Dark Energy Camera delivers first amazing shots of space

As if we needed any more proof that science and space are totally awesome, the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) that has taken up residence in the Chilean Andes has delivered its first images. What you're seeing below is a collection of zoomed-in images taken by the DECam of the globular star cluster 47 Tucanae. 47 Tucanae lies about 17,000 light years away from Earth, and the shots of it can only be described as breathtaking.

Last week, scientists at the Dark Energy Survey kicked off this project, which will have the DECam taking pictures of distant galaxies and star clusters in an effort to better understand dark energy. Though recent studies say that dark energy almost certainly exists, we still don't have much of an understanding of how it works. Scientists say that dark energy could potentially make up 74% of the universe, and we currently think that it's responsible for counteracting gravity and causing our universe to expand.

The 570-megapixel camera will be in its testing phase until December, and after that, it will begin cataloging a significant portion of the southern hemisphere's night sky. The project, which is a collaboration between 120 scientists from 23 different organizations around the world, is expected to last for 525 days, and during that time, the DECam will snap 400 pictures a night. Each picture could potentially capture 100,000 galaxies, some of those as far as 8 billion light years away. The Dark Energy Survey's website says most of these galaxies are so dim that "their light is around 1 million times fainter than the dimmest star that can be seen with the naked eye."

By the time everything is said and done, scientists estimate that the DECam will have snapped images of 300 million galaxies and 4,000 supernovas. All of this will hopefully give us a better idea of the role dark energy plays in our universe, which would be a huge advancement in the study of space. If you're a huge space nerd, now is the time to get excited.

[via The LA Times]