After at least five years preparation, as of August 31 the Dark Energy Survey is officially on!
This is actually one the most important and exciting science projects of all time.
The Universe is undeniably expanding. Baldly stated, we have no idea why.
Observational evidence strongly indicates that the “visible” Universe—everything we can detect—must be only a few percent of the total matter and energy. But we have no theory to explain what the rest (90% of everything!) may be.
WE HAVE TO FIND OUT.
The DES will take measurements designed to tell us more about so-called “Dark Energy”. (Until we know what it is, we can only give it a nick name.) For information about the science questions, see the DES web site, other sites, and popular books, such as The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality by Richard Panek.
I note that I know some of the folks on the project, specifically, the data system headquartered at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. This has been and continues to be a heroic effort: the telescope is in Chile, the data is stored in Illinois. Every night’s observations are transmitted up the spine of the Americas, processed and archived for use by scientists around the world. (They better get today’s processing done today, because more data will come tomorrow.) Cudos to my friends and colleagues who have labored so hard to get this up and running.
There is lot’s more information on the science and technology of this project on the links cited.
And, in the spirit of “citizen science”, there is even a web view from the telescope camera. How cool is that?
Stay tuned. We literally don’t know what we will find with this instrument.