When looking in the distance, we look back in time.
The map, which was more than 20 years in the making, was the result of observations collected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and analyzed by more than 100 astrophysicists part of the extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS) team. The most hard, explains Will Percival, the Director of the Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Waterloo and a lead researcher on the team, is figuring out just how far these galaxies are from us.
An worldwide collaboration of over a hundred astrophysicists has released a map that details over two million galaxies and quasars and eleven billion years of our universe. So, the location of these signals reveals the expansion rate of the Universe at different times in cosmic history.
The work carried out by eBOSS astrophysicists specifically examines the universe from a time when it was about 300,000 years old, pinpointing on observations of galaxies and energy-packed quasars to better define the universe's structure. Using this map, the scientists are able to measure patterns in the distribution of galaxies.
The team also identified "a mysterious invisible component of the Universe called 'dark energy, '" which caused the universe's expansion to start accelerating about six billion years ago.
"This is one of the most substantial advances in cosmology in the last decade", Will Percival, lead researcher and professor at the University of Waterloo, said in a release.
There are still many unanswered questions about dark energy - it's "extremely hard to reconcile with our current understanding of particle physics" - but this puzzle will be left to future projects and researchers, said the statement.
Interestingly, the new eBOSS data is complicating our understanding of the rate at which the universe is expanding, known as the Hubble Constant. It's "unlikely that this 10% difference is random due to the high precision and wide variety of data in the eBOSS database", according to the EPFL.
Astrophysicist Jean-Paul Kneib of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, who initiated eBOSS in 2012, said the goal was to produce "the most complete 3D map of the Universe throughout the lifetime of the Universe".
"These newest maps from eBOSS show it more clearly than ever before". Since then, the universe has only continued to expand "faster and faster", the statement said. Julian Bautista, a researcher in the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth.
But until now, there has been a gap of around 11bn years in our history of the universe. To map the cosmos back 11 billion years, officials focused their sights on quasars - bright, distant celestial objects that are powered by supermassive black holes. Farther out, they used younger, blue galaxies.
"That's just really whacky because if you just have a standard theory that gravity is acting on matter, gravity is an attractive force it pulls things together and it would in general tend to decelerate the universe", says Percival. "Its been an incredible team resource and I'm so happy to see it come to fruition", says Percival.
"The eBOSS data cover such a large swath of cosmic time that they provide the biggest advances of any probe to measure the geometrical curvature of the Universe, finding it to be flat". The researcher has led the analysis of these galaxy maps, measuring the expansion rhythm and the growth of structures of the Universe from 6,000 million years ago.