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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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'First Light' for Giant Sky Survey
29 May 1998 7:00 pm
The largest and most inclusive survey of the heavens ever undertaken captured its first light earlier this month. The $80 million project, called the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, will gather images of perhaps 200 million celestial objects and map the precise positions of a million galaxies in a 1.5-billion-light-year-wide chunk of the universe.
Crucial to the survey is a sophisticated camera designed and built by a team led by James Gunn of Princeton University. Group members confirm that the camera, which can take in a swath as wide as the Big Dipper's bucket in a single image, has been successfully mated to the 2.5-meter Sloan Telescope at Apache Point, New Mexico, and has made its first images of the night sky. The group isn't discussing its initial data any further until an 8 June press conference at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego.
In the works for years, the Sloan survey involves researchers at seven universities and research institutions in the United States and a collaboration called the Japan Participation Group. After a 1-year commissioning period, the project will spend about 5 years collecting images of celestial objects, in five different colors, by letting the night sky rotate past the camera's huge array of 54 charge-coupled devices. The survey will cover about a quarter of the northern sky and selected slices in the south. The team will also select the million brightest galaxies for a closer look. By analyzing the galaxies' light, the astronomers will determine their "redshifts"--wavelength shifts indicating the galaxies' approximate distances from Earth.
The redshift survey will reveal in exquisite detail the filaments, clumps, voids, and walls traced out by the galaxies over vast reaches of space. "I'm looking forward to seeing what the universe looks like," says Adrian Melott, a cosmologist who studies large-scale structure at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. "I wish them luck."