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The Dark Energy Survey and DES@UCL

The Dark Energy Survey

Background: The Nobel Prize in Physics 2011 was awarded to three astronomers "for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae". More generally, observations over the past decade strongly favour a ‘concordance’ model in which the Universe is flat and contains approximately 5% ordinary atomic matter, 25% Cold Dark Matter and 70% Dark Energy. The Dark Energy paradigm and its extensions pose fundamental questions about the origins of the Universe: is Dark Energy an actual ingredient, or should Einstein's gravity theory be modified?

The international Dark Energy Survey (DES) will map 300 million galaxies over 1/8 of the sky, to measure properties of Dark Energy. DES will use four complementary techniques in a single survey: the galaxy clustering, weak gravitational lensing, supernovae and galaxy cluster counts. DES has brought together cosmologists and instrumentation experts from 5 countries (the US, the UK, Spain, Brazil, Germany and Switzerland).

The DES:UK Consortium includes UCL, Portsmouth, Cambridge, Nottingham, Sussex and Edinburgh). UCL astronomers are playing leading roles in DES.


Ofer Lahav is chairing the DES Science Committee and the DES:UK consortium. Filipe Abdalla is Co-Lead of the DES Spectroscopic Task Force.

The optical corrector for the telescope in Chile was carried out by Peter Doel, David Brooks and their associates. This is one of the largest astronomical cameras ever built. The corrector was shipped to Chile in December 2011 and has been installed. 

DES had 'first light' on 12 September 2012. See Latest News.

Over a dozen UCL post-doctoral researchers and PhD students are working on the DES project.

Grants/projects directly associated with DES work at UCL, include:

  • May 2012 - EUR 2.4M ERC Advanced grant: Testing the Dark Energy Paradigm and Measuring Neutrino Mass with the Dark Energy Survey (TESTDE) (PI: Lahav)
  • April 2012 - £1.8M UCL Astrophysics STFC Consolidated Grant with 19 CoI’s (PI: Lahav)
  • Feb 2012 - £140k STFC grant: DESpec: Spectroscopic upgrade of the Dark Energy Survey (PI: Lahav). A proposed spectroscopic follow-up to DES, the Dark Energy Spectrometer will be a new multi-fibre instrument on the Blanco Telescope, in operation from 2017 once the DES imaging survey is complete.
  • Nov 2006 - £1.76M STFC grant:  A wide-field corrector for the Dark Energy Survey (PI: Lahav)

Instrumentation Science Latest News
Dark Energy Survey Dark Energy Science Neutrino Jelly Beans Credit: Fermilab

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