Exciting times for cosmology. It’s Nobel Prize week again, and in the first bit of good news for the day, the Physics Nobel was awarded to Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt. These three scientists were leaders in the studies of type Ia supernovae that led to the discovery of dark energy in 1998 [here’s a primer on the science by Schmidt] – the mysterious phenomenon that causes the Universe to expand at a faster rate than we had previously thought.
Truly groundbreaking new results don’t happen very often in science – in fact, trying to think of those that are is quite a fun exercise. Of the last few decades, the discovery of dark energy from observations of distant supernovae is by far the most prominent groundbreaker I can ever think of. So it’s really no surprise that they are now receiving one of the highest honours, and it’s much deserved. (Of course so many physicists are deserving of big prizes, and these things are notoriously hard to predict.)
The second bit of good news for cosmologists is that ESA have officially selected the Euclid mission as one of its next medium-sized mission. Scheduled for launch in 2019, Euclid’s main objective is to study the nature of dark energy by measuring shapes and redshifts of a huge number of objects in the Universe over the entire sky. It’s a fascinating mission, both scientifically and technically, that we’re also involved in at MPIA. Great news for everyone involved.
We know so little about dark energy, a huge targeted survey like Euclid is bound to throw up some really intriguing new questions – perhaps even some answers? If you combine that with the fascinating stuff that’s going on in particle physics, faster than light neutrinos and such, it’s safe to say that cosmology is heading towards some really fun times!
[Very little blogging in recent weeks….. I’m having an exceptionally busy time at work at the moment, with proposal deadlines, and instrument deadlines, and the handover of MIRI to NASA on the immediate horizon. My Rule #1 for blogging is that blogging cannot cause me any extra stress – so for now it’s on the backburner. More activity soon!]