An ultraprecise new galaxy map is shedding light on the properties of dark energy, the mysterious force thought to be responsible for the universe's accelerating expansion.
A team of researchers working with the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) has determined the distances to galaxies more than 6 billion light-years away to within 1 percent accuracy — an unprecedented measurement.
"There are not many things in our daily lives that we know to 1-percent accuracy," David Schlegel, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the principal investigator of BOSS, said in a statement. "I now know the size of the universe better than I know the size of my house." [The History & Structure of the Universe (Infographic)]
Scientists working with BOSS mapped the locations of 1.2 million galaxies and found that their new measurements support the idea of the "cosmological constant" — an idea first proposed by Albert Einstein. This idea suggests that dark energy has remained constant throughout the history of the universe.
"We don’t yet understand what dark energy is, but we can measure its properties," Daniel Eisenstein, a Harvard University astronomer working with the survey, said in a statement. "Then, we compare those values to what we expect them to be, given our current understanding of the universe. The better our measurements, the more we can learn."