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Sussex students’ holiday with the stars
First-year physics students gave up their summer to study the stars as part of a major international cosmology survey.
Twelve students from the University of Sussex – led by astrophysicists Dr Marisa March and Dr Kathy Romer – formed part of an “eyeball squad” that studied thousands of test images produced by a new super-camera.
The students were searching for anomalies in the images during the run-up to the launch of the Dark Energy Survey (DES).
DES is a five-year mission to collect images of millions of galaxies, constellations and exploding stars called supernovae, as they evolve across billions of light years. Scientists will use the images gathered tomap one-eighth of the sky (5,000 square degrees) in unprecedented detail.
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Dr March said: “During this past year some of our students have been checking the 150-300 pictures taken every night of the sky to ensure that they are high quality with no anomalies caused by stray light casting patterns across the picture and no electronic glitches giving strange effects.
“Looking at these images was careful and painstaking work, very timeconsuming and sometimes very tedious, but it did have its rewards – scanning across these images one can see a wealth of tiny far away galaxies, each one beautiful and different, each one perhaps previously unseen by human eyes.”
Student Rhys Poulton was one of the first-year undergraduate “eyeballers”.
He said: “For me, being at university is not just about getting my degree.
“I wanted to gain skills which cannot be taught in lectures or workshops, so this project gave me a great opportunity to do that.
“I wanted to be involved so I could be part, however small, of something big.
It has been a brilliant experience.”
Dr March said: “For me this has been a great opportunity to work with our students at Sussex.
“It’s exciting being part of such a fantastic international project and it’s great that some of our students have been able to share in that and have a chance to work with real data.”
More than 120 scientists from 23 institutions in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Germany are working on the DES.
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