The Department of Energy-National Science Foundation ground-based dark energy experiment called BigBOSS to study baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO) and the growth of structure with a wide-area galaxy and quasar redshift survey was recently approved by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

Michigan Institutional Coordinator Professor Gregory Tarle and team of U-M Physicists August Evrard, David Gerdes, Dragan Huterer, Wolfgang Lorenzon, Timothy McKay, Jeff McMahon, and Michael Schubnell are the Michigan group to the BigBOSS project.

Michigan’s role in the project is to help develop CCD detectors used in spectrographs for the telescope, along with performing calibrations, and data analysis. Michigan Physics is one of four University groups to take part in the BigBoss project.

The University of Michigan scientists will take part of building and deploying a robotically-actuated, fiber-fed spectrograph capable of taking 5000 simultaneous spectra over a wavelength range of visible light. The groups will use 5,000 hours at the Mayall 4-meter telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert to position 5,000 flexible fibers to see 1 galaxy with a 3 degree angular field of view.

Professor Gregory Tarle says, “We’re excited to be able to do this in our lifetime. We can map out the Universe in space and redshift using the third dimension. The Kitt Peak Telescope will be able to map out approximately 5,000 galaxies every 1,000 seconds over a 5-year period. That is tens of millions of galaxies with redshift precisely measured.”

This will allow the groups to study the impact of dark energy over most of the age of the Universe. They will study the structure to see how dark energy has affected the growth of structure in the Universe at different epochs.

To learn more about the entire project, see the February 17, 2011 article in Discovery News, Dark Energy Hunt Gets a New Tracker.

“BigBOSS is certain to make a giant step forward in our understanding of mysterious dark energy that now dominates our Universe and is causing the expansion of the Universe to accelerate,” said Greg Tarle.

News Contact: Carol Rabuck,, U-M Physics Department