The Dark Energy Camera has Captured a Million Images

 In August 2013, the Dark Energy Survey (DES) began its six-year mission to map thousands of galaxies, supernovae, and patterns in the cosmic structure. This international collaborative effort is dedicated to investigating the mysterious phenomenon known as Dark Energy. This theoretical force counter-acts gravity and accounts for 70% of the Universe’s energy-mass density. 

Their primary instrument in this mission is the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera (DECam), mounted on the Victor M. Blanco 5-meter (16.4 ft) telescope at the Cerro Tlelolo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Between 2013 and 2019, the DECam took over one million exposures of the southern night sky and photographed around 2.5 billion astronomical objects – including galaxies, galaxy clusters, stars, comets, asteroids, dwarf planets, and supernovae. For our viewing pleasure, the Dark Energy Survey recently released fifteen spectacular images taken by the DECam during the six-year campaign. These images showcase the capabilities of the DECam, the types of objects it observed, and the sheer beauty of the Universe!

However, the DES also took images of many other kinds of celestial objects, both near and distant, massive and small. e clustering of galaxies in the direction of the constellation Sextans.

Closer to home, the DECam observed the center of the Milky Way and captured images (one of which was included in the collection) that provide a detailed look at the “Galactic Bulge.” This image also illustrates how the clouds of gas and dust that make up the interstellar medium obscure light from more distant objects. 

Comet Lovejoy
Comet Lovejoy

Also closer to home, the Dark Energy Survey spotted Comet Lovejoy shortly after it was discovered (in August of 2014) and at a distance of about 82 million km (51 million mi) from Earth.

Speaking of objects closer to home, the DECam also took pictures of globular clusters throughout the Milky Way. These spherical clusters are made up of tens of thousands to millions of stars held together by gravity that are more concentrated toward the center. 

The DECam also captured several deep views of the Milky Way’s neighbor galaxies, including the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). 

This collection illustrates the power of modern astronomical surveys and showcases the advanced research performed by observatories today.