A $2.1 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to the University of California at Berkeley, through the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics (BCCP), will fund the development of revolutionary technologies for BigBOSS, a project now in the proposal stage designed to study dark energy with unprecedented precision. BigBOSS is based at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).
“BigBOSS is the next big thing in cosmology,” says Uroš Seljak, Director of the BCCP, who is a professor of physics and astronomy at UC Berkeley and a member of Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division. “It would map millions and millions of galaxies, allowing us to measure dark energy to high precision – and would yield other important scientific results as well, including determining neutrino mass and the number of neutrino families.”
Dark energy is the unknown something that appears to account for almost three-quarters of the mass-energy of the universe and is the cause of its accelerating expansion. The discovery of the accelerating universe, announced in 1998 by two teams, resulted in the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, divided between Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter, leader of the Supernova Cosmology Project, and Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess of the competing High‑z Supernova Search team. “After we won the Nobel Prize, the question we all heard most was, ‘Now that you’ve discovered dark energy, what comes next?’” says Perlmutter, who is the Executive Director of the BCCP as well as principal investigator for the Moore Foundation’s BigBOSS grant. “The answer is pretty clear: we have to find out what dark energy is. There’s no end of theories. To know which are possible, what we need most is the kind of accurate observational evidence that only BigBOSS and other advanced experiments can give us.”