SLAC Today logo

BigBOSS Finds a Home

 (Photo by Pete Marenfeld, NOAO/AURA/NSF.)

A proposed survey instrument that would create the largest-ever spectroscopic map of the universe has received conditional approval from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory for 500 nights of viewing time on the Mayall Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

A multi-national collaboration that includes scientists from SLAC designed the Big Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey instrument, or BigBOSS, to peer as far as 10 billion years into the past and map precise locations and distances of 20 million galaxies and quasars. Such a map would give an unprecedented overview of the expansion history of the universe and provide hints into the nature of dark energy, the mysterious force thought to be causing that expansion to speed up.

BigBoss is an "interesting complement" to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, said Aaron Roodman, a scientist with the SLAC-Stanford Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and a member of both the BigBOSS and LSST collaborations. "The LSST will perform an imaging survey, while the BigBOSS survey is spectroscopic," Roodman explained. Combining the resulting maps will show a more complete picture of the universe than either map could alone.

In fact, the collaboration hopes to move the instrument south following its stint at Kitt Peak and install it on the Blanco telescope in the Chilean Andes, "one mountaintop over" from the LSST, Roodman said. "The notion is to move it to Chile and take data of the LSST sky."

óLori Ann White
SLAC Today, February 4, 2011