U of I Plays Role In Mapping Of Galaxies


University of Illinois researchers will have a role in what’s being called the largest survey of galaxies ever attempted.

The U of I’s Department of Physics helped to build the world’s largest digital camera to research ‘Dark Energy’, or the theory that the universe is not only expanding, but accelerating. 

Data from camera images will be examined by the U of I’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications.  

The camera will be mounted within a telescope in the Andes Mountains in Chile.  The Dark Energy Survey involves more than 200 scientists.

U of I Astronomy Research Scientist Robert Gruendl said the survey requires roughly 500 nights to cover 5,000 square degrees, or about one-eighth of the sky.  It’s expected to involve images of 300 million galaxies.

Greundl's role in the survey is Production Scientist.

"The only way to get an acceleration in our current understanding of the universe is for there to be some extra thing pushing," he said.  "You need some energy input."

U of I Physics professor John Thaler said that research includes supernovas, or an explosive destruction of a star caused by its own gravity, as well as the rate at which structures form.

“Because way back in the early universe, there were no stars and galaxies," he said.   "It was a more-or-less homogenous plasma.  As the universe aged, you started having high-density regions - basically due to the gravitational attraction.  Things attract each other,  and they fall together, and you start getting clumps of gas, and they form stars, and stuff like that.”

The 5-year effort to map the southern sky also involves Fermilab National Laboratory in Batavia, where the camera was built.  

The Dark Energy Survey officials got underway August 31.  The project is getting financial support from a number of agencies, including the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation. 

Story source: WILL