Stargazers’ new approach to reshape our understanding of the Universe

9 Jan 2024

An international project mapping millions of galaxies has provided a ‘tantalising’ insight into the mysteries of dark energy and could reshape our understanding of the history of the Universe, according to a leading University of Queensland astrophysicist.

Key points:
  • A 10-year global project studied exploding stars (supernovae) in night skies
  • The speed that supernovae move away from Earth can reveal the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe
  • Results show the Universe may be slightly younger than previously thought

Professor Tamara Davis from UQ’s School of Mathematics and Physics was a collaborator on The Dark Energy Survey (DES), a decade-long research project to observe the southern skies and analyse more than 1,500 exploding stars, called supernovae.

Professor Davis joined more than 400 scientists from across the globe who painstakingly surveyed the night skies using a sensitive camera mounted in an observatory high in the Chilean Andes.

“The scale of this study is unprecedented, dwarfing the original Nobel-winning research which used just 52 supernovae to discover the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate,” Professor Davis said.

“Dark energy is the missing piece of the puzzle in our fundamental understanding of the Universe and the scale of our results gives us a chance to understand it in a whole new light.”

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