yourself first, or comment below.

Question: What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe.

...mind explosion

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Man this kind of stuff fascinates me... I'm huge into Astrophysics, follow this kind of stuff regularly.

Here's an amazing clip of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, answering a basic question asked by a member of TIME magazine, it helps that that song playing in the background is one of my all time favorite songs.

Before watching maybe try and answer the question to yourself first, or comment below.

Question: What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe.

mind explosion

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Amazing to think what cameras will be like another 20, 50, and 100 years down the road.

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I'm going to make a black hole thread... those things are incredible, and most people don't really understand our current understanding of them

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Amusing one believes in the big bang theory, why do they figure there was only one and not a multiple of explosions?

Expand, contract, expand., contract etc.

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Can dark energy be harnessed in anyway? Ie. Power our future warp-drives and space ships.

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Amusing one believes in the big bang theory, why do they figure there was only one and not a multiple of explosions?

Expand, contract, expand., contract etc.

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Can dark energy be harnessed in anyway? Ie. Power our future warp-drives and space ships.

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Amazing to think what cameras will be like another 20, 50, and 100 years down the road.

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