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Across the world and up all night: Monitoring spacetime evolution

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Posted October 31, 2014

For the last week, detectives from the Dark Energy Survey have been coordinating across four continents to bring to light more evidence of how the fabric of spacetime is stretching and evolving.

des2018-5248_rgb-neb-crop-edit2-3-1000-px

In Sussex, England, over 100 detectives met to discuss the current state and the future of the Survey that is conducted at the Blanco telescope, located at Cerro Tololo in Chile. At this semi-annual collaboration meeting (with a new venue each time), we continued to strategize analyses for the many probes of spacetime evolution and dark energy: as I write, several early results are being prepared for publication.

At Cerro Tololo, a team of observers operated the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the Blanco telescope, as we make our way through the second season of observing for the Survey. Each season goes August through February, during the Chilean summer.

The Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia is home to the OzDES Survey – long-term project for obtaining highly precise distance measurements of objects discovered by DES, such as supernovae and galaxy clusters. These “follow-up” measurements will be very important evidence in pinning down the culprit for dark energy.

At Cerro Pachon, just east of Cerro Tololo, another team of two agents began to search for evidence of highly warped space in the distant cosmos, using the Gemini (South) Telescope (@GeminiObs). We spent six nights working to measure highly accurate distances of strong gravitational lensing systems. These systems are galaxies or groups of galaxies that are massive enough to significantly distort the fabric of space-time. Space and time are so warped that the light rays from celestial objects – like galaxies and quasars – behind these massive galaxies become bent. The resulting images in DECam become stretched or even multiplied – just like an optical lens. In future case reports, we’ll expand on this phenomenon in more detail.

All the while, supercomputers the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) are processing the data from DECam each night, turning raw images into refined data – ready for analysis by the science teams.

The image above doesn’t display any obvious strong lenses, but it is an example of the exquisite lines of evidence that DES continues to accumulate each night.

Here are positions of some of the galaxies above. What information can you find about them? There are several electronic forensic tools to assist your investigation (for example, https://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/forms/nearposn.html; take care to enter the positions with the correct formatting, as they are below).  Tweet your findings to our agents at @darkenergdetec, and we can compare case notes.

RA: 304.3226d,    Dec: -52.7966d

RA: 304.2665d,    Dec: -52.6728d

RA: 304.0723d,     Dec: -52.7044d

Good night, and keep looking up,

Source: Dark Energy Detectives, story by B. Nord, M. Murphy [image processing]

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