An international team of scientists has created the most detailed 3D map of the Universe yet, with astrophysicists revealing details of the first 7.5 million of 35 million galaxies. The stunning image shows the cosmic web of galaxies stretching back billions of light years. And that’s just the beginning of the project, which is seven months old. The investigation, which will help explain dark energy, a force that makes up 68 percent of the universe and is driving its expansion, is expected to take a total of five years.
Scientists are using the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) for the project and have built a component with 5,000 optical fibers that increase the telescope’s field of view. The project adds about a million galaxies each month. When complete, the map, with data going back 11 billion years, should help astronomers understand the origin of the universe and its direction.
“This [project] will help us search for clues as to the nature of dark energy. We will also learn more about dark matter and the role it plays in the formation of galaxies like the Milky Way and the evolution of the Universe,” Professor Carlos Frenk of Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology told the BBC.
The researchers are also trying to use the data to find out how medium-sized black holes behave in small galaxies. After mapping 7.5 million galaxies, DESI aims to add another 27.5 million by the end of its run in 2026.
Victoria Fawcett, a PhD researcher at Durham University’s Center for Extragalactic Astronomy, which is also involved in the project, said DESI is cataloging much fainter and redder objects than previously detected. “We find quite a few exotic systems, including large samples of rare objects that we just couldn’t study in detail before,” she said.
DESI is installed on the Nicholas U. Mayall Telescope in Arizona.
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