A super telescope has begun the most detailed survey of the Universe ever undertaken.

The aim of the five-year programme is to shed light on Dark Energy – the mysterious force thought to drive an accelerated expansion of the Universe.

The instrument effectively contains 5,000 mini-telescopes. Each one can image a galaxy every 20 minutes.

In just one year scientists will have surveyed more galaxies than all the other telescopes in the world combined.

What is Dark Energy?

The Big Bang theory of the creation of the Universe originally predicted that its expansion would slow down, and that it would possibly begin to contract as a result of the pull of gravity.

However, in 1998, astronomers were shocked to discover that not only was the Universe continuing to expand, but that this expansion was also accelerating.

The most widely held view is that something is counteracting the pull of gravity – and that something has been termed Dark Energy.

Milky Way
Dark Energy permeates the Universe and pushes galaxies apart Image: NASA/ESA

It has been calculated that Dark Energy makes up most of the Universe. Indeed, the atoms that build planets, stars and galaxies probably account for just 5%.

Prof Ofer Lahav, from University College London, is taking part in the project. He said scientists still knew next to nothing about Dark Energy 20 years after its discovery.

 

“It is just embarrassing to live in a Universe where you only know 5% of it,” he told BBC News.

“The nature of Dark Energy, and what it is, may well lead to a revolution in physics – the whole of physics!”

DESI
DESI will scan more galaxies in a single year than all the telescopes in the world combined Image: LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATION

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