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Tucson researchers building largest 3D map of the universe make dark energy finding

In 2021, researchers at Kitt Peak Observatory south of Tucson started a five-year project to study dark energy by making the largest 3D map of the universe. 

The team now says it has measured the expansion of the cosmos with the highest precision ever.

The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, capable of observing 100,000 galaxies every night, has allowed researchers to measure the expansion rate of the universe going back 11 billion years.

Key to the findings are Baryon Acoustic Oscillations.

They’re the remnants of pressure waves from when the universe was composed of hot, dense subatomic particles. Those waves have left behind clusters of galaxies and matter as the universe cooled. 

The team’s lead scientist, Michael Levi, says the results confirm the basics of the best model of the universe, while potentially showing that dark matter evolves with time. Levi says more data is needed.

Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.