The Universe We Don’t Know

70 percent of the mass of the universe is made up of something called dark energy. Most of the rest of the universe is made up of something called dark matter, and only a very small percentage of the mass is the type of mass we see all around us. Even the scientists who use the phrases “dark energy” and “dark matter” have no idea what they mean. All they know is that they cannot account for most of the mass of the universe and that the expansion of the universe itself appears to be accelerating. When you look up at the sky at night and see the stars, what you are really seeing is the light of normal matter like glitter floating around in an enormous and unseen dark ocean.

Fermilab in the United States is planning to build a gigantic 500 megapixel CCD camera and attach it to a 4-meter telescope. Doing so will allow them to detect some of the faintest energy from the farthest reaches of our universe, which means the distant past of our universe, so that they can start working out some of the properties of dark energy. While dark energy and dark matter cannot at this point be seen, their interaction with normal matter can give us a lot of information. Using the glitter in the ocean analogy again, scientists will be looking at a few flecks of glitter to try to tell something about that ocean they cannot see.

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