Secrets of `dark universe` may soon be unraveled

Washington: The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), whose construction officially began at a traditional stone-laying ceremony outside La Serena, Chile on April 14th, is slated to start scanning the heavens in 2022.

When it does, this ambitious international astrophysics project should open up the “dark universe” of dark matter and dark energy, the unseen substance and force, respectively, composing 95 percent of the universe’s mass and energy, as never before.

The Director of LSST, Steven Kahn of Stanford University said that in terms of how much light it will collect and its field of view, LSST is about ten times bigger than any other survey telescope either planned or existing.

LSST will feature an 8.4-meter diameter mirror and a 3.2 gigapixel camera, the biggest digital camera ever built. Every few days, the telescope will survey the entire Southern Hemisphere’s sky, hauling in 30 terabytes of data nightly. After just its first month of operations, LSST’s camera will have observed more of the universe than all previous astronomical surveys combined.

This capability to rake in data, extended over a ten-year observing run, will yield a staggering amount of astronomical information. The telescope should observe some 20 billion galaxies and many tens of thousands of supernovae. In addition, LSST will help map the stars composing the Milky Way and spy reams of asteroids passing near Earth.

The galaxy and supernova observations, along with other data, will offer some of the most stringent tests of dark matter and dark energy ever conducted. Solving the riddle of dark energy will not only deepen our understanding of our universe’s past, but also sketch out its future.

Theoretical physicist Hitoshi Murayama said that dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the universe and ripping it apart and the questions they are asking are: Where is the universe going? What is its fate? Is it getting completely ripped apart at some point? Does the universe end? Or does it go forever?