Dark energy: Can $40m camera help solve its mystery? (+video)
The Dark Energy Camera, on a telescope high in the Chilean desert, is expected to capture 300 million galaxies, 100,000 galaxy clusters, and some 4,000 supernovae over the next five years.
Using a cosmic looking glass that would dazzle Sherlock Holmes, an international team of astronomers has taken the first major step in a five-year observing project to help crack a case you could call The Sign of Dark Energy.
The team has released the first stunning images from a $40 million camera that over the next five years is expected to capture and help characterize 300 million galaxies, 100,000 galaxy clusters, and some 4,000 exploding stars, or supernovae – all in the quest to figure out the nature of dark energy and how it has affected the evolution of the cosmos.
Where gravity exerts a pull on other objects in space, dark energy pushes objects apart, causing the universe to expand at an increasing rate.
The name dark energy was coined shortly after the phenomenon was discovered – in no small part to convey its mysterious nature.
Some theorists posit that dark energy is the cosmological constant first proposed, then withdrawn, by Albert Einstein. Einstein invoked it as he worked out the implications of his theory of general relativity for the evolution of the universe. His equations pointed to the eventual collapse of the universe under its own gravity, but the universe at the time was widely thought to be static. So he added a cosmological constant to his calculations to keep the universe from collapse.
A cosmological constant would permeate the universe in ways that would induce it to expand at an increasing rate.
Others have proposed that dark energy varies with time and may even be a fifth fundamental force of nature, dubbed quintessence. Since it varies, it could be a repulsive force or one that attracts, depending on other conditions in the universe.
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