On a hot June Illinois afternoon, a celebratory atmosphere prevails at Kuhn Barn, a holdover from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s agricultural past and also a popular cookout spot.
Doctoral student Guillermo Moroni works the grill, proudly serving lamb chops and hamburgers to his scientific collaborators—other postdocs, technicians, scientists and graduate students. The smell of roasted corn floats across picnic tables littered with cakes, pies and brownies.
The gathering is more than a simple celebration of the start of summer; it marks a tipping point. The Dark Energy Camera, the first device specifically designed to search for dark energy, is on the brink of completion. Project manager Brenna Flaugher—who organized the cookout—and her colleagues are about to see the project they’ve been preparing for the past eight years transition from dream to reality.
This fall, scientists will fire up DECam, as it’s affectionately known, on a mountaintop in Chile and see their hard work pay off.
“It’s going to be very exciting for all of us to open the shutter for the first time,” Flaugher says. “Who knows what we’ll see?”
What they hope to see are signs of the invisible, mysterious force that seems to pull the universe apart—a force that has never been directly observed.