May 25, 2021 - Science

A bold mission to map the cosmos

A view of part of the Virgo cluster of galaxies.
A view of part of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSC

A team of scientists is embarking on a five-year mission to map 30 million galaxies.

Why it matters: By locating the galaxies in relation to one another, the researchers hope to get closer to answering some of the biggest outstanding questions in astronomy and cosmology today, including how galaxies form and what spurs on the expansion of the universe.

What's happening: The research team is using the DESI instrument on the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona to observe these galaxies.

  • "Using 5,000 robotically controlled optical fibers, DESI can gather spectroscopic data, or light, from 5,000 galaxies at a time," the Center for Astrophysics wrote in a statement.
  • DESI will allow scientists to create a 3D map of the universe that will stretch back 11 billion years.

The big picture: The hope is that DESI will help reveal the unseen forces — dark energy and dark matter — that create the clumps of galaxies we see today.

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