The most detailed map of the universe that has already classified more than 7.5 million galaxies and adds more than a million every month in three dimensions

Published:

15 Jan 2022 17:29 GMT

By the time the scan is completely finished in 2026, it is believed that more than 35 million galaxies will have been catalogued.

An international group of scientists is working on the elaboration of the largest and most detailed map of the universe in three dimensions, which will allow astronomers to understand the role of dark energy in the origin and evolution of the universe, reported the institution responsible for the investigation in a press release on Thursday.

The project is directed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy, and will last for five years, at the end of which it is expected that the map will be completed with information from 35 million galaxies, which will help various investigations in the field of cosmology and astrophysics.

Carlos Frenk, a scientist at the University of Durham (United Kingdom), explained to the Daily Mail that, despite being in the first stage, scientists are already breaking new ground, adding that “this will help us search for clues about the nature of dark energy, but we’ll also learn more about dark matter and the role it plays in how galaxies like the Milky Way form and how it evolves in the universe.”

How will this map be completed?

In seven months, more than 7.5 million galaxies with the help of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), a device whose construction began in 2015 and is made up of more than 5,000 automated telescopes, each of which can image a new galaxy every 20 minutes, In addition to adding a million of these every month.

DESI is already breaking new ground by producing this map of the universe, which is the most detailed we have ever seen, confirmed scientist Carlos Frenk.

The DESI is installed at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, and has the capacity to study more galaxies than other astronomical observation equipment in the world, since it uses a state-of-the-art fiber optic system that divides light into bands of color of celestial bodies found in space, such as galaxies and stars, with an accuracy of 10 microns.

“Ten microns is tiny,” said Ohio State University scientist Klaus Honscheid, who is responsible for the project’s instrumentation. He added that it is less than the thickness of a human hair.

Knowing the colors of dark energy

The colors indicate the chemical composition of a celestial body, as well as the information regarding the distance at which they are and the speed at which they travel. “DESI is really cool because it detects objects that are much dimmer and redder” than previously discovered, said Victoria Fawcett, a doctoral student at Durham University.

The device can specify when light from each galaxy has shifted to the red end of the visible electromagnetic spectrum due to the expansion of the universe during the billions of years light traveled before reaching planet Earth, allowing the device to analyze the depth of the sky, in addition to knowing how far away a galaxy is, so that in the end the three-dimensional map can be drawn up.

DESI has classified since November 2021 the displacements to the red color of 2.5 million of galaxies.

What is dark energy?

The universe is made up of almost 70% dark energy, a mysterious form of energy that drives its expansion at an accelerated rate. As the universe expands, more dark energy appears, causing the expansion to rapidly increase in a cycle that is increasing the fraction of dark energy present in the universe.

Once the studies carried out by DESI progress further, it will be possible to determine the fate of the universe and the impact of dark energy on its expansion, in addition to understanding the behavior of intermediate-mass black holes in very small galaxies.

DESI will tell us more about the physics of galaxy formation and evolution, said University of Arizona astronomy graduate student Ragadeepika Pucha, adding that “all the data is just there, waiting to be analyzed.”

“And then we’ll find out a lot of amazing things about galaxies. To me, that’s exciting,” Pucha concluded. To date, the device has driven advances in compressing galaxies when they were still young, 10 billion years ago.

“In the distribution of galaxies on the 3D map, there are huge clusters, filaments and voids. They are the largest structures in the universe. But within them, you find a trace of the very early universe and the history of its expansion since then,” commented Julien Guy, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The DESI began its validation phase in 2019, but its activities were interrupted for several months due to the worldwide appearance of covid, although some tasks continued remotely. In December 2020, the operation of the ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ was verified, and finally in May 2021 the investigations began.

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