A project to produce more than double the number of galaxy distance measurements than all other previous surveys, could lead to an explanation of one of nature’s biggest mysteries—whether dark energy, an invisible force that opposes gravity, has remained constant or changed since the beginning of time.
The project, called WiggleZ, is led by scientists at Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Queensland. They’re using the advanced AAOmega instrument on the Anglo-Australian Telescope in New South Wales to build up a picture of galaxies stretching halfway across the Universe. There should be a slight pattern in the distribution of those galaxies, seeded by pressure waves in the cosmic fireball shortly after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.
“If dark energy has changed, it will affect the appearance of the galaxy patterns,” says team member Michael Drinkwater of the University of Queensland.
WiggleZ has sampled the largest volume of the distant Universe ever surveyed, covering about 200,000 galaxies. Observations were completed in January 2011.
“Until recently we were the only show in town,” says Michael. “Our sole international competitor has only just begun, so we have a three-year head start.”