AUSTIN (KXAN) – Developing a map of the universe is now closer than ever before. Scientists with the University of Texas announced this past month that they have now located and mapped more than 170,000 new galaxies and nearly 5,000 possible black holes.

The research was published this February in The Astrophysical Journal.

HETDEX, Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment, uses the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in West Texas to detect light emitted by hydrogen from 10 billion light-years away. According to a release from the University of Texas, this type of light signals the creation of new stars.

The researchers used the telescope to identify 181,028 galaxies and 4,976 “active galactic nuclei”, which signal a black hole. The project began in 2017.

The researchers used supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, located at the University of Texas, and software used in dating apps to identify the galaxies. According to the release, more than 60 terabytes of data were sorted through.

Identifying galaxies using redshift

The telescope looked at redshift data, which shows how fast a star is moving away from us on Earth. As the star moves further away, the frequency the star emits on the electromagnetic spectrum decreases.

If the star was moving towards us, called a negative redshift or blueshift, the frequency would increase.

The Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment tiles the sky, collecting spectroscopic data that is used to pinpoint the location of a star or galaxy and its distance from Earth. (Top) Sky coverage of the planned HETDEX Fall field (in red) and the footprint of this catalog release (in blue), with stars, Lyman-alpha emitting (lae), [O II]-emitting (oii), and low-z galaxies of non [OII] emission (lzg) color coded. Credit: DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aca962.

Scientists are able to determine how far a star is from earth by observing its speed. This is called Hubble’s Law. The faster the object appears to be moving, the further away it is. This law helps scientists understand the expansion of the universe. It is also used in models for the Big Bang Theory.

The HETDEX Collaboration includes researchers from UT Austin and five other institutions, located in the United States and Germany.

Authors on the research include: Erin Mentuch Cooper, Karl Gebhardt, Dustin Davis, Daniel J. Farrow, Chenxu Liu, Gregory Zeimann, Robin Ciardullo, John J. Feldmeier, Niv Drory and Donghui Jeong.