A new telescopic instrument, designed and built by an international team that involved University of Warwick scientists, used its 5,000 fibre-optic eyes to look at the night sky for the first time at the end of October.
The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) (www.desi.lbl.gov
) is expected to provide very precise measurements of the universe’s expansion rate.
The instrument is being installed on the 4m Mayall Telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, and final testing has begun, with DESI capturing its first images of galaxies up to 11 billion light years away.
When formal observations begin in 2020, it will look back in time at the early universe to create the most detailed 3-D map of the universe so far.
The DESI project involves nearly 500 researchers at 75 institutions in 13 countries. The UK universities in the DESI Collaboration are Durham, Portsmouth, UCL, Edinburgh, St Andrews, Cambridge and Warwick.
Ofer Lahav from UCL said: “The ability of DESI to capture the spectra of 5,000 different galaxies simultaneously is about 10-times more than previously achieved.
"DESI will expose secrets of the universe’s infancy and early development.
This new information will help us better understand the physical processes driving the accelerating expansion of the universe. It will also teach us about the nature of dark matter.”
"DESI is led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the USA, supported by funding from the Department of Energy.
DESI director Michael Levi said: “After a decade in planning and R&D, installation and assembly, we are delighted that DESI can soon begin its quest to unravel the mystery of dark energy.
"Most of the universe’s matter and energy are dark and unknown, and next-generation experiments like DESI are our best bet for unravelling these mysteries.”