The Sloan Telescope used to conduct BOSS
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…Well, to be precise, 14 billion years ago and at the beginning of the universe was the Big Bang. Ever since that moment, our universe has been expanding, but over the last 7 billion years that expansion has been accelerating. Why? Scientists don’t really know, so they came up with an ominous term as a placeholder: Dark Energy (Another possible explanation is that that our theory of gravity is wrong, but we’ll skip that for now). Recent calculations project dark energy makes up nearly 70% of the mass-energy of the universe. 70% of the universe is a mystery? That’s the kind of puzzle that inspires scientists to craft unique experiments.
One of those is BOSS, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, is a new project to create a 3-D map of over 2 million galaxies and quasars representing the best data ever obtained on the large-scale structure of the universe. Baryon oscillations began as pressure waves through the hot plasma of the early universe. Those waves left an imprint on the matter that makes up the universe, including the dark matter. The survey will essentially act as a ruler, in order to measure how the universe has been expanding.
Next Monday, you’ll be able to meet David Schlegel, the principal investigator of BOSS. He’ll be part of a panel of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory scientists discussing their search for dark energy. As a primer, check out QUEST’s story on Dark Energy from last year. The piece features astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter, who will also be speaking at the event.
See QUEST's Video on Dark Energy below: