Skip to content

Constructing a 3D Map of the Universe with Unprecedented Detail

An extraordinary quest to construct a 3D map of the universe and explore the mysteries of dark energy is beginning today at Kitt Peak National Observatory. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), an international science collaboration managed by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will capture and study the light from tens of millions of galaxies and other distant objects in the universe.

By gathering light from these galaxies over a five-year period, DESI will measure 10 times more galaxy spectra than ever obtained. The spectrum of a galaxy reveals how long its light has been traveling to reach us and how far away the galaxy is from the Earth today. This information will allow scientists to construct a 3D map of the universe with unprecedented detail, and address two fundamental questions central to our understanding of the cosmos: what is dark energy, and how closely does gravity follow the laws of general relativity?

You can find more information about the start of DESI in the official press release. The Foundation’s Science program has supported DESI with $2.5M bridge loan to acquire spectrographs and a $1.15M grant to grind and polish two long-lead-time lenses for the instrument.

The disk of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is targeted by a single DESI pointing, represented by the large, pale green, circular overlay. The smaller circles within this overlay represent the regions accessible to each of the 5000 DESI robotic fiber positioners. In this sample, the 5000 spectra that were simultaneously collected by DESI include not only stars within the Andromeda Galaxy, but also distant galaxies and quasars. (Credit: DESI collaboration and DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys)