Dark Energy Camera dedication today in Chile

The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, situated on a mountaintop in Chile, houses the Dark Energy Camera. Photo courtesy of NOAO/AURA/NSF

Today scientists from around the world are gathering on a mountaintop in Chile to celebrate the completion of the most advanced sky-mapping digital camera ever built.

The day-long festivities and presentations at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory serve as the official dedication of the Dark Energy Camera. Built at Fermilab and mounted on the 4-meter Blanco telescope at CTIO, the 570-megapixel camera is able to see light from stars up to 8 billion light-years away.

The camera is in its commissioning phase now. Next month, it’s expected to start taking data for the Dark Energy Survey, which will map one-eighth of the southern sky in unprecedented detail. The survey, a collaboration of scientists at 29 institutions in seven countries, will attempt to answer one of the great mysteries of the cosmos: why the expansion of the universe is speeding up, rather than slowing down due to gravity.

The dedication event also serves as the kickoff of CTIO’s 50th anniversary celebration. The observatory was founded on Nov. 23, 1962, and the Blanco telescope—at the time the largest in the southern hemisphere—was installed in September 1974 and first used by astronomers in 1976. Now more than 10 telescopes share the CTIO site.

Fermilab astrophysicists Josh Frieman, director of the Dark Energy Survey, and Brenna Flaugher will join CTIO Director Nicole van der Bliek, National Optical Astronomy Observatory Director David Silva and physicists from the collaboration in speaking at the dedication ceremony.

Andre Salles