Nearly 200 researchers were involved in collecting, processing and assembling images of half the sky to prepare for the start of observations by DESI, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, which aims to solve the mystery of dark energy.
In order for DESI to begin its 5-year mission (2021-2026) to produce the largest 3D sky map ever made, researchers first needed a gigantic 2D map of the Universe. Based on 200,000 images from 1405 nights of observations on three telescopes and several years of satellite data, this 2D map is the largest ever produced, based on the area of sky covered, the depth of the imagery and the more than one billion images of galaxies it contains.
Imaging planets that could potentially sustain life around nearby stars has become a possibility thanks to advances reported by an international team of astronomers in the journal Nature Communications. Using a newly developed system for mid-infrared exoplanet imaging in combination with a very long observation time, they achieved the capability of directly imaging planets about three times the size of Earth within the habitable zones of nearby stars. This experiment, called NEAR (Near Earths in the AlphaCen Region), was performed using VISIR, a mid-infrared instrument built by the Astrophysical Department of CEA-IRFU. The VISIR camera has been adapted to a 8m large telescope VLT UT4 (Yepun) in Chile, with a specific star-light blocking device and a a built-in adaptive optics sytems to correct for the atmospheric turbulence. A potential Neptune-to Saturn-sized planet orbiting Alpha Centauri may have been pinpointed but still requires further confirmation.
See the video : Breakthrough Watch/NEAR