Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists seek other scientists for cosmology problem

Date:
November 28, 2013
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
How do you measure something that is invisible? It's a challenging task, but astronomers have made progress on one front: the study of dark matter and dark energy, two of the most mysterious substances in our cosmos. Dark matter is intermixed with normal matter, but it gives off no light, making it impossible to see. Dark energy is even more slippery, yet scientists think it works against gravity to pull our universe apart at the seams. Now for the third time, an innovative competition has begun again with the goal of finding better tools for probing dark matter and dark energy.

Can you match each galaxy in the top row with its warped counterpart in the bottom row? For example, is the warped version of galaxy A in box D, E, or F? See answers at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA17559
Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

How do you measure something that is invisible? It's a challenging task, but astronomers have made progress on one front: the study of dark matter and dark energy, two of the most mysterious substances in our cosmos. Dark matter is intermixed with normal matter, but it gives off no light, making it impossible to see. Dark energy is even more slippery, yet scientists think it works against gravity to pull our universe apart at the seams.

Related Articles


Now for the third time, an innovative competition has begun again with the goal of finding better tools for probing dark matter and dark energy. Called GREAT3, which stands for GRavitational lEnsing Accuracy Testing 3, the event is sponsored by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and a European Union Network of Excellence called Pattern Analysis, Statistical Modeling and Computation Learning 2 (PASCAL2).

The idea behind the challenge is to spur scientists, including those from fields outside astronomy, to come up with new insight into the problems of measuring dark matter and dark energy. Contestants are asked to solve galaxy puzzles involving millions of images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. A better understanding of the "dark side of the cosmos" may reveal new information about the very fabric and fate of our universe.

The first two challenges were a big success, attracting new brainpower to the field, including scientists from machine learning and particle physics. Machine learning involves programming computers to learn on their own using actual data from the real world. It has several applications, such as facial-recognition software, medical diagnostics and spam filtering, to name a few.

"Other data scientists have been thinking about the same type of algorithms we need for our cosmology tools for a long time," said Jason Rhodes of JPL. "We want to acquire that knowledge and see this field grow."

One of the most powerful tools for studying dark matter and dark energy is gravitational lensing. When dark matter lies between us and a distant galaxy, the light of the galaxy can be warped by the gravity from the dark matter. By measuring this warping, scientists can map dark matter, despite it being invisible. What's more, by looking at the distribution of dark and normal matter in our universe, scientists can get a better handle on dark energy and how it battles gravity to slow the growth of galactic structures.

In some cases of gravitational lensing, galaxies look wacky, as if seen in a funhouse mirror, or they appear multiple times. This is referred to as strong lensing. But in most cases, called weak lensing, the warping effects are tiny and impossible to see by eye.

The GREAT3 challenge is designed to improve methods for measuring weak lensing in preparation for future dark matter/dark energy missions, such as the European Space Agency's Euclid, in which NASA plays an important role, and the National Academy of Science's highest priority for NASA, WFIRST -- also known as the WFIRST-AFTA mission, which stands for Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope-Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets.

The millions of images given to GREAT3 contestants show galaxies that have been artificially warped via weak lensing. The puzzle is to figure out precisely how the galaxy images were warped, a complex task that involves looking for patterns and sifting out artificial warping effects caused by telescope optics and the atmosphere.

The winner will be announced in May 2014 and will receive $3,000 worth of computing equipment, the perfect gift for programmers hoping to crack more cosmic codes.

"With these contests, we have seen new ideas seeping into our field," said Rachel Mandelbaum of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, who is working with Rhodes and Barnaby Rowe of UCL (University College London), England, to organize the challenge, along with a special committee. "It's a fun problem to work on and it's a problem that needs to be solved."

A visual quiz involving strongly lensed, or warped, galaxies is at: http://www.nasa.gov/jpl/news/galaxy20131126.html .

More information about the competition is online at: http://great3challenge.info/ .

The California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages JPL for NASA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Scientists seek other scientists for cosmology problem." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131128124142.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2013, November 28). Scientists seek other scientists for cosmology problem. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131128124142.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Scientists seek other scientists for cosmology problem." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131128124142.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) More than a year after NASA declared the Kepler spacecraft broken beyond repair, scientists have figured out how to continue getting useful data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 16, 2014) NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil, the latest hint that Mars was once suitable for microbial life. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins