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First Hundred Thousand Years of Our Universe

Berkeley Lab researchers take the furthest look back through time yet – 100 years to 300,000 years after the Big Bang – and find tantalizing new hints of clues as to what might have happened.

Unusual Supernova is Doubly Unusual for Being Perfectly Normal

Type Ia supernovae are indispensable milestones for measuring the expansion of the universe. With definitive measures of Supernova 2011fe, the same “Backyard Supernova” that thrilled amateur and professional astronomers alike in the summer of 2011, the Nearby Supernova Factory led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory demonstrates that this unusually close-by Type Ia is such a perfect example of its kind that future Type Ia’s – and models meant to explain their physics – must be measured against it.

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.