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Local scientists expand our understanding of the universe

Posted at 10:40 AM, Feb 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 15:28:39-05

COLUMBUS — Dark energy sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie or maybe it's a thing we've felt like has been hanging over us this past year.

But dark energy is actually a mysterious space force, and ground-breaking research about it is being done at Ohio State University.

The Ohio State University professors, grad students, and even some high school students were a part of the research that involves hundreds of scientists from around the world.

Dr. Ami Choi from the OSU Physics Department has been a part of the Dark Energy Survey Research Team for about five years. She says the team’s new study has collected images covering about one-eighth of the sky.

“The idea was to build the experiment, take the data and then analyze it. And so we're making kind of a big maps of the universe,” said Choi.

Even though that map of the universe is made up of hundreds of millions of things, the biggest focus is on two things – dark matter and dark energy.

While neither has a big impact on us here on Earth, they’re key for scientists who are learning more about the universe’s galaxies.

Dark matter has mass, which means it has gravity like stars and planets.

However, we can't actually see dark matter; but, we know its gravity pulls on other things in space.

On the other hand, dark energy is more of a mystery.

What scientists know right now is that it’s causing the universe to expand at a faster rate than before.

Right now, research from the Dark Energy Survey is helping scientists measure the sizes and positions of galaxies, so they can compare that to the size and position of the same galaxies previously.

While there is still more work to be done, Choi hopes this research inspires the next generation of scientists.

“Hopefully [it] helps to get younger people excited about doing science and getting the idea that it really is for everyone,” said Choi.

You can learn more about the survey here.