<p><strong>The <a href="http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/press_releases/2012/DES-DECam-201209.html">world's most sensitive digital camera</a> has begun peering into deep space, and the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 looks to be staring right back. Some 60 million light-years from Earth, NGC 1365 stars among the first pictures from the new 570-megapixel <a href="http://www.darkenergysurvey.org/DECam/camera.shtml">Dark Energy Camera</a>, released Tuesday.</strong></p><p>Built at the U.S. Department of Energy's <a href="http://www.fnal.gov/">Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory</a> in Illinois, the extremely sensitive camera is now perched atop a Chilean mountain—the better to absorb the faint light of galaxies as far as eight billion light-years away.</p><p>Beautiful as the new pictures may be, the real work begins in December with the kickoff of the largest galaxy survey yet, which scientists hope will shed light on one of astronomy's biggest puzzles.</p><p>"The expansion of the universe is speeding up, and that's one of the great mysteries of science, because gravity pulls things together and should be slowing this down," said <a href="http://www.darkenergysurvey.org/survey/">Dark Energy Survey</a> director <a href="http://astro.uchicago.edu/people/joshua-a-frieman.shtml">Josh Frieman</a>. "So there must be something else pushing it apart. <a href="http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/dark-matter/">Dark energy</a> is a name for this phenomenon that we don't understand."</p><p>(Related: <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/08/090818-dark-energy-einstein.html">"Dark Energy's Demise? New Theory Doesn't Use the Force."</a>)</p><p><em>—Brian Handwerk</em></p>

First Light

The world's most sensitive digital camera has begun peering into deep space, and the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 looks to be staring right back. Some 60 million light-years from Earth, NGC 1365 stars among the first pictures from the new 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera, released Tuesday.

Built at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, the extremely sensitive camera is now perched atop a Chilean mountain—the better to absorb the faint light of galaxies as far as eight billion light-years away.

Beautiful as the new pictures may be, the real work begins in December with the kickoff of the largest galaxy survey yet, which scientists hope will shed light on one of astronomy's biggest puzzles.

"The expansion of the universe is speeding up, and that's one of the great mysteries of science, because gravity pulls things together and should be slowing this down," said Dark Energy Survey director Josh Frieman. "So there must be something else pushing it apart. Dark energy is a name for this phenomenon that we don't understand."

(Related: "Dark Energy's Demise? New Theory Doesn't Use the Force.")

—Brian Handwerk

Image courtesy Dark Energy Survey Collaboration

Dark Energy Camera Captures First Sparkling Space Pictures

Peering eight billion years into the past, the world's most sensitive digital camera may help solve one of science's greatest mysteries.

Read This Next

The most ancient galaxies in the universe are coming into view
‘Microclots’ could help solve the long COVID puzzle
How Spain’s lust for gold doomed the Inca Empire

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet