On April 3, Daniel Eisenstein, a observational cosmologist and a professor at Harvard University, spoke on “Mapping the Universe with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey” during the annual Sturm Memorial Lecture. In memory of Kenneth E. Sturm from the Class of 1940, this annual event is open the entire Wesleyan community and features a presentation from an astronomer that is outstanding in his/her field and is able to communicate the excitement of science to a lay audience.
Eisenstein has led efforts to obtain observations that inform us about the distribution of matter on the largest scales in the Universe. Using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Eisenstein has obtained data from millions of distant galaxies, some as far away as 6 billion light years. The resulting map of the Universe is rich with structure. There are large filaments where many galaxies congregate, and large voids where no galaxies are observed. This clumpy structure has enabled Eisenstein to evaluate the balance of dark energy, dark matter, and explore the possibilities of the ultimate fate of the Universe.
“This year’s Sturm Lecture is a wonderful opportunity to think about the biggest questions. How did it all begin? How will it end? These are questions humanity has been speculating about since the beginning. Tonight we get to explore these questions with the benefit of the most current and advanced astronomical observations of the Universe,” said event coordinator Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of the College of Integrative Sciences.
Eisenstein has served as the Director of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III, the chair of the National Science Foundation Astronomy Portfolio Review committee, and is involved in the instrument teams of various new telescopes. He has been recognized repeatedly for his achievements in the field, including the prestigious Shaw Prize in Astronomy, awarded in 2014, elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and being named a Simons Investigator in 2016. (Photos by Caroline Kravitz ’19)