The world's most sensitive digital camera has begun peering into deep space, and the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 looks to be staring right back. Some 60 million light-years from Earth, NGC 1365 stars among the first pictures from the new 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera, released Tuesday.
Built at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, the extremely sensitive camera is now perched atop a Chilean mountain—the better to absorb the faint light of galaxies as far as eight billion light-years away.
Beautiful as the new pictures may be, the real work begins in December with the kickoff of the largest galaxy survey yet, which scientists hope will shed light on one of astronomy's biggest puzzles.
"The expansion of the universe is speeding up, and that's one of the great mysteries of science, because gravity pulls things together and should be slowing this down," said Dark Energy Survey director Josh Frieman. "So there must be something else pushing it apart. Dark energy is a name for this phenomenon that we don't understand."
(Related: "Dark Energy's Demise? New Theory Doesn't Use the Force.")