5,000 Finger-Width Robots Will Be Used in New 3D Galaxy-Mapping Project

August 17, 2016 | Johannes Van Zijl

Hubble ultra-deep field
Photo credit: NASA

The project will provide us with new clues about Dark Energy in the Universe! 

A new 3D sky-mapping project has just been formally approved by the U.S Department of Energy and is now ready to begin construction. The project, named DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument), will be used to survey the sky and measure light from 35 million galaxies in the Universe. DESI will be completed and ready for its first observations of the universe at the start of 2019, and will provide us with new clues about dark energy, probing deep back into time, almost 11 billion years ago, looking at the expansion of the universe.

“We’re very excited—ecstatic—that we’ve gotten to this step,” said DESI Director Michael Levi, of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (Berkeley Lab) Physics Division, in the media release.

SEE ALSO: This Dark Energy Map of the Universe Will Let Astrophysicists Test General Relativity on a New Scale

According to the news release, the latest approval allowed for major financial spending to be released that will fund some of main components of the project, including 5,000 finger-width cylindrical robots. The robots will be used to pinpoint fiber-optic cables to specific galaxies, allowing DESI to capture light from distant stars and objects like quasars. This will be used to construct a 3D map of the universe.

A current prototype instrument of DESI, named ProtoDESI, is currently being used in a two-month trial at the Mayall Telescope in Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. The ProtoDESI uses 4 tiny robots to position the fiber-optic system, instead of the 5,000 that will be used onboard the final DESI Project.

ProtoDESI setup

Image: ProtoDESI setup Credit: Paul Mueller/Berkeley Lab

“DESI will be able to make a 3D map of the universe using an order of magnitude more redshifts than currently exist,” said Risa Wechsler of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University and DESI co-spokesperson. “This will allow us to probe the physics of the universe and discover the true nature of dark energy.”

We look forward to see what DESI will bring in 2019!

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