13 September 2022
If you happen to thought darkish matter was troublesome to check, finding out darkish power is much more difficult. Darkish power is maybe probably the most delicate phenomenon within the universe. It drives the evolution of the cosmos, however its results are solely seen on intergalactic scales. So to check darkish power intimately, you want a substantial amount of observations of broad areas of the sky.
That is why ten years in the past the Division of Power labored with astronomers to construct the Darkish Power Digital camera (DECam). It’s the highest decision astronomical digital camera ever constructed, with greater than 60 imaging CCDs, and captures photographs at 570 megapixels. It was put in on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, the place it has a subject of view greater than 2 levels broad, which is 4 occasions the obvious width of the Moon.
Between 2013 and 2019, DECam captured a median of 400 – 500 photographs an evening, taking a look at distant supernovae, measuring the size at which galaxies cluster collectively, and finding out the weak gravitational lensing of intergalactic darkish matter. This knowledge has given us a deeper understanding of darkish power and helped astronomers constrain observations to allow them to higher match theoretical fashions to remark.
However as DECam reached its first decade of operation, the staff determined to do one thing slightly completely different. A high-resolution wide-field digital camera is nice for capturing knowledge, nevertheless it’s additionally fairly good at capturing some wonderful photographs. So the staff pointed it on the nebula NGC 6357, also called the Lobster Nebula. It’s about 8,000 light-years from Earth within the constellation Scorpius and is an intense star-forming area. You possibly can see the leads to the picture above, which is fairly gorgeous.
The picture spans about 400 light-years and reveals shiny younger stars amongst dense areas of fuel. To seize the small print of this picture, the DECam staff used slender band filters to take photographs of particular colours inside the nebula. Then mixed and colorized these photographs to create the ultimate picture. It’s an incredible demonstration of what the DECam can do.
In fact, with a decade of labor beneath its belt, the DECam has no intention of stopping any time quickly. It has lately captured its one-millionth picture, and given time it simply may seize 1,000,000 extra.
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