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Scientists begin five-year probe into dark energy

The Dark Energy Camera, mounted on the Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The camera was built at Fermilab near Chicago Illinois, US. A team of particle physicists under the direction of Professor Jon Thaler designed and constructed components at the Loomis Laboratory of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US. Credit: Reidar Hahn/Fermilab.

On August 3, the world’s most powerful digital camera turned its eye skyward for a five-year mission, and an international collaboration of over 200 scientists began the Dark Energy Survey (DES), the largest galaxy survey ever attempted. Their goals are to learn why gravity is causing the expansion of the universe to speed up instead of slow down, and to probe the mystery of dark energy, the force believed to be causing the acceleration.

The camera is mounted on the four-meter Victor M. Blanco telescope at the National Science Foundation’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in the Andes Mountains in Chile. All DES digital images will be stored and processed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois (UI) at Urbana-Champaign, US.

Research scientist Robert Gruendl of the UI Department of Astronomy, together with Don Petravick of NCSA and other collaborators, has developed and will operate a data management framework for processing, calibrating, and archiving the massive amounts of data produced – petabytes over the lifetime of the survey. The bulk of computing is currently done on iForge at NCSA. The researchers also plan to use the Open Science Grid.

- Amber Harmon

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