The universe is big, and it’s getting bigger. To study dark energy, the mysterious force behind the accelerating expansion of our universe, scientists are using the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) to map more than 40 million galaxies, quasars, and stars. Today, the collaboration publicly released its first batch of data, with nearly 2 million objects for researchers to explore.
In June, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument survived a massive wildfire, followed by rains and mudslides. After cleaning and testing the equipment, DESI collaborators successfully restarted the experiment and began imaging the night sky again on Sept. 10. The survey is creating the largest 3D map of the universe ever made to study a phenomenon called dark energy.
A five-year quest to map the universe and unravel the mysteries of “dark energy” is beginning officially today, May 17, at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. To complete its quest, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) will capture and study the light from tens of millions of galaxies and other distant objects in the universe.
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Before DESI, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, can begin its 5-year mission from an Arizona mountaintop to produce the largest 3D sky map yet, researchers first needed an even bigger 2D map of the universe.
Inspired by the nation’s grappling with issues of race and racial discrimination, UC Berkeley physics major and Berkeley Lab student assistant Ana Lyons turned to art as a way to contribute to the conversation.
Natalie Roe, who joined Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) as a postdoctoral fellow in 1989 and has served as Physics Division director since 2012, has been named the Lab’s Associate Laboratory Director (ALD) for the Physical Sciences Area. Her appointment was approved by the University of California. The announcement follows an international search.
Scientists have begun operating the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, or DESI, to create a 3-D map of over 30 million galaxies and quasars that will help them understand the nature of dark energy. The new instrument is the most advanced of its kind, with 5,000 robotic positioners that will enable scientists to gather more than 20 times more data than previous surveys. Researchers at Fermilab helped develop the software that will direct these positioners to focus on galaxies several billion light-years away and are currently in the process of fine-tuning the programs used before the last round of testing later this year.
Even as the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, or DESI, lies dormant within a telescope dome on a mountaintop in Arizona, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DESI project has moved forward in reaching the final formal approval milestone prior to startup.
Despite a temporary shutdown of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument in Arizona – which was in its final stages of testing in preparation to begin mapping millions of galaxies in 3D when the pandemic struck – a variety of project tasks are still moving forward.
In this Q&A Satya Gontcho A Gontcho, a lead observer for the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), shares her experiences at the DESI site near Tucson, Arizona, including evening observing stints to run through detailed checklists and probe how the instrument’s components are working.