DESI at Kitt Peak has mapped more galaxies than all previous 3D surveys combined

Newswise – The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) has closed the first seven months of its survey by breaking all previous records for three-dimensional galaxy surveys, creating the largest and most detailed map of the universe never done. The DESI survey has already cataloged over 7.5 million galaxies and is adding more at a rate of over a million per month. In November 2021 alone, DESI listed the redshifts of 2.5 million galaxies. By the end of its run in 2026, DESI is expected to have over 35 million galaxies in its catalog, allowing for an enormous, and so far unmatched, variety of research in cosmology and astrophysics.

The main task of the survey is to collect the spectra of millions of galaxies over more than a third of the entire sky. By breaking down each galaxy’s light into its color spectrum, DESI can determine how much the light has been red-shifted – stretched toward the red end of the spectrum by the expansion of the Universe over the billions of years. years it traveled before reaching Earth. . It is these redshifts that allow DESI to see the depth of the sky. The more a galaxy’s spectrum is red-shifted, in general, the farther it is. With a 3D map of the cosmos in hand, physicists can map galaxy clusters and superclusters. These structures carry echoes of their initial formation, when they were but ripples in the infantile cosmos. By teasing these echoes, physicists can use DESI data to determine the expansion history of the Universe.

DESI is an international science collaboration managed by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with primary funding for construction and operations from the DOE’s Office of Science. DESI is installed at the 4-meter Nicholas U. Mayall Telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) near Tucson, Arizona. KPNO is a program of NSF’s NOIRLab, and the DOE has contracted with NOIRLab to operate the Mayall Telescope for the DESI survey.

DESI is only about 10% of its five-year mission. Once completed, the final 3D map will allow for a better understanding of dark energy, and thus give physicists and astronomers a better understanding of the past — and future — of the Universe.

There is a lot of beauty,”, explains Julien Guy, scientist of the Berkeley Lab, about the map. “In the distribution of galaxies on the 3D map, there are huge clusters, filaments and voids. They are the largest structures in the universe. But within them you find an imprint of the very first Universe, and the story of its expansion since then.

DESI has come a long way to get here. Originally proposed more than a decade ago, construction of the instrument began in 2015 and saw the light of day in late 2019. Then, during its validation phase, the coronavirus pandemic hit, shutting down the telescope for several months, although some work continued remotely. In December 2020, DESI once again turned its eyes to the sky, testing its hardware and software, and in May 2021, it began its scientific investigation.

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DESI is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of High Energy Physics; the US National Science Foundation, Division of Astronomical Sciences under contract with NSF’s NOIRLab; the Science and Technologies Facilities Council of the United Kingdom; the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; the Heising-Simons Foundation; the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA); the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico; the Ministry of Economy of Spain; and DESI member institutions. DESI scientists are honored to be permitted to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak), a mountain of special significance to the Tohono O’odham Nation.

NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab), the US center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, operates the international Gemini Observatory (a facility of NSF, NRC-Canada, ANID- Chile, MCTIC-Brazil, MINCyT-Argentina, and KASI-Republic of Korea), Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC) and Vera C Rubin Observatory (operated in cooperation with the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Department of Energy). It is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, Maunakea in Hawai’i, and Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and recognize the very important cultural role and respect these sites have for the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Native Hawaiian community and the local communities of Chile, respectively.

Current member institutions of DESI include: Aix-Marseille University; Argonne National Laboratory; Barcelona-Madrid Regional Participation Group; Brookhaven National Laboratory; Boston University; Brazil Regional Participation Group; Carnegie Mellon University; CEA-IRFU, Saclay; China Participation Group; Cornell University; Durham University; Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne ; Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zurich; Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; Granada-Madrid-Tenerife Regional Participation Group; Harvard University; Kansas State University; Korea Institute of Astronomy and Space Science; Korea Institute for Advanced Studies; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Nuclear Physics and High Energy Laboratory; Max Planck Institute; Mexico Regional Participation Group; New York University;

NSF National Optical-Infrared Astronomical Research Laboratory; Ohio University; Perimeter Institute; Shanghai Jiao Tong University; College of Siena; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Southern Methodist University; Swinburne University; The Ohio State University; University of Los Andes; University of Arizona; University of Barcelona; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Irvine; University of California,

Santa Cruz; University College of London; University of Florida; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; University of Pennsylvania; University of Pittsburgh; University of Portsmouth; University of Queensland; University of Rochester; University of Toronto; University of Utah; University of Waterloo; University of Wyoming; University of Zurich; UK Regional Participation Group; Yale University.

Founded in 1931 on the belief that the greatest scientific challenges are best met by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been awarded 14 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers are developing sustainable energy and environmental solutions, creating useful new materials, pushing the boundaries of computing, and probing the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists around the world rely on the facilities of the laboratory for their own scientific discovery. Berkeley Lab is a multi-program national laboratory, operated by the University of California for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The DOE’s Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the advancement of science. NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.

Founded in 2007 by Mark Heising and Elizabeth Simons, The Heising-Simons Foundation is dedicated to promoting sustainable environmental solutions, supporting groundbreaking scientific research, and improving education for children.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance environmental conservation, patient care and scientific research. The Foundation’s scientific program aims to have a significant impact on the development of provocative and transformative scientific research and to increase knowledge in emerging fields.

The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) coordinates research into some of the most important challenges facing society, such as future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change and global security. It offers grants and support in particle physics, astronomy and nuclear physics.


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