Synopsis & Objectives

UK Astronomy Community Meeting to Discuss Preperation for Dark Energy Science in 2020 and Beyond

28th and 29th January 2016, RAS Burlington House

The aim of this meeting is to formulate a draft of a public Dark Energy Strategy Document that can be used to communicate to funding agencies, such that community informed strategic decisions within these bodies can be made. 


From 2020 the UK will be in a privileged position to exploit the combined data from the worlds leading dark energy experiments: Euclid, LSST, and the SKA. This meeting will discuss how the UK community can find common themes to share knowledge and resources, creating greater collaboration, resulting in science that will be more than the sum of its parts.

The topics that will be covered are the following:

1)     To assess, through the creation of cross-experiment collaborations, what the benefit of combination is, in a quantified way, on dark energy metrics.

2)    To identify common areas of capacity building, and algorithm development that are needed for the data analysis. Also to identify new algorithms that would be required for a simultaneous joint analysis.

3)     Create a set of common requirements for high performance computing, for use in big data analysis and simulations.

4)     Plan for non-dark energy science and explore the synergies in this respect.

5)   To discuss plans for further synergistic opportunties for the UK, such as WFIRST, new CMB experiments, and new MOS. 

Each of these are expected to form a section in a jointly written document, a draft of which will be started during the meeting. 

Extended Synopsis 

The UK is in a fortunate position to have a leading role in all of the next generation wide field astronomical surveys: the ESA Euclid mission, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), and the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).

Individually each of these experiments will image a significant fraction of the sky in a completely novel way; Euclid will provide Hubble Space Telescope-like images for the whole extragalactic sky, LSST will provide a movie of the sky detecting millions of transient phenomena, and SKA will be the largest telescope in existence exploring the dark ages of our Universe. Each facility plans to begin significant operations early next decade, and each of these represents billions of pounds worth of investment worldwide. All of these experiments present a formidable challenge for UK astronomy: scientifically, culturally, technically and strategically. All these experiments require a large amount of investment before, and during operations, for them to be a success, putting significant pressure on the UK science budget.

All these experiments will make a major contribution to modern cosmology, especially in the study of dark energy that makes up approximately 70% the energy density of the Universe. The scientific impact of determining the nature of dark energy cannot be overstated: either a vacuum energy will be confirmed to be many orders of magnitude smaller than that predicted, requiring new physics; or a deviation from vacuum energy will be confirmed, that will require either a new fundamental field, or a change to general relativity. However, it is becoming clearer that the combination of these experiments would provide results and insights far beyond any single experiment, controlling uncertainties in any one data-set as well as expanding the capabilities of any one experiment in isolation. It is now timely to plan for this combined analysis of the multiple data sets, for dark energy studies and also wider science goals to gain the maximum impact for UK science.

In this meeting we will discuss the benefits of any combined analysis. We will also stimulate discussion of how the UK can best coordinate these experiments in terms of limited resources including funding, computing, and people. This will include discussion on sharing of simulations, data centres, software platforms, knowledge, and experience in the culture of these large, international collaborations. 

The goal of this meeting is to improve communication within the UK cosmology community and seek to better inform our funding agencies about how a coordinated approach could benefit all experiments, and the discovery potential for dark energy science.

This discussion is timed to coincide with the acceptance of the UK membership of LSST, the Euclid ESA Mission Performance Review, and the recent re-baselining of the SKA and publication of the SKA science book. 

Now, only 5 years before the data avalanche from these experiments begins, the UK needs to seek common ground to prepare. 

Project Relevant Links 


Thomas Kitching - MSSL/UCL - 
Philip Best - ROE/University of Edinburgh -
Sarah Bridle - Manchester University -
Mark Cropper - MSSL/UCL - 
Joanna Dunkley - University of Oxford -
Bob Mann - ROE/University of Edinburgh -
Bob Nichol - ICG/Portsmouth University -
Jonathan Pritchard - ICIC/Imperial College London -
Andy Taylor - ROE/University of Edinburgh -