Dark Energy Survey completes six-year mission

By February 11, 2019February 28th, 2019IFAE

The Dark Energy Survey (DES), in which researchers from the Institute for High Energy Physics (IFAE), a BIST centre, are participating, is coming to an end, but their work to learn more about the expansion of the universe has just begun.

After scanning in depth about a quarter of the southern skies for six years and cataloguing hundreds of millions of distant galaxies, the Dark Energy Survey (DES) finished taking data on Jan. 9, 2019.

The survey is an international collaboration that began mapping a 5,000-square-degree area of the sky on Aug. 31, 2013, in a quest to understand the nature of dark energy, the mysterious force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. Using the Dark Energy Camera, a 520-megapixel digital camera funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at the National Science Foundation’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, scientists on DES took data on 758 nights over six years.

Over those nights, they recorded data from more than 300 million distant galaxies. More than 400 scientists from over 25 institutions around the world have been involved in the project, which is hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. The collaboration has already produced about 200 academic papers, with more to come.

The IFAE cosmology group has participated in DES together with the rest of the DES-Spain institutions: ICE-CSIC/IEEC, CIEMAT & IFT-UAM/CSIC. The DES-Spain collaboration had an important contribution to the construction of DECam, since it was responsible for the design, verification, construction, and installation of most of the readout electronics.

The DES-Spain scientists have had and have a very prominent role in the analysis of the DES data. In the cosmological results obtained to date, IFAE researchers have been leaders in determining the distance to galaxies, which is an essential element to be able to interpret the observations made, as well as in the study of the correlations between the positions of close galaxies and the shape of distant galaxies.

According to DES Director Rich Kron, a Fermilab and University of Chicago scientist, the results and the scientists who made them possible are where much of the real accomplishment of DES lies.

“First generations of students and postdoctoral researchers on DES are now becoming faculty at research institutions and are involved in upcoming sky surveys,” Kron said. “The number of publications and people involved are a true testament to this experiment. Helping to launch so many careers has always been part of the plan, and it’s been very successful.”

DES remains one of the most sensitive and comprehensive surveys of distant galaxies ever performed. The Dark Energy Camera is capable of seeing light from galaxies billions of light-years away and capturing it in unprecedented quality.

More information about the DES survey can be found in the following links:

Dark Energy Survey publicly releases first three years of data

Dark Energy Survey reveals most accurate measurement of dark matter structure in the universe

Dark Energy Survey completes six-year mission (Fermilab Press Release)