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    The World's Most Powerful Digital Camera Now Has a Tumblr of Dark Energy Snapshots

    Written by

    Michael Byrne


    Otherwise known as the DECam, the Dark Energy Survey's camera sports 570 megapixels and 74 CCDs (the devices that convert photons to digital information, each handling millions of pixels worth of information) in the interest of capturing super-long exposures of very, very deep space. The goal is to not just capture the accelerating expansion of the universe in the finest detail technologically possible, but capture the entire history of that expansion.

    With this informaton, it's hoped we'll get some damn answers about dark energy, a confounding something making up about 75 percent of everything in the universe. Dark energy is thought to be blasting the universe outward faster and faster while, as a force, it grows stronger and stronger.

    Via the DES Tumblr

    Eventually, in about 20 billion years, we should hit something called the Big Rip, when the force of dark energy overpowers all of the other forces in the universe (gravity, in particular) and everything is ripped apart. Shredded, in the most perfect, literal form of the word. (The competing theory, the Big Chill, gives us quite a bit more time until, rather than ripping, the universe just runs out of energy.)

    DES kicks things off with this, posted on its new Tumblr today:

    Welcome to the Darkness

    On a dark mountain-top, a car’s brake lights redden the dome of a telescope. Behind it, stars appear to drift by as the Earth slowly turns. The telescope inside that dome, however, is looking farther and deeper into the universe than those nearby bright stars. Commanded by a veritable army of astronomers, our new camera is looking for evidence of the strangest stuff in the universe, dark energy. Our mission is called the Dark Energy Survey.

    What is the Dark Energy Survey? It’s a cooperative effort between about 200 scientists at more than 25 institutions around the world. Together, we’ve designed and built the Dark Energy Camera, the most powerful unclassified digital imaging device in the world, and we’ve mounted it on the 4-meter Victor M. Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

    Over the next five years, we’re going to use this camera to measure hundreds of millions of galaxies and thousands of supernovae in an effort to understand dark energy. That’s the name given to the mysterious substance that is causing our universe to expand faster and faster. We’re going to map a portion of the southern sky in unprecedented detail in order to study this accelerating expansion.

    The DES will begin its formal investigation in the fall, but it assures the project has more than enough awesome pictures to keep sky-spotters entertained until then.

    Reach this writer at michaelb@motherboard.tv.