Largest 3D map of the universe created
Image credit: David Kirkby/DESI collaboration/PA Wire
The first batch of data from the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), which aims to create the largest 3D map of the universe, has now been released.
Scientists at Durham University have observed two million distant galaxies, quasars and stars for the first time as part of an effort to create a detailed map of the universe.
The study used robotics to take thousands of pictures of the night sky, with the aim of advancing our understanding of the universe and our galaxy, the Milky Way.
The team used the observed data taken from DESI to analyse extragalactic objects and how their light decomposed into different colours or wavelengths. These analyses could reveal the rate at which the universe is expanding, as well as the physical properties of the galaxies and quasars.
Seven years after DESI was approved, the team behind the project has been able to release the first dataset, comprising 80 terabytes, from more than 3,500 exposures of the night sky taken over six months.
The system uses fibre-optic technology to split light from galaxies, stars and a bright variety of galaxies known as quasars into narrow bands of colour. Afterwards, this data is used to determine the quasars' chemical makeup, distance to the Earth and speed of travel, which can be used to measure the speed at which the universe is expanding.
The final 3D map could give scientists a better understanding of dark energy, which accounts for 70 per cent of the universe and drives expansion.
Professor Carlos Frenk, of Durham University and a member of the DESI international board, said: “DESI is the most ambitious venture to date seeking answers to some of the most fundamental questions in science – what is our universe made of?
“How did it get to be the way it is?
“What does the future hold?
“Durham astronomers are playing a leading role within this large international collaboration and are at the forefront of efforts to interpret the unique data that DESI is seamlessly delivering.”
Once the project is completed in 2026, DESI would have mapped more than 40 million galaxies, quasars and stars dating as far back as 11 billion years ago.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.