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Phone-booth sized camera built to see...

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 19th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Astronomers, using a camera the size of a phone booth, have a tough assignment. Armed with a 570 million-pixel camera, they must photograph 300 million individual galaxies within the next five years. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When astronomers are done they will have photographed only one-eighth of the night sky. Astronomers are undertaking the survey in the hopes of solving a mystery that has occupied the world's greatest physicists for a century - why is the universe expanding so rapidly?

The project they're working on is known as the Dark Energy Survey and their goal is to understand the nature of dark energy, which is theorized to be the force responsible for the rapid expansion of the universe. According to their best understanding, the universe is expanding and it is unclear why. 

Dark energy is the name given to the force that is causing the expansion. Just what it is, remains unclear. 

The giant camera is presently mounted on the four-meter Victor M. Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tolodo Inter-American Observatory, situated in Chile's Atacama desert. 

The camera is arguably one of the world's most powerful and sensitive photographic devices and it is calibrated to see very distant and very faint objects. 

Dark energy is thought to comprise up to 73 percent of the mass in the universe. It was Albert Einstein who demonstrated with his famous question, E=MC2, that energy and mass are interchangeable. 

The things we can easily see in the visible spectrum, meaning normal matter, are thought to represent  just 4 percent of the matter in the universe!

The remaining 23 percent of the universe is thought to be made of dark matter, material that exists but cannot be directly observed. 

Astronomers hope to study the light from these distant galaxies and take careful measurements of their distance and movement. Using this data, they can both map and measure the universe and the amount of energy acting on these objects. 

For now, astronomers have just tested the camera and scope. They will begin the actual survey in December when it is summertime in the high Chilean desert.

READ MORE: Why did Einstein cheated on his theory?


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