L’Oréal Fellow looking for dark energy

Tamara Davis is looking for dark energy. Credit: timothyburgess.net
Tamara Davis is looking for dark energy. Credit: timothyburgess.net

In 1998 astronomers made an astonishing discovery—the expansion of the Universe is accelerating. The discovery required a complete rethink of the standard model used to explain how the Universe works.

“Now we know that stars, planets, galaxies and all that we can see make up just four per cent of the Universe,” says Dr Tamara Davis, a University of Queensland astrophysicist.

“About 23 per cent is dark matter. The balance is thought to be dark energy, which we know very little about.”

Tamara is on the hunt for this dark energy. By using the Australian National University’s new telescope SkyMapper to measure the movement of supernovae, she hopes to gain a better understanding of dark energy.

Using the SkyMapper data generated over the next couple of years, Tamara hopes to detect invisible dark matter by observing the effects of its gravity.

“We can use the position and motion of supernovae to measure the 3D distribution of all matter in the Universe, not just galaxies,” she explains. “This will allow us to measure previously unexplored properties of dark matter and dark energy.”

In August 2009 Tamara received a L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship. She is using the $20,000 Fellowship to pull together an international team of scientists to work on this project.

For more information: Tamara Davis, tamarad@physics.uq.edu.au, www.scienceinpublic.com.au/loreal