Science Projects


Charles Baltay

The acceleration of the metric expansion of the universe, discovered in the late 90s by the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-Z Supernova Search Team, has driven much cosmology and astrophysics research in the following two decades. Although work has been done to find distant supernova to understand how this acceleration has changed since the begining of the universe, a large sample of nearby supernova is needed to both understand supernova mechanics  as well as constrain errors in calculating cosmological parameteres. The QUEST Survey, a member of the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey of Trasient Objects (PESSTO)  and Nearby Supernova Factory collaborations, is well suited for the speedy detection and spectroscopic followup of low redshift supernova which can be used to further constrain Dark Energy’s equation of state.

Kupier Belt Objects

David Rabinowitz

When the dwarf planets Sedna, Eris, Haumea, and others were discovered in the outer solar system’s Kuiper Belt using Yale’s 160-megapixel QUEST camera at Palomar, the world witnessed a dramatic re-appraisal of the status of Pluto.  Previous discoveries of hundreds of smaller Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs), many with orbits similar to Pluto’s, clearly established Pluto as a member of the Kuiper Belt. Yet the much larger size and brightness of Pluto relative to its dynamical cousins preserved its place among the planetary pantheon. This all changed with the discovery of the dwarf planets, ultimately leading to Plutos demotion. With the QUEST camera now moved to the European Southern Observatory, we are searching the entire sky south of the ecliptic for more dwarf planets and other KBOs with unusual orbits. These discoveries will help us to understand the origin of the Kuiper Belt, the composition of its largest members, all leading to a better understanding of how the solar system formed and evolved. 

Periodic Variable Stars and Galactic Structure

Robert Zinn

The QUEST’s survey field and frequent cadance makes it ideal for the study of periodic variable stars. In particular, R.R. Lyrae stars in the galactic halo fall in the optical range of the survey and can be used as a density tracer in looking at galactic substructures. Past incarnations of the QUEST survey at Palomar and Venezuala have already uncovered interesting tidal streams and dwarf galaxies, and that work is to be further expanded with new data from La-Silla.