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Studying the Mysteries of the Universe

composition of the cosmos

“Cosmology is one of the most exciting disciplines in all of physical science. It is concerned not so much with individual stars or galaxies in their own right, but rather with the properties of the Universe as a whole: its origin, evolution, and eventual fate.

Cosmologists work to understand how the Universe came into being, why it looks as it does now, and what the future holds. They make astronomical observations that probe billions of years into the past, to the edge of the knowable Universe. They seek the basis of scientific understanding, using the tools of modern physics, and fashion theories that provide unified and testable models of the evolution of the Universe from its creation to the present, and into the future.” (University of Glasgow, School of Physics & Astronomy)

At Brookhaven, the Cosmology and Astrophysics Group is working to solve those mysteries, and more — how to measure and constrain properties of dark matter, dark energy, and the standard cosmological model.

LSST

Rendering of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)

One of the tools they’ll be using is the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which is designed to explore the 96 percent of the Universe that remains a mystery. Scheduled for construction on a mountain top north of Santiago, Chile, the LSST will provide time-lapse digital imaging across the entire available night sky every three days. During the ten years of operation, the stunning images will be stitched together to create a motion picture detailing cosmic events in the far reaches of space. Expected to come online in 2016, the LSST will survey a volume of the Universe larger than all previous telescopes combined.

Brookhaven has the lead role in developing the “film” for the telescope’s camera which is composed of electronic sensors. The camera will capture images with a resolution of 3.2 gigapixels, offering unprecedented detail and density. In addition to developing instrumentation for the LSST, Lab scientists are preparing to analyze data that LSST will produce to determine the properties of the mysterious dark energy and to test Einstein’s theory of gravity over enormous distances.

The gigantic camera will capture images of over five billion distant galaxies. The images will contain the imprint of invisible dark matter whose gravitational pull subtly bends the light emitted by these galaxies as it makes its way from the farthest reaches of the Universe to the telescope. This will allow scientists to, for the first time, construct a large-scale, three dimensional map of the dark matter in the Universe. To learn more, view the latest animation http://www.lsst.org/lsst/content/animation-collage-april-2011 and visit www.lsst.org.

2012-2913  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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