The Planet's Most Powerful Digital Camera Captures Its First Images of the Universe

The device could help astronomers figure out why the expansion of the universe is accelerating. 

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Zoomed-in image from the Dark Energy Camera of the center of the globular star cluster 47 Tucanae, which lies about 17,000 light years from Earth (Dark Energy Survey Collaboration)

The Dark Energy Camera is the world's most powerful digital camera. About the size of a phone booth and boasting 570 megapixels, the device took eight years to construct -- by astronomers, technicians, and engineers collaborating across three continents -- and is currently mounted to the Blanco telescope in Chile. From that perch, it is able to observe light from over 100,000 galaxies. Galaxies that are up to 8 billion light years away. 

Again: 8 billion light years away

That light isn't just mind-bogglingly ancient. It could also hold answers to one of the biggest mysteries in physics: why, exactly, the expansion of the universe is accelerating

Last week, the Dark Energy Camera captured its first light, capturing images of matter from across the universe. Above and below is a selection of some of those mind-boggling -- and perhaps problem-solving -- sights. 

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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. (Dark Energy Survey Collaboration)

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A simulation of a photo of galaxy clusters taken by the Dark Energy Camera. A single camera image captures an area 20 times the size of the moon as seen from Earth. (Dark Energy Survey Collaboration)

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A zoomed-in image of the Fornax cluster of galaxies, which lies about 60 million light years from Earth (Dark Energy Survey Collaboration)

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The device that captured it all: the Dark Energy Camera, mounted on the Blanco telescope in Chile (Dark Energy Survey Collaboration)


Hat tip J.J. Gould.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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