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Wed Oct 30, 2019, 02:16 AM

5,000 electronic "eyes" poised to map the effects of dark energy

30 October 2019

A first light image from the DESI instrument showing spectra collected from the Triangulum galaxy
(M-33) by one of 5,000 fiber optic detectors. The instrument’s field of view is nearly 40 times the
size of the moon. Image: DESI Collaboration

Astronomers have collected a “first light” image from the 4-metre Mayall telescope and the 11-ton Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, or DESI, equipped with 5,000 fiber optic “eyes” feeding a bank of 10 spectrographs. The system is capable of breaking down the light from 5,000 galaxies every 20 minutes to determine their distances and velocities.

The goal of the project, starting early next year, is to pin down the positions and distances to 35 million galaxies spread across one third of the sky to glean clues about the nature of the mysterious “dark energy” causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

With a field of view of 8 square degrees – about 40 times the area of the full moon – DESI can assess more than 100,000 galaxies in a single night.

“After a decade in planning and R&D, installation and assembly, we are delighted that DESI can soon begin its quest to unravel the mystery of dark energy,” said DESI Director Michael Levi of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. ”Most of the Universe’s matter and energy are dark and unknown, and next-generation experiments like DESI are our best bet for unraveling these mysteries. I am thrilled to see this new experiment come to life.”


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