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  • Berkeley to Study Type 1a Supernovae
Sep 2004
BERKELEY, Calif., Sept. 21 -- The University of California at Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory has been awarded a $2,377,000 grant in support of the Nearby Supernova Factory (SNfactory) to further dark energy research through the study and understanding of nearby Type Ia supernovae, a special class of very bright exploding stars.

The grant is one of five recently made by The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of San Francisco to the University of California (UC) system for astronomy and astrophysics, including grants for the creation of a 30-meter telescope (with Caltech) and to the Mount Wilson Observatory and for studies of stellar atmospheres and adaptive optics.

Co-principal investigators are Saul Perlmutter, a senior scientist in the Physics Division of the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a professor of physics at UC Berkeley, and Michael Levi, also a member of Berkeley Lab's Physics Division and a senior fellow at UCB's Space Sciences Laboratory.

The new grant builds on the 1998 discovery by Perlmutter and his colleagues of "dark energy," a mysterious new energy that dominates the universe, causing it to fly apart at an accelerated rate. Astronomers and physicists are baffled by the nature of dark energy, which has become one of the leading scientific questions of our day.

The grant will support the development of a high-quality catalog of the brightnesses and spectra of these nearby supernovae. By capitalizing on the 1998 discovery by the Berkeley group and others that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, it paves the way for further discoveries concerning the nature of dark energy and the ultimate fate of the universe, the investigators said.

Levi, who is also co-principal investigator with Perlmutter for SNAP, the SuperNova/Acceleration Probe satellite that is the leading candidate for DOE and NASA's Joint Dark Energy Mission, said the grant may also enable them to learn how to make Type Ia supernovae even better astronomical standard candles -- thus improving the science capabilities of SNAP and other future projects.

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