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Fermilab-made camera captures 8 billion-year-old light

Zoomed-image from Dark Energy Camerbarred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 Fornax cluster galaxies which lies about 60 millilight years from Earth.

Zoomed-in image from the Dark Energy Camera of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365, in the Fornax cluster of galaxies, which lies about 60 million light years from Earth. Scientists in the international Dark Energy Survey collaboration announced this week that the Dark Energy Camera, the product of eight years of planning and construction by scientists, engineers and technicians on three continents, has taken its first pictures of the southern sky on September 12. | Photo courtesy~Dark Energy Survey Collaboration.

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Updated: September 18, 2012 9:39AM

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Monday that a specialized camera assembled at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia has captured for the first time ancient starlight that may be 8 billion years old.

The rays of light from distant galaxies were detected by the newly constructed Dark Energy Camera, the most powerful sky-mapping machine ever created, stationed on a mountaintop in Chile, the DOE said.

That light may hold within it the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in physics — why the expansion of the universe is speeding up.

Scientists in the international Dark Energy Survey collaboration announced that the Dark Energy Camera, the product of eight years of planning and construction by scientists on three continents, has achieved first light. The first pictures of the southern sky were taken by the 570-megapixel camera on Sept. 12.

The Dark Energy Camera was constructed at Fermilab in Batavia and mounted on the Victor M. Blanco telescope at the National Science Foundation’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. With this device, roughly the size of a phone booth, astronomers and physicists will probe the mystery of dark energy, the force they believe is causing the universe to expand faster and faster.

“The Dark Energy Survey will help us understand why the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing due to gravity,” said Brenna Flaugher, project manager and scientist at Fermilab. “It is extremely satisfying to see the efforts of all the people involved in this project finally come together.”

The Dark Energy Camera is the most powerful survey instrument of its kind, able to see light from more than 100,000 galaxies up to 8 billion light years away in each snapshot, the DOE said.

It will allow scientists from around the world to conduct investigations ranging from studies of asteroids in our own solar system to the understanding of the origins and the fate of the universe.

Scientists in the Dark Energy Survey collaboration will use the new camera to carry out the largest galaxy survey ever undertaken.

The Dark Energy Survey is expected to begin in December, after the camera is fully tested.

Over five years, the survey will create detailed color images of one-eighth of the sky to discover and measure 300 million galaxies, 100,000 galaxy clusters and 4,000 supernovae, the Department of Energy said.

To see the first images captured by the Dark Energy Camera, visit or

For information about the instrument and telescope, visit

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