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Research Involving the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

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A collection of press releases about research conducted by Sloan Digital Sky Survey collaborators at Penn State
SDSS aerial view small
SDSS aerial view small

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey.  Image provided by SDSS
Record-breaking map of 1.2-million galaxies now ready to reveal secrets of dark energy
14 July 2016Astronomers are announcing this week the sharpest view yet of the properties of dark energy -- the force that currently is driving the accelerated expansion of the universe. "These results are a milestone in the study of the large-scale structure of the universe," said Penn State Professor Donald Schneider, who was the survey coordinator and scientific publications coordinator for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) -- a collaboration of hundreds of scientists whose work produced the largest-ever, three-dimensional map of distant galaxies as well as one of the most precise measurements yet of dark energy.
Discovered: Why warm galaxies stop birth of new stars
25 May 2016Today, astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), including scientists at Penn State University, are announcing the discovery of a new class of galaxies called "red geysers." These galaxies harbor supermassive black holes with winds that produce a mysterious kind of "galactic warming" that, over the last few billion years, has turned huge numbers of galaxies into deserts devoid of fresh young stars.
Now you see it, now you don't: The quasar that just disappeared
08 January 2016Astronomers can't find any sign of the supermassive black hole at the center of the quasar named SDSS J1011+5442, and they couldn't be happier. "This is the first time we've seen a quasar shut off this dramatically, this quickly," said Penn State Postdoctoral Scholar Jessie Runnoe, who led the international team of astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) that is reporting this discovery today.
New Milky Way Map Reveals Stars in Our Galaxy Move Far from Home
30 July 2015Scientists with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III (SDSS) have created a new map of the Milky Way, which provides the first clear evidence that migration of stars occurs throughout our Galaxy. The study, which determined that 30 percent of stars have moved far across the Galaxy, is bringing a new understanding of how stars are formed and travel throughout the Milky Way.
Huge New Astronomy Database Now Available to the Public
07 January 2015Penn State University astronomers are among the scientists of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) who this week are releasing to the public a massive collection of new information about the universe. "This set of observations is one of the largest astronomical databases ever assembled," remarked Donald Schneider, Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State.
Penn State Joins New Project to Map the Universe
12 August 2014Penn State is an institutional partner in a major new research effort to investigate the structure of our galaxy, the evolution of nearby galaxies, and the nature of dark energy. The effort is the newest phase of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-IV), an international collaboration of more than 200 astronomers at over 40 institutions. "The SDSS has been one of the most productive endeavors in the history of astronomy, and it provides exciting scientific opportunities to Penn State faculty and students," remarked Donald Schneider, the head of the Penn State's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
The Most Precise Measurement Yet of the Expanding Universe Is Achieved by Astronomers of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
07 April 2014Astronomers at Penn State University and other institutions participating in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey have used 140,000 distant quasars to measure the expansion rate of the universe when it was only one-quarter of its present age. This measurement is the best yet of the expansion rate at any epoch in the last 13 billion years during the history of the universe. Measuring the expansion rate of the universe over its entire history is key to determining the nature of the dark energy that is responsible for causing this expansion rate to increase during the most recent six billion years.
Asteroid Named for Two Penn State Students
14 February 2014An asteroid that orbits the Sun every 4.83 years has been named for two students at Penn State's University Park Campus. The asteroid, first detected on 5 October 2002 in an observation by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, has been designated TimRaySchneider. To receive an official name, an asteroid must be observed for a number of orbits so its future positions can be predicted accurately.
Size of the Universe Now Measured to Within One Percent
08 January 2014The distance to a set of 1.2 million galaxies that are more than six billion light years away from Earth has been measured to an accuracy of one percent, scientists will announce during a press conference on Wednesday, 8 January 2014. The measurements place new constraints on the properties of the "dark energy" that is thought to permeate empty space and to cause the universe's expansion to accelerate over time, report the research team from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), which includes astronomers at Penn State University.
New Effort to Learn How Our Galaxy Formed Makes Public Release of Its First Data
31 July 2013Scientists with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III), including Penn State University astronomers, have released a new online public data set featuring 60,000 stars that are helping to reveal how our Milky Way galaxy formed.
New Tool Is Probing the Structure of the Milky Way's Heart
19 December 2012The discovery that hundreds of stars are rapidly moving together in long, looping orbits around the center of our Galaxy has been announced by a team of scientists including a Penn State University astronomer and others collaborating in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III). "The stars near the nucleus of the Milky Way appear to form a bar-like structure thousands of light years in size," said Donald Schneider, a Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State and a coauthor of the study. "In this investigation, we were able to accurately measure the motions of a set of stars located in the Galaxy's bar and to gain some insight into the dynamics of the central, dense regions of the Milky Way." Schneider is the Survey Coordinator and Scientific Publications Coordinator for the SDSS-III.
The Great Space Coaster: Expansion of the Universe Now Measured in an Era before Dark Energy Takes Over
13 November 2012For the past five-billion years, the expansion of the universe has been powered by a mysterious repulsive force known as "dark energy." Now, thanks to a new technique for measuring the three-dimensional structure of the distant universe, scientists in an international team within the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), including an astronomer at Penn State University, have made the first measurement of the rate of this cosmic expansion as it was just three-billion years after the Big Bang.
Case of Missing Quasar Gas Clouds Now Solved
01 October 2012The case of the missing quasar gas clouds has been solved by a worldwide research team led by Penn State University astronomers Nurten Filiz Ak and Niel Brandt. The discovery is being announced today in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, which describes 19 distant quasars whose giant clouds of gas seem to have disappeared in just a few years.
Penn State Scientists Participate in the Construction of the Largest Three-Dimensional Map of the Universe
08 August 2012The largest-ever three-dimensional map of massive galaxies and distant black holes has been produced by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III), an international collaboration that includes Penn State astronomers. The new map will help to explain the mysterious "dark matter" and "dark energy" that scientists know makes up 96 percent of the universe.
When Dark Energy Turned On
30 March 2012The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) today announced the most accurate measurements yet of the distances to galaxies in the faraway universe, giving an unprecedented look at the time when the universe first began to expand at an ever-increasing rate. The results, announced today at a press conference in Manchester, England, are the culmination of more than two years of work by the team of scientists and engineers, including a Penn State astronomer, behind the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), one of the SDSS-III's four component surveys.
New Map of the Universe Reveals Its History for the Past Six-Billion Years
12 January 2012The scientists of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), including astronomers at Penn State, have produced a new map of the universe that is in full color, covers more than one quarter of the entire sky, and is full of so much detail that you would need five-hundred-thousand high-definition TVs to view it all. The map consists of more than one-trillion pixels measured by meticulously scanning the sky with a special-purpose telescope located in New Mexico. This week, at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, the SDSS scientists announced results of four separate studies of this new map that, taken together, provide a history of the universe over the last six-billion years.
Study Reveals Milky Way Stars That Wander but Are Not Lost
11 January 2012New evidence that will help to answer long-standing questions about the history of stars in the disk of our galaxy is being released this week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society by a team that includes a Penn State astronomer.
New Astronomy Tool Peers Through the Heart of the Milky Way
10 January 2012A powerful new tool for probing the structure of our galaxy has been developed by astronomers associated with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, including two Penn State University astronomers. The new tool is an infrared spectrograph for the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE). It is the newest instrument deployed by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III).
Evidence Is Found that Our Milky Way Galaxy is Destroying Its Dwarf-Galaxy Neighbors
02 December 2011Our Milky Way Galaxy continues to devour its small neighboring dwarf galaxies, reports a research team that includes a Penn State astronomer. The scientists have found evidence of the stellar snacking spread out across the sky. "Our study gives further striking evidence that we live in a galaxy that is constantly changing its structure via cannibalism of its smaller neighbors," said Donald Schneider, Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics and a coauthor of the paper describing the discovery.
Largest-Ever 3-D Map of the Distant Universe is Revealed
01 May 2011Scientists from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) collaboration, including an astronomer at Penn State University, have created the largest-ever three-dimensional map of the distant universe by using the light of the brightest objects in the cosmos to illuminate ghostly clouds of intergalactic hydrogen. The map provides an unprecedented view of what the universe looked like 10 billion years ago.

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