Friday, January 15, 2010
Looking for dark energy
Wired reports: [edited]
You’re looking at the heart of one of the biggest digital cameras ever conceived — 74 CCD sensors that will go into an enclosure the size of a Mini Cooper. The 570-megapixel shooter is being built at Fermilab by an international team of particle physicists and astronomers, who think it will help solve one of the great mysteries of the cosmos: What is dark energy?
We don’t really know whether dark energy even exists. What we do know is that the universe has been expanding since the big bang. But rather than slowing down like everything else fighting gravity’s pull, this expansion seems to be speeding up.
Something must be causing this, and astronomers call that something dark energy. The hope is that scientists can use detailed photos to chart the light from galaxies and supernovas, which will show the growth of the cosmos and at least give them more evidence for the existence and effect of dark energy.
Once the $35 million rig is complete, astronomers will mount it to a telescope in Chile and, over the course of five years, use it to map 300 million galaxies.