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In 1998, scientists discovered that the universe's expansion is accelerating. Physicists don't know how or why the universe is accelerating outward, but they gave the mysterious force behind this phenomenon a name: dark energy.
Scientists know a great deal about the effects of dark energy, but they don't know what it is. Cosmologists approximate that 68 percent of the universe's total energy must be made of the stuff. One way to get a better handle on dark energy and its effects is to create detailed maps of the universe, plotting its expansion. Scientists, engineers and technicians are currently building the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, or DESI, to do just that.
DESI - Map - Galaxies - Date - Sky
DESI will help create the largest 3-D map of galaxies to date, one that will span a third of the entire sky, stretch back 11 billion light-years, and record approximately 35 million galaxies and quasars.
It will measure the spectra of light emanating from galaxies to determine their distances from Earth. Other surveys have created maps that locate galaxies' lateral positions in the sky, but scientists using DESI will be able to take more precise measurements of their distance from us, creating high-resolution, 3-D maps.
DESI - Mayall - Telescope - Kitt - Peak
DESI is currently being installed at the Mayall 4-Meter Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Once installation is complete, it will run for five years.
The DESI project is managed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) in California, and the U.S. DOE's Fermilab is contributing to the ambitious effort with specialty systems for collecting and analyzing the galactic light.
Effort - DESI - Example - Draws - Expertise
"The collaborative effort to build DESI is an example of how science draws on expertise from multiple institutions toward a common goal, one that humanity is always moving toward: understanding the fundamentals of our universe," said Berkeley Lab's Michael Levi, DESI project director.
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