Researchers Studying Dark Energy Distribution Using Circular Aluminium Discs

A manhole like plate with holes punched in a certain distribution may be the key to understanding the greatest problem facing cosmology at the moment. David Schlegel plans to investigate the nature of Dark Energy and its effect on galaxies using aluminium discs, 2,200 in all, all with a specific set of holes punched in through them. These can be used to view a part of the sky using the 2.5-metre telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico.

One of the plates to be used for observation.

Looking at galaxies…

The scientists will then take spectrum from each of the galaxies. This will yield valuable information as to how fast they are moving away from us, giving hints about the effect of dark energy on these celestial congregations. The discs are to be used for looking at a particular section of the sky. Each hole, when looked through, allows the telescope to stare at only one galaxy. This will eventually collect data from as many as 1.5 million galaxies! The project began in 2009 and is all set to present its first set of data on the 11th of January.

David Schlegel, the principal investigator of the project, called Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), says:

The more galaxies we get, the better.

… And more than looking at galaxies

BOSS is doing more than just looking at galaxies and their recession speeds. Looking at galaxies and their distribution, the team has found signatures of clumping of galaxies. This is in contrary to the near-uniform distribution of galaxies that one might expect to see. This might be a remnant of a disturbance right after the Big Bang, whose signature just failed to wash away! In fact, it is believed that random quantum fluctuations, called Baryon Acoustic Oscillations, disturbed the uniform energy density distribution of the Universe, right after the inflationary phase, and this process seeded regions where matter could clump together. As more matter fell, gravity aided in the cascade-like process. These became galaxies. Whether there are fainter and less familiar structures contributing to the overall structure of the Universe, we just don’t know.

Cosmic filaments?


BOSS takes over from the previous WiggleZ survey, which surveyed about 240,000 galaxies, as compared to BOSS’s 1.5 million. The BOSS team is already planning to get BigBOSS. This will be the ultimate megaproject, sampling about 20 million galaxies and peering deep into the Universe and seeing older and older structures!

How wonderful that this should come at a time, when the public perception was freshly filled accelerated expansion of the Universe, given that the Nobel Prize in 2011 was given for findings on the accelerated expansion of the Universe, using Type Ia supernovae. BOSS, and BigBOSS, will definitely do better!

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Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.