Grant allows U. astronomers to continue exploring cosmos

Sloan Digital Sky Survey • School to use New Mexico telescope to map neighboring galaxies, black holes in project's 4th phase.
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A new grant will allow astronomers at the University of Utah to explore the cosmos for another six years.

A $350,000 challenge grant from the Willard L. Eccles Charitable Foundation — matched by a grant from the U. — will allow researchers to take part in the fourth phase of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. That move comes on the heels of five years of participating in the third phase of the project.

Researchers will study the formation of the Milky Way galaxy, chart stars, galaxies and supermassive black holes and probe so-called dark energy, which works against gravity to expand the universe.

More than 30 research institutions will participate in SDSS-IV, which begins in July 2014 and continues until mid-2020, using the 2.5-meter-diameter telescope at Apache Point Observatory in Sunspot, N.M.

That telescope "is the world's most powerful facility for observing large volumes of space with the technique of spectroscopy," Adam Bolton, assistant professors of physics and astronomy and one of the lead scientists, said in a statement. "This technique breaks the light from stars and galaxies into its component wavelengths, allowing scientists to measure unique signatures of their orbital motions and chemical ingredients."

The fourth phase of the project will be broken down into three parts:

APOGEE-2 (The Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment 2) • Will look at the formation of the Milky Way galaxy by surveying the chemistry and orbital motion of stars in it.

MaNGA (Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory) • Will observe about 10,000 neighboring galaxies and provide "the most comprehensive census ever of the demographics and internal structure of galaxies in the present-day universe," Bolton said in a statement.

eBOSS (The Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey) • Will create a 3-D map of more than 1 million distant galaxies and quasars — bright centers of galaxies powered by supermassive black holes. It will provide a look into a window between 6 billion and 10 billion years ago.

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