A team of researchers from around the world have mapped nearly 700 million astronomical objects – about an eighth of the night sky.
More than 400 scientists from institutions in the US, the UK, Australia, Switzerland, Spain, Brazil and Germany collaborated on the Dark Energy Survey (DES) project to map millions of space objects. The Australian cohort included researchers from the Australian National University and the University of Queensland.
The DES started gathering data in 2013 using a state-of-the-art camera fixed on a telescope in Chile. Meanwhile, a similar telescope – the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) in Australia – measured the distance and composition of many celestial objects captured.
This data has now been made publicly available, going back in some cases to almost the beginning of time. It’s the second set of data to be released by the DES and represents one of the largest catalogues of astronomical objects.
“This is the culmination of years of effort,” ANU astronomer Dr Christopher Lidman said in a statement. “In addition to mapping hundreds of millions of galaxies, thousands of supernovae (exploding stars) have been discovered.”
Through this project, the team hopes it can answer questions about our universe like how it started, what it is made of and how will it end. The vast amount of data will also help measure cosmic expansion.
“This extensive mapping allows us to measure the history of cosmic expansion and the growth of large-scale structure in the universe, both of which reflect the nature and amount of dark energy in the universe,” UQ Professor Tamara Davis said in a statement.
“I’m excited to use the data to investigate the nature of dark energy itself, which should reveal what’s behind the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. This is one of the biggest mysteries in science and although we haven’t solved it yet, with this new data we’re one step closer.”