News Center

The Farthest Supernova Yet for Measuring Cosmic History

In 2004 the Supernova Cosmology Project used the Hubble Space Telescope to find a tantalizing supernova that appeared to be almost 10 billion light-years distant. But Berkeley Lab scientists had to wait until a new camera was installed on the Hubble years later before they could confirm the candidate’s identity and redshift as a Type Ia “standard candle.” The spectrum and light curve of supernova SCP-0401 are now known with clarity; it is the supernova furthest back in time that can be used for precise measurements of the expansion history of the universe.

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Gives a Big Boost to BigBOSS

Through UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has made a $2.1 million grant to Berkeley Lab’s BigBOSS project. The grant funds the development of key technologies for modifying the 4-meter Mayall Telescope on Kitt Peak and constructing a precision instrument to study dark energy by mapping tens of millions of galaxies and quasars over the entire Northern Hemisphere sky.

BOSS Quasars Unveil a New Era in the Expansion History of the Universe

By collecting tens of thousands of quasar spectra, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) has measured the large-scale structure of the early universe for the first time. Like backlights in the fog, the quasars illuminate clouds of hydrogen gas along the line of sight. No other technique can reach back over 10 billion years to probe structure at a time when the expansion of the universe was still decelerating and dark energy was yet to turn on.

Closest Type Ia Supernova in Decades Solves a Cosmic Mystery

Even as the “supernova of a generation” came into view in backyards across the northern hemisphere last August, physicists and astronomers who had caught its earliest moments were developing a surprising and much clearer picture of what happens during a titanic Type Ia explosion. Now they have announced the closest, most detailed look ever at one of the universe’s brightest “standard candles,” the celestial mileposts that led to the discovery of dark energy.

Berkeley Lab's Saul Perlmutter wins Nobel Prize in Physics

Saul Perlmutter of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Physics Division and the University of California at Berkeley has won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations of distant supernovae. Perlmutter, a founder of the Supernova Cosmology Project at Berkeley Lab, shares the prize with Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess, members of the High-z Supernova Search Team who made the same discovery.

Measuring the Distant Universe in 3-D

The biggest 3-D map of the distant universe ever made, showing the distribution of intergalactic clouds of gas by using light from 14,000 galaxy-eating black holes over 10 billion light years away, has been announced by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), the largest survey in the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The result proves that the technique, never attempted before, can be used to study dark energy in the early universe.

The Saga of the Dark Universe Finds a Spell-binding Bard

Excerpts from a review of Richard Panek’s “The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on January 10: in relating the discovery of dark matter and dark energy, the author shows how physicists and astronomers at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley not only contributed to the study of dark matter but pioneered the techniques that revealed the existence of dark energy. Berkeley Lab scientists remain at the forefront of research into the nature of the dark universe.

Astronomers Release the Largest Color Image of the Sky Ever Made

The largest image of the sky yet made – more than a trillion pixels – has been released by the multi-institutional third Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) at a press conference at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. The largest component of SDSS-III is the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, BOSS, led by Berkeley Lab scientists, now engaged in producing an even larger map of the sky.

Searching for Dark Energy with the Whole World’s Supernova Dataset

The Supernova Cosmology Project’s Union2 compilation and reanalysis of decades of the world’s best supernova surveys, with the addition of six high-redshift supernovae, puts new bounds on possible values for the nature of dark energy. Einstein’s cosmological constant comfortably fits the data, but there’s still plenty of room at the top for dynamical theories.

Measuring a Monstrous Supernova

Members of the Nearby Supernova Factory based at Berkeley Lab discovered and analyzed a rare Type Ia supernova whose progenitor star had a mass some two and a half times that of our sun – much more mass than a Type Ia progenitor should be able to accumulate before it explodes. The data they gathered is the most complete ever for such an unusual beast; only one model really fits, the merger of two white dwarf stars.