Chilean scientists improve precision to scale distance to closest galaxy

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-15 18:33:31|Editor: xuxin
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SANTIAGO, March 14 (Xinhua) -- A team of scientists has managed to make the measuring of the distance to the closest neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), more precise after 16 years of research.

According to Chile's Millennium Institute of Astrophysics (MAS), the team has determined the uncertainty to scale distance from the LMC within 1 percent, significant progress from 2.2 percent precision determined in 2013.

​Supported by MAS, the research is part of the Chilean Center for Excellence in Astrophysics and Associated Technologies' (CATA) Araucaria Project, which is partly led by Dr. Wolfgang Gieren from the Astronomy Department of the University of Concepcion (UDC) in Chile.

The mission of the Araucaria Project is to improve the calibration of the cosmic distance scale in the local universe.

"The Large Magellanic Cloud is the galaxy with which the scale of distances to all the galaxies in the universe is calibrated. It's the first time in the history of astronomy that the distance to a galaxy has been able to be measured with such precision," MAS said in a press release.

The discovery was published Thursday in Nature, one of the world's most recognizable science magazines. The scientific group consists of 22 academics from Chile, Poland, France, the United States, and Germany.

"The improvement of this precision to 1 percent is a gigantic step towards improving our comprehension of the expansion of the universe and of the dark energy phenomenon, which is one of the greatest contemporary enigmas in astrophysics," said Gieren, who is also co-author of the publication in Nature.

To improve the precision, researchers extended the sample set of binary star systems from the Large Magellanic Cloud from eight to 20, with the help of a new calibration technique and the use of telescopes in Chile and South Africa.