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First light for the world’s most powerful digital camera

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Click on picture for one of the first photos taken by this camera

Eight billion years ago, rays of light from distant galaxies began their long journey to Earth. That ancient starlight has now found its way to a mountaintop in Chile, where the newly-constructed Dark Energy Camera, the most powerful sky-mapping machine ever created, has captured and recorded it for the first time.

That light may hold within it the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in physics—why the expansion of the universe is speeding up.

Scientists in the international Dark Energy Survey collaboration announced this week that the Dark Energy Camera, the product of eight years of planning and construction by scientists, engineers, and technicians on three continents, has achieved first light…“The achievement of first light through the Dark Energy Camera begins a significant new era in our exploration of the cosmic frontier,” said James Siegrist…“The results of this survey will bring us closer to understanding the mystery of dark energy, and what it means for the universe.”

The Dark Energy Camera was constructed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and mounted on the Victor M. Blanco telescope at the…Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile…With this device, roughly the size of a phone booth, astronomers and physicists will probe the mystery of dark energy, the force they believe is causing the universe to expand faster and faster…

The Dark Energy Camera is the most powerful survey instrument of its kind, able to see light from over 100,000 galaxies up to 8 billion light years away in each snapshot. The camera’s array of 62 charged-coupled devices has an unprecedented sensitivity to very red light, and along with the Blanco telescope’s large light-gathering mirror (which spans 13 feet across), will allow scientists from around the world to pursue investigations ranging from studies of asteroids in our own Solar System to the understanding of the origins and the fate of the universe.

Another great reason to visit Chile, eh?

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Written by Ed Campbell

September 18, 2012 at 2:00 am

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