The Next Astronomical Survey Will Map The Whole Sky

Artist’s Conception of SDSS-V: Image by Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science/SDSS

In three years time, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) will begin a new and exciting project to map the entire sky, as well as follow the evolution of millions of astrophysical objects. The announcement comes after the collaboration received a $16 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The SDSS is an incredible tool for astronomers across the world. It has created the most detailed three-dimensional map of the Universe ever made, covering about one-third of the sky. The next iteration, SDSS-V, will be even more ambitious.

“For more than 20 years, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey has defined excellence in astronomy,” Paul L. Joskow, President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, said in a statement. “SDSS-V continues that august tradition by combining cutting-edge research, international collaboration, technological innovation, and cost-effective grassroots governance. The Sloan Foundation is proud to be a core supporter of SDSS-V.”

The survey will operate from the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico and from the Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. It will use both optical light and infrared, which will allow for a more detailed and in-depth library of objects than ever before.

“With observations in both hemispheres, no part of the sky will be hidden from SDSS-V,” SDSS director Juna Kollmeier of the Carnegie Institution for Science, added.

The survey has three main projects: The Milky Way Mapper will observe objects in our own galaxy to understand how the Milky Way formed and how it is changing. The Black Hole Mapper will study the supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies, and the Local Volume Mapper will complete a spectroscopic map of the most-iconic galaxies.

The telescope will also collect the light spectrum of many other objects. These spectra will be used to help understand the object's chemical composition, distance, and many other properties that would be difficult to find out otherwise.

“By surveying the sky rapidly and repeatedly like no spectroscopic survey has done before, SDSS-V will not only vastly improve the data to answer known unknown questions, but it can – perhaps more importantly – venture into astrophysical terra incognita.” said Hans-Walter Rix, the SDSS-V project scientist and director at the Max Planck Institute of Astronomy.

The data, as it always been for the previous four generations of surveys, will be publicly available for everyone to consult.

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