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The Dark Energy Survey has mapped more than 200 million galaxies. 

With a major research university right in our backyard, a strong military presence and innovative companies throughout the metro region, there’s often a plethora of interesting science and technology news to be found in Southern Arizona. Here’s a breakdown of the most interesting recent developments.

 

A Map of the Stars. University of Arizona scientists, in collaboration with an international team of researchers, have completed the largest-ever map of the universe, which captured more than 200 million galaxies. The project is known as the Dark Energy Survey collaboration, which includes more than 400 scientists from 25 institutions in seven countries. The six-year cosmology analysis resulted in 30 scientific papers that examine galaxy clustering and how gravity distorts light. (Cosmology is the study of the origin of the universe.) According to UA, scientists found that the amount of matter in the universe and its distribution are consistent with the expectations from the standard cosmological model based around the Big Bang theory. Scientists with the Dark Energy Survey studied galaxies both (relatively) near and far, in order to create a “snapshot” of the current structure of the universe, as well as how it has progressed over the past 7 billion years.

“It’s exciting to quantify how our universe has evolved over time,” said Elisabeth Krause, UA assistant professor of astronomy and physics, who provides scientific leadership of the Dark Energy Survey as co-chair of its science committee. “Basically, we are looking at the spatial distribution of galaxies at different ages of the universe, and we track how this distribution has changed over time. It’s like watching the universe grow up, starting from when it was only one-third of its age today.”

The Dark Energy Survey examined one-eighth of the entire sky (5,000 square degrees), resulting in 226 million galaxies observed over 345 nights. Scientists used the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera on the Victor M. Blanco 4-Meter Telescope located in Chile, which was specifically built for this project. 

“This data set pushes the boundaries of cosmology to a new level,” said Tim Eifler in a press release, UA assistant professor of astronomy, who co-led the Dark Energy Survey Theory and Combined Probes working group. “The sheer number of galaxies that we observe requires a new level of precision in the data analysis methodology.”

For more information, and to access the research papers and images stemming from the Dark Energy Survey collaboration, visit

darkenergysurvey.org

International Science Projects. After competing at the annual Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation’s Regional Science and Engineering Fair, five Tucson students moved on to the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, which serves as the gateway for more than $5 million in awards and prizes. The 2021 Regeneron ISEF included 1,833 finalists representing 49 states and 64 countries from across the world. Three of the Tucson students secured grants in the fair, but all five had their research projects presented on an international level. Alexander Nelson, an 11th grader who is home schooled, secured a $10,000 scholarship to the University of Arizona for research on mRNA sequence analysis. Esha Mathur, a 12th grader from University High School, secured a $10,000 scholarship to UA for their research on prophages in cyanobacteria. Karah Mayer, an 11th grader from Tanque Verde High School, won an ASU Renewable Scholarship and a UA $10,000 Renewable Scholarship for research on Lateral Sclerosis Patient Tissue. Aaron Trinh, a senior at Canyon del Oro High School, presented the “Feasibility of the Extraction of (2E)-3-phenylprop-2-enal from Cinnamomum cassia Bark Using Water and Aqueous Ethanol as Solvents in Distillation.” Ethan Lee, a 12th grader at University High School, presented on the implications for tissue engineering of an implantable organ.

 

Hot Spots. New research out of the University of Arizona indicates that the tropics, not the arctic, will see more record-breaking heat due to climate change. “Quantifying the Occurrence of Record Hot Years Through Normalized Warming Trends,” published in Geophysical Research Letters, examines temperature data from the last 60 years in various areas around the globe. According to UA, raw temperature data over the polar region reveals a huge range in temperature. And over the tropics, raw temperature data reveals smaller temperature fluctuations. But when temperature is normalized by the temperature fluctuations over the same period, the data shows that the tropics have “greater normalized warming and are actually experiencing more record-breaking heat events.” 

“We realized that very few researchers have addressed the relationship between warming and extreme hot events between different regions, but when you do, the answer is unexpected,” said lead study author Xubin Zeng, a UA professor of atmospheric sciences. “Temperature trends in the tropics don’t need to be as large to break records and affect the environment, ecosystem and human well-being.”