Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Take a look at the largest and most detailed 3D map of the universe ever created

The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), now pointed skyward from its home at the Nicholas W. Mayall Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, is to map the expansion of space, probe dark energy, and create the most detailed 3D map of the universe that has ever been compiled.

It’s only been seven months since the start of the DESI mission, and we already have a record-breaking, stunning 3D image of the galaxy around us, proving DESI’s capabilities and its potential for space mapping.

DESI has already cataloged and mapped over 7.5 million galaxies, with over a million more added every month. More than 35 million galaxies are thought to have been mapped by the time the scan completes in 2026, providing astronomers with a massive library of data to mine.

“There’s a lot of beauty in that,” says astrophysicist Julien Guy of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

“In the distribution of galaxies on a 3D map, there are huge clusters, filaments and voids. These are the largest structures in the universe. But inside them you will find the imprint of a very early universe and the history of its expansion since then.”

DESI is made up of 5,000 optical fibers, each controlled and positioned by its own tiny robot. These fibers must be precisely positioned to within 10 microns, or less than the thickness of a human hair, and then they capture glimmers of light as they filter back to Earth from space.

Through this fiber-optic network, the instrument takes images of the color spectrum of millions of galaxies, covering more than a third of the entire sky, before calculating how much the light has redshifted, that is, how much it has been shifted towards the red end of the spectrum. spectrum due to the expansion of the universe.

Since this light can take up to several billion years to reach Earth, redshift data can be used to see the depth of the universe: the greater the redshift, the farther away something is. Moreover, structures mapped by DESI can be reconstructed to show the original formation in which they began.

(D. Schlegel/Berkeley Lab/DESI data)

Above: A slice of a 3D galaxy map from the completed Sloan Digital Sky Survey (left) and the first few months of operation of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (right).

The main goal of DESI is to learn more about dark energy, which is believed to make up 70 percent of the universe, and to accelerate its expansion. This dark energy could push galaxies into infinite expansion, causing them to collapse back on themselves or something in between — and cosmologists are keen to narrow down the options.

“[DESI] help us find clues about the nature of dark energy,” Carlos Frank, a cosmologist at Durham University in the UK, told the BBC.

“We will also learn more about dark matter and the role it plays in how galaxies like the Milky Way form and how the universe evolves.”

The already released 3D map shows that scientists don’t have to wait for DESI to finish their work to start benefiting from deep space exploration. Another study, reinforced by DESI, is looking into whether smaller galaxies have their own black holes, just like larger galaxies do.

The best way to detect a black hole is to identify the gas, dust, and other material being sucked into it, but this is not easy to see in small galaxies – high-precision spectral data collected by DESI should help with this.

Then there is the study of quasars, especially bright galaxies powered by supermassive black holes that act as pointers to billions of years of cosmic history. DESI will be used to test the hypothesis that quasars are initially surrounded by a shell of dust that dissipates over time.

The amount of dust around a quasar is thought to affect the color of the light it emits, making it an ideal job for DESI. By the time the study is completed, the instrument should be able to gather information on approximately 2.4 million quasars.

“DESI is really great because it captures much dimmer and much redder objects,” says astronomer Victoria Fawcett of Durham University.

“We’re finding quite a few exotic systems, including large specimens of rare objects that we simply couldn’t study in detail before.”

You can keep up to date with the latest news from Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument on its official home page.


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