News & Press releases

Number of entries: 127

July 2021

ICE welcomes La Caixa Fellowships applicants

Deadline for applications for the Junior Leader Incoming Fellowships is October 7
The Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC) has become host institution for applicants to La Caixa Fellowships.
Following the reception of the 'María de Maeztu' seal of excellence, the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC) has become an eligible host institution for applicants to La Caixa Fellowships, incoming, this same year.

Deadline for applications for the Junior Leader Incoming Fellowships is October 7, 2021. Details can be found here.

The candidates should be outstanding experienced researchers in terms of the originality and significance of their contributions in their scientific discipline, as well as having the leadership skills to head their own research group.
These fellowships are intended to consolidate comprehensive training encompassing scientific, technical and complementary skills that will help them to tap into their potential as independent researchers and leaders of the new generation of researchers.
  • Applicants should have earned their doctoral degree two to seven years prior to the deadline of the call for applications.
  • Candidates must not have have carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Spain for more than twelve months in the three years immediately preceding the closing date of the call.

About the 'Maria de Maeztu' Excellence Distinction
The Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) obtained the María de Maeztu seal of excellence last week, a distinction that recognizes the centers and units that carry out highly competitive cutting-edge research and that are among the best in the world in their respective scientific areas. Along with this distinction, ICE will receive two million euros and eight pre-doctoral contracts in the upcoming years.

The Spanish State Research Agency (Agencia Estatal de Investigación, or AEI), dependent on the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN), provisionally resolved the call for the Severo Ochoa and María de Maeztu Centers and Units of Excellence programme last Friday, July 16, 2021. These recognitions are aimed at funding and accrediting research centers and units, from any scientific area, which are able to prove scientific impact and leadership at an international level and actively collaborate with their social and business environment.

About La Caixa's Junior Leader Incoming Fellowships
La Caixa's postdoctoral fellowship programme is aimed at hiring excellent researchers—of any nationality—who are willing to continue their research career in the STEM area (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), in Spanish or Portuguese territory, at accredited centres with the Severo Ochoa or Maria de Maeztu excellence award, Institutos de Salud Carlos III and units evaluated as excellent by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia of Portugal.
July 2021

ICE researcher Ramón Padullés participates at a UIMP summer course on TELEDETECT tool

UIMP summer course on TELEDETECT tool
The multidisciplinary CSIC’s platform TELEDETECT, where the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) participates, organizes the summer course TELEDETECTION AS A GLOBAL TOOL at the Menéndez Pelayo International University (UIMP). The researcher from our centre Ramon Padullés Rulló will be one of the speakers of the course.

Dates: July 19-23, 2021
Modalities: Face-to-face and online
Course description and online application:
More information:
July 2021

ICE receives ‘Maria de Maeztu’ Excellence Distinction

ICE receives ‘Maria de Maeztu’ Excellence Distinction
ICE building, located at Campus UAB, Bellaterra, Barcelona.
  • The institute will receive €2 million for funding and 8 pre-doctoral contracts.
  • It is one of the three CSIC centers awarded with a seal of excellence this call.

The Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) has obtained the María de Maeztu seal of excellence, a distinction that recognizes the centers and units that carry out highly competitive cutting-edge research and that are among the best in the world in their respective scientific areas.

Along with this distinction, ICE will receive two million euros and eight pre-doctoral contracts in the upcoming years. “We are very happy for receiving such a high recognition to our work, and we’re sure it will allow us to continue improving even more” tells us Diego F. Torres, director of the center and principal investigator of the project.

The Spanish State Research Agency (Agencia Estatal de Investigación, or AEI), dependent on the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN), provisionally resolved the call for the Severo Ochoa and María de Maeztu Centers and Units of Excellence programme last Friday. These recognitions are aimed at funding and accrediting research centers and units, from any scientific area, which are able to prove scientific impact and leadership at an international level and actively collaborate with their social and business environment.

The requirements, levels of demand, criteria and procedures for evaluation and selection related to scientific excellence do not establish differences between centers and units, which have been selected for their scientific results and strategic programmes after a rigorous evaluation with the participation of prestigious international scientists. The total investment of the programme is 40 million euros.
The awarded centers

Besides ICE, two other CSIC centers have received distinctions of excellence: the Institute of Theoretical Physics (IFT), a mixed research center with the Autonomous University of Madrid, which has received the Severo Ochoa accreditation; and the Andalusian Centre for Developmental Biology (CABD), in Seville, which has received the María de Maeztu distinction. In addition, the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA), in Mallorca, will receive 200,000 euros.

In the 2020 call, seven ‘Severo Ochoa’ centers of excellence and six ‘María de Maeztu’ excellence units were distinguished from a total of 50 applications submitted (17 centers and 33 units). The proposal of the State Research Agency includes awards of excellence to other pioneering research institutions in Spain, such as the Center for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics (CBGP), CIC-NANOGUNE, IMDEA-Nanociencia, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CGR), Center for Monetary and Financial Studies (CEMFI), Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL), Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC), Centre de Recerca Matemàtica (CRM), the Math Institute of the University of Granada (IEMath) and the VHIO Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology.

ICE Communication & Outreach / CSIC Communication

ICE Communication & Outreach
Bellaterra, España
Paula Talero & Alba Calejero
Main contact
Bellaterra, España
Diego F. Torres
Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC)
Email address:
July 2021

4th Institute of Space Sciences Summer School: Artificial Intelligence for Astronomy

4th Institute of Space Sciences Summer School
4th Institute of Space Sciences Summer School: Artificial Intelligence for Astronomy
The Institute of Space Sciences Summer School is back! The theme of the 4th Summer School of the institute will be Artificial Intelligence for Astronomy.

You can find all the information regarding lecturers and programme overview here.

The Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) is an institution at the forefront of scientific and technological research with the mission of contributing to the general advance of studies of the Cosmos.

Astronomy and astrophysics are undergoing a rapid evolution towards data-driven science. Large-scale astronomical surveys and computer simulations are creating enormous amounts of datasets that require the development of new techniques for their analysis. Both complexity and sheer size of these datasets, and often the necessity of combining heterogenous sources of data, put machine learning methods as a central tool, present and future, for scientific discovery in astronomy.

The program of the 4th Institute of Space Science Summer School will focus on artificial intelligence (AI) methods for astronomy research, with special focus on neural networks for image classification, natural language processing and graph neural networks. The topics will cover the mathematical concepts as well as the development of software tools and applications. There will be lectures and hands-on activities.

The Institute of Space Sciences will welcome around 40 Master and Doctoral students to the Summer School in which they will broaden their knowledge on this exciting field as well as getting into contact with research groups working at the Institute in this and other fields. Applications from young postdocs are also welcome.

Deadlines and important dates

◉ Registration will be open from 20/05/2021 until 20/06/2021

◉ Selected participants will be notified by 30/06/2021

◉ School will run from 12/07/2021 to 16/07/2021

Registration for this event is currently open!

July 2021

Einstein Telescope approved for ESFRI Roadmap 2021

Einstein Telescope approved for ESFRI Roadmap 2021
Artistic view of the ET observatory
ET Project
 On June 30th, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) decided to include the Einstein Telescope (ET) in the 2021 upgrade of its roadmap. This confirms the relevance of this major international project for a next generation gravitational waves observatory for the future of research infrastructures in Europe and gravitational wave research at global level.
The Research Infrastructure Consortium Coordinators, Antonio Zoccoli of INFN and Stan Bentvelsen of Nikhef, are extremely excited about this result.
"We are very pleased for this important result: the ESFRI approval acknowledges the value of our project and strengthens ET at the European level", says Zoccoli. "We will work synergistically for its development, confident that it is strategic to foster our knowledge of the universe, technological innovation and social growth."
“ESFRI status is a major step toward the realisation of this European project, - says Bentvelsen - scientifically the Einstein Telescope is undisputed, and with the ESFRI status there is indispensable recognized support for its quality and impact. We are looking ahead to further develop the plans together with all countries involved.”
The Italian government submitted the proposal on September 9th, 2020 supported by the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and Spain.
“The preparation of the proposal has been a two years large effort involving several research institutions and universities, now composing the Einstein Telescope consortium, belonging to ten European countries and having real interdisciplinary competences”, says Michele Punturo, Coordinator of the ET-ESFRI proposal preparation.
Since then, several of the people involved were invited to present the plans, to deepen specific aspects of the project and answer questions of the ESFRI evaluation committee. Among them was Marica Branchesi, member of the ET-ESFRI proposal preparation team: “We have worked hard to develop the science case of ET. Each simulation showed us the enormous capabilities of ET observing the Universe. ET will revolutionize our knowledge in fundamental physics, astrophysics, and cosmology”, says Branchesi.
The Einstein Telescope was identified after a long and accurate process of evaluation and selection. During the ESFRI Assembly meeting, delegates officially decided to include the Einstein Telescope in the Roadmap. This official European approval now brings the project into a new phase. The scientific Institutions involved from ten countries (Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, Poland, The Netherland, UK) will now have to intensify their research and development work on the Einstein Telescope and gravitational waves. It will also speed up the ongoing subsurface studies for the characterization and evaluation of the candidate sites that could host the underground infrastructure.
The Spanish involvement in the Einstein Telescope
“This is a great success for the GW community in Spain as a whole”- says Mario Martinez, member of the Einstein Telescope Steering Committee that prepared the ESFRI candidature.
An effort was put in place back on early 2020 with the aim of gathering support for the Einstein Telescope among the Spanish research groups. It was a great success with up to 23 institutions expressing a strong interest in a participation in the project, including four ICTs (Singular Research Infrastructures) in Spain.  Altogether, this translated into Spain formally supporting the ESFRI candidature. Now ET is a recognized infrastructure in the 2021 ESFRI roadmap.
The interest of Spain on Gravitational Waves (GW) Physics with ground-based experiments has increased enormously during the last decade.  Spanish scientists have contributed to the studies determining the physics potential of ET and are now part of the working groups designing the experiment. A number of  Spanish institutions already signed a memorandum of  understanding for contributing to the construction of the experiment including the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC).

"This is great news because it paves the way towards an infrastructure which will become a key protagonist in the new revolutions in Astronomy in the next new decades", says Carlos Sopuerta, ICE researcher who coordinated the institutional support of the center and of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). Many other Spanish institutions support the project, including:
  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)
  • Institute of Space Sciences (ICE) de Barcelona
  • Institut de Física d’Altes Energies (IFAE) de Barcelona
  • Instituto de Estructura de la Materia (IEM) de Madrid
  • Instituto de Física Teórica (IFT) de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
  • Universitat de Barcelona (ICCUB)
  • Universitat de les Illes Balears (UIB)
  • Universitat de València (UV)  
With the ESFRI recognition one can foresee the growth of the ET community and a fast and energetic involvement of the Spanish institutions in the design and construction of the experiment.  In addition to a top physics program, that will change our view and understanding of the universe, the ET project offers great opportunities in terms of technological developments and industrial returns.
A new window on the universe

The Einstein Telescope is a future underground observatory for gravitational waves. The instrument will be much more sensitive than existing gravitational-wave detectors. Therefore, the observatory will enable scientists to peek into the ‘dark ages’ of the universe for the first time. Gravitational waves were detected for the first time in 2015 and offer a new way of studying the universe. Until their first detection, scientists could only study the universe by looking at light or radiation, but with gravitational waves they can observe vibrations of spacetime itself. Although the existence of gravitational waves was already predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago, he did not expect it was possible to ever detect them. Yet with the mind blowing technological developments of the last century, scientists and engineers have managed to reach the sensitivity and precision that is needed to observe them. This opened a new era in the study of the universe, the era of gravitational wave and multimessenger astronomy, and led to a Nobel prize in 2017. The Einstein Telescope will lead to many more unimaginable discoveries in the future in this new field of research.
About ESFRI and the ESFRI Roadmap

ESFRI, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, is a strategic instrument to develop the scientific integration of Europe and to strengthen its international outreach. The mission of ESFRI is to support a coherent and strategy-led approach to policymaking on research infrastructures in Europe, and to facilitate multilateral initiatives leading to the better use and development of research infrastructures, at EU and international level. ESFRI's delegates are nominated by the Research Ministers of the Member and Associate Countries and include a representative of the Commission.

The ESFRI Roadmap identifies the most promising European scientific structures on the basis of an in-depth evaluation and selection procedure, and includes the ESFRI Projects, i.e. new research infrastructures under construction, and the ESFRI Landmarks, i.e. research infrastructures already implemented with success. All previous updates of the ESFRI Roadmap have proved to be very influential and have provided strategic guidance for investment by member states and associated countries, even beyond the scope of research infrastructures.

ICE Communication & Outreach
Bellaterra, España
Paula Talero & Alba Calejero
Contact researcher
Bellaterra, España
Carlos Sopuerta
Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC)
Email address:
June 2021

Exoplanet photobombs observations of its star system

Exoplanet photobombs observations of its star system
CHEOPS studies Nu2 Lupi Exoplanets
  • While ESA’s Cheops mission was studying two exoplanets in a nearby system, a third one “photobombed” the observations
  • The mission that includes ICE researchers detected the surprising and improbable transit of a third exoplanet orbiting far away from the star
  • As the star is visible to the naked eye and the system is close to Earth, the planet will be an invaluable target for future studies 

Researchers involved in the European Space Agency’s exoplanet-hunting Cheops mission spotted a surprise transit in front of a nearby star. While exploring two exoplanets of the system, the satellite has spotted a new planet, the system’s third one known until date, crossing the face of the star. 
This is the first time an exoplanet with a period of over 100 days has been found transiting a star that is bright enough to be visible to the naked eye. As long-period exoplanets orbit so far from their stars, the chances of seeing one during a transit are incredibly low, making this finding, one of the firsts from ESA’s Cheops (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite), a real surprise.
Named Nu2 Lupi, this bright, Sun-like star is located just under 50 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Lupus (the Wolf). The system hosts three known exoplanets and the two innermost planets (designated planet b and planet c) had been previously observed transiting the star. As such, the star was one of only three naked-eye stars known to host multiple transiting planets.
“Transiting systems such as Nu2 Lupi are of paramount importance in our understanding of how planets form and evolve, as we can compare several planets around the same bright star in detail,” says Dr. Laetitia Delrez, researcher at the University of Liège (Belgium), and lead author of the new finding. “We set out to build on previous studies of Nu2 Lupi and observe planets b and c crossing the face of the star with Cheops, but during a transit of planet c we spotted something amazing: an unexpected transit by planet d, which lies further out in the system.”
Planetary transits create a valuable opportunity to study a planet’s atmosphere, orbit, size and interior. A transiting planet blocks a tiny but detectable proportion of its star’s light as it crosses in front of it – and it was this drop in light that led Dr. Delrez and colleagues to their discovery. 
Using the high-precision capabilities of Cheops, planet d was found to be about 2.5 times the radius of Earth, confirmed to take just over 107 days to loop once around its star and, using archival observations from ground-based telescopes, found to have a mass 8.8 times that of Earth. 
Most long-period transiting exoplanets discovered to date have been found around stars that are too faint to allow detailed follow-up observations, meaning that little is known about their planets’ properties. Nu2 Lupi, however, is bright enough to be an attractive target for other powerful telescopes based in space — such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope or the forthcoming NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope — or large observatories on the ground. 
Cheops, the ESA mission in which the Institute of Space Sciences participates as part of the Science Team and the Mission Board, is designed to collect ultra-high precision data of individual stars known to host planets, rather than sweeping more generally for possible exoplanets around many stars – and this focus and precision are proving exceptionally useful in understanding the star systems around us. 
“While still at the beginning of its mission of measuring exoplanets and identifying interesting targets for further studies, Cheops already lives up to the expectations and is delivering impressive results”, said Prof. Ignasi Ribas, member of the Cheops mission team, researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) and director of the Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (IEEC). 
Observatories and Instruments
Cheops is an ESA mission developed in partnership with Switzerland, with a dedicated consortium led by the University of Bern, and with important contributions from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK. ESA is the Cheops mission architect, responsible for procurement and testing of the satellite, the launch and early operations phase, and in-orbit commissioning, as well as the Guest Observers’ Programme through which scientists world-wide can apply to observe with Cheops. The consortium of 11 ESA Member States led by Switzerland provided essential elements of the mission. The prime contractor for the design and construction of the spacecraft is Airbus Defence and Space in Madrid, Spain.
The Cheops mission consortium runs the Mission Operations Centre located at the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA), in Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid, Spain), and the Science Operations Centre, located at the University of Geneva (Switzerland).
More information
This research is presented in the paper “Transit detection of the long-period volatile-rich super-Earth Nu2 Lupi d with CHEOPS” by Delrez, L. et al. (2021), published in Nature Astronomy.
IEEC Communication Office / ICE Communication & Outreach Office
ICE Communication & Outreach Office
Bellaterra, Spain
Paula Talero & Alba Calejero
Contact Researcher
Barcelona, Spain
Ignasi Ribas
Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) and Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC)
June 2021

Jets from Massive Protostars Might be Very Different from Lower-Mass Systems, Astronomers Find

A team of scientists observed a massive protostar called Cep A HW2, located about 2,300 light-years from Earth.
Artist's conception of the young star Cep A HW2
Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF
Astronomers studying the fast-moving jet of material ejected by a still-forming, massive young star found a major difference between that jet and those ejected by less-massive young stars. The scientists made the discovery by using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to make the most detailed image yet of the inner region of such a jet coming from a massive young star. José-Maria Torrelles, from the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) has participated in this collaborative work, that has involved scientists from UNAM (México), INAF (Italy), University of Leeds (UK) and ESO.

The team of scientists observed a massive protostar called Cep A HW2, located about 2,300 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cepheus. Cep A HW2 is expected to develop into a new star about 10 times more massive than the Sun. The new VLA images showed the finest detail yet seen in such an object, giving the astronomers their first view of the innermost portion of the jet, a portion roughly as long as the diameter of the Solar System.

According to the astronomers, the discovery raises two main possibilities: first, the same mechanism could be at work in both high-mass and low-mass protostars, but the collimation distance could be determined by the mass, occurring farther away in more-massive systems. The second possibility is that high-mass stars might produce only the wide-angle wind seen in Cep A HW2, with collimation only coming when physical conditions around the star restrict the flow.

The researchers are reporting their findings in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Information from NRAO News. Read the complete press release here.
May 2021

Dark Energy Survey (DES) releases most precise look at the universe’s evolution

Dark Energy Survey (DES) releases most precise look at the universe’s evolution
Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile
  • The Dark Energy Survey collaboration has created the largest ever maps of the distribution and shapes of galaxies.
  • These maps trace both ordinary and dark matter in the universe out to a distance of more than 7 billion light years
  • The analysis, which includes the first three years of data from the survey, is consistent with predictions from the standard cosmological model.
  • Nevertheless, there remain hints from DES and other experiments that matter in the current universe is a few percent less clumpy than predicted.
  • Researchers from the Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, MedioAmbientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT), the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC), the Institut de Física d'Altes Energies (IFAE) and the Instituto de Física Teórica (UAM-CSIC) have greatly contributed to the achievement of these results. 
  Barcelona/Madrid, May 27 2021

New results from the Dark Energy Survey use the largest ever sample of galaxies over an enormous piece of the sky to produce the most precise measurements of the universe’s composition and growth to date. Scientific team, including researchers at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC), measured that the way matter is distributed throughout the universe is consistent with predictions in the standard cosmological model.

Over the course of six years, DES surveyed 5,000 square degrees — almost one-eighth of the entire sky — in 758 nights of observation, cataloguing hundreds of millions of objects. The results announced today draw on data from the first three years — 226 million galaxies observed over 345 nights — to create the largest and most precise maps yet of the distribution of galaxies in the universe at relatively recent epochs.
Since DES studied nearby galaxies as well as those billions of light-years away, its maps provide both a snapshot of the current large-scale structure of the universe and a movie of how that structure has evolved over the course of the past 7 billion years.

To test cosmologists’ current model of the universe, DES scientists compared their results with measurements from the European Space Agency’s orbiting Planck observatory. Planck used light signals known as the cosmic microwave background to peer back to the early universe, just 400,000 years after the Big Bang. The Planck data give a precise view of the universe 13 billion years ago, and the standard cosmological model predicts how the dark matter should evolve to the present. If DES’s observations don’t match this prediction, there is possibly an undiscovered aspect to the universe. While there have been persistent hints from DES and several previous galaxy surveys that the current universe is a few percent less clumpy than predicted—an intriguing find worthy of further investigation—the recently released results are consistent with the prediction.

Ordinary matter makes up only about 5% of the universe. Dark energy, which cosmologists hypothesize drives the accelerating expansion of the universe by counteracting the force of gravity, accounts for about 70%. The last 25% is dark matter, whose gravitational influence binds galaxies together. Both dark matter and dark energy remain invisible and mysterious, but DES seeks to illuminate their natures by studying how the competition between them shapes the large-scale structure of the universe over cosmic time.

“DES has been able to define the properties of dark matter in such a precise way that competes with the data resulting from the study of the cosmic microwave background’s radiation, and besides, it complements it”, asserts Ignacio Sevilla, tenured scientist at CIEMAT. “It’s exciting to have achieved one of the most precise measurements ever obtained of the fundamental properties of the universe”.

DES photographed the night sky using the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera, installed on the Victor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. One of the most powerful digital cameras in the world, the Dark Energy Camera was designed specifically for DES and built and tested at Fermilab (United States). There was an important Spanish contribution to the design, building, verification and installation of the DECam.

“There was an unprecedented complexity to this challenge, which required a multidisciplinary team involving hundreds of people, an investment of millions of hours on supercomputers and the development of techniques that will determine the future of the field in almost every aspect of the analysis”, adds Martin Crocce, ICE researcher who leads the group which studies the great-scale structure at the DES international collaboration. “We’re entering a new era in our global understanding of the universe, with direct observations ranging from the early universe, 380.000 years old, to our recent universe, 13 billion years later”.

To quantify the distribution of dark matter and the effect of dark energy, DES relied on two main phenomena. First, on large scales, galaxies are not distributed randomly throughout space but rather form a weblike structure due to the gravity of dark matter. DES measured how this cosmic web has evolved over the history of the universe. The galaxy clustering that forms the cosmic web, in turn, revealed regions with a higher density of dark matter.

Second, DES detected the signature of dark matter through weak gravitational lensing. As light from a distant galaxy travels through space, the gravity of both ordinary and dark matter can bend it, resulting in a distorted image of the galaxy as seen from Earth. The pattern of these distortions depends on the amount and distribution of matter through light’s trajectory. “By analyzing the subtle distortions of our 100 millions of galaxies, DES has successfully tracked the distribution of matter that produces them”, explains Marco Gatti, predoctoral researcher at IFAE (now at the University of Pennsylvania), who has led the group which elaborates maps of matter. “These are the largest maps ever created, they cover an eighth of the sky and primarily show dark matter, which doesn’t emit light and cannot be detected through traditional methods”. This analysis has been partly possible thanks to new techniques for modeling large-field maps and large simulations carried out by Spanish groups and distributed on a new Big Data platform (CosmoHub), housed in the Port d'Informació Científica (PIC), a CIEMAT and IFAE data center.

Analyzing the massive amounts of data collected by DES was a formidable undertaking. The team began by analyzing just the first year of data, which was released in 2017. That process prepared the researchers to use more sophisticated techniques for analyzing the larger data set, which includes the largest sample of galaxies ever used to study weak gravitational lensing.

For example, calculating the redshift of a galaxy — the change in light’s wavelength due to the expansion of the universe — is a key step toward measuring how both galaxy clustering and weak gravitational lensing change over cosmic history. “The development of new methodologies to measure the 100 millions of galaxies’ redshift, directly related their distance, has been a key factor, which allows us to produce a 3D map of the universe”, notes Giulia Giannini, predoctoral researcher at IFAE and one of the scientists in charge of these measurements. “We have combined several independent methods and applied more sophisticated and precise advanced statistical techniques to calibrate the relationship between colors, positions and redshifts of galaxies in the most exact way possible, something crucial to obtain unbiased data.” This and other advancements in measurements and modeling, coupled with a threefold increase in data compared to the first year, enabled the team to pin down the density and clumpiness of the universe with unprecedented precision.

“Such precise measurements are the result of an analysis that is carried out with an extreme attention to detail every step of the way, from the data collection in the telescope to the calculation of the final results. Among many other factors, we have corrected the impact of external elements, such as stars of atmospheric effects, in our data”, says Martín Rodríguez Monroy, predoctoral researcher at CIEMAT, and one of the people in charge of the measurement of close-by galaxies’s clustering. “Seeing how all this effort translates into such precise and robust results is a great satisfaction”.

Along with the analysis of the weak-lensing signals, DES also precisely measures other probes that constrain the cosmological model in independent ways: galaxy clustering on larger scales (baryon acoustic oscillations), the frequency of massive clusters of galaxies, and high-precision measurements of the brightnesses and redshifts of Type Ia supernovae. These additional measurements will be combined with the current weak-lensing analysis to yield even more stringent constraints on the standard model.

“DES dataset is unique because it allows us to test the cosmological model by studying very different phenomena”, asserts Santiago Ávila, postdoctoral researcher at IFT and scientist in charge of analysing the relationship between the initial conditions of the Universe and the observed galaxy clustering. “Larger scales reveal wavelengths generated in the initial universe (acoustic barium oscillations), as well as how the first structures were formed from quantum fluctuations during the cosmological inflation”, he adds.

 DES concluded observations of the night sky in 2019. With the experience of analyzing the first half of the data, the team is now prepared to handle the complete data set, which will double the number of galaxies used in the results made public today. The final DES analysis is expected to paint an even more precise picture of the dark matter and dark energy in the universe. And the methods developed by the team have paved the way for future sky surveys to probe the mysteries of the cosmos.

The DES results will be presented in a scientific seminar today, May 27 at 17:30 (Madrid, GMT+2 time). It can be followed via Zoom here.

The 30 scientific papers related to these results will be available after the seminar on the following link and described in this video.

The Dark Energy Survey is a collaboration of more than 400 scientists from 25 institutions in seven countries. For more information about the survey, please visit the experiment’s webpage:

Spain was the first international group to join the United States to create, in 2005, the DES project, and participates through three different institutions, two of them in  Barcelona (the Institute of Spaces Sciences, ICE, CSIC, and the Institut de Física d'Altes Energies, IFAE) and one in Madrid (the Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas, CIEMAT), along with researchers from the Instituto de Física Teórica, IFT (CSIC-UAM).

Researchers at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) involved in DES collaboration are Martin Crocce, Enrique Gaztañaga, Francisco J. Castander, Pablo Fosalba and Isaac Tutusaus. Anna Porredon, Andrea Pocino Yuste and Alex Alarcon-Gonzalez also participated when they were predoctoral researchers at the institute.


Dr. Ramon Miquel, IFAE Director and ICREA Research Professor,
Da. Giulia Giannini, IFAE Predoctoral Researcher,
D. Marco Gatti, IFAE Predoctoral Researcher Investigador Predoctoral, (now Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania).

Dr. Enrique Gaztañaga, Research Professor ICE, CSIC,
Dr. Martín Crocce, Distinguished Researcher ICE, CSIC and IEEC,

Dr. Eusebio Sánchez, CIEMAT Scientific Researcher,
Dr. Ignacio Sevilla, CIEMAT Tenured Researcher,
D. Martín Rodríguez Monroy, CIEMAT Predoctoral Researcher,

Dr. Juan García-Bellido, Professor of Theoretical Physics at IFT,
Dr. Santiago Avila, Marie Curie Fellow at IFT-UAM/CSIC,
May 2021

Successful Start of Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) Follows Record-Setting Trial Run

Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI)
The disk of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) targeted by a single DESI pointing
  • International collaboration, with sizeable Spanish participation, aims for 3D map of the universe, unraveling of mysterious ‘dark energy’
A five-year quest to map the universe and unravel the mysteries of “dark energy” is beginning officially today, May 17, at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, USA. A large number of researchers at the Institute of Space Sciences have greatly contributed to make possible the implementation of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), that will capture and study the light from tens of millions of galaxies and other distant objects in the universe.

By gathering light from some 30 million galaxies, project scientists say DESI will help them construct a 3D map of the universe with unprecedented detail. The data will help them better understand the repulsive force associated with “dark energy” that drives the acceleration of the expansion of the universe across vast cosmic distances.

What sets DESI apart from previous sky surveys? "DESI will allow us to see an order of magnitude more galaxies than ever before, and study the evolution of the Universe from 11 billion years ago to the present day”, explained Héctor Gil-Marín, a scientist at Institut de Ciències del Cosmos at the University of Barcelona (ICCUB) and at the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC), that will co-lead the first analysis of the galaxy maps.  The DESI telescope collects light, or spectra, from galaxies and quasars, which get us their recession velocity. "We know that the farther the object is from us, the higher its recession velocity is, which allows us to build a 3D map of the universe", Gil-Marín explained. 

“DESI is now starting its comprehensive survey, covering a large fraction of the Universe. This is only possible because we have built to a very complex instrument that allow us to observe very efficiently”, said Dr. Francisco Castander, researcher at  the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC). “DESI is capable of simultaneously gathering the light of thousands of objects through fibres of a few microns diameter and bring it to the spectrographs where the light is dispersed and collected for further analysis”, added Dr. Castander.

"DESI is the front runner of a new generation of instruments around the globe that will study dark energy from different angles," said Andreu Font-Ribera, a cosmologist at Institut de Física d'Altes Energies (IFAE) that will co-lead the first analysis of the most distant quasars. He said the scientific program will allow researchers to address with precision two primary questions: what is dark energy; and the degree to which gravity follows the laws of general relativity, which form the basis of our understanding of the cosmos.

“It has taken 10 years of effort, from the instrument design to this moment, when DESI starts collecting the data that is going to revolutionize our understanding of the Universe” says Violeta Gonzalez-Perez, a scientist at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) that is one of the coordinators for developing computer simulations of what DESI will observe.

The formal start of DESI’s five-year survey follows a four-month trial run of its custom instrumentation that captured four million spectra of galaxies – more than the combined output of all previous spectroscopic surveys.

The DESI instrument resides at the retrofitted Nicholas U. Mayall 4-meter Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, a program of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) NOIRLab. The instrument includes new optics that increase the field of view of the telescope and includes 5,000 robotically controlled optical fibers to gather spectroscopic data from an equal number of objects in the telescope’s field of view.

"What is special about DESI is not so much the telescope, but the instrument" says Otger Ballester, an engineer at IFAE who has been part of the team developing the guiding, focusing and alignment cameras for DESI, one of the Spanish contributions to the project. In fact, the instrument “can simultaneously gather light from 5,000 different objects and obtain their spectra in just 20 minutes” Ballester said. As the telescope is moved into a target position, the optical fibers align to collect light from galaxies as it is reflected off the telescope mirror. From there, the light is fed into a bank of spectrographs and CCD cameras for further processing and study. On a good night, DESI collects spectra from some 150,000 objects.

“The outstanding capability of DESI to collect spectra is also thanks to the instrument software,” said Santiago Serrano, an engineer at Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) and IEEC, who has developed part of the algorithms needed to guide the telescope. He recognizes the invaluable effort of scores of scientists in Spain and around the world which have made the instrument and the experiment possible.

Spectra collected by DESI are the components of light corresponding to the colors of the rainbow. Their characteristics, including wavelength, reveal information such as the chemical composition of objects being observed as well as information about their relative distance and velocity.

As the universe expands, galaxies move away from each other, and their light is shifted to longer, redder wavelengths. The more distant the galaxy, the greater its “redshift.” By measuring galaxy redshifts, DESI researchers will create a 3D map of the universe. The detailed distribution of galaxies in the map is expected to yield new insights on the influence and nature of dark energy.

“Unraveling the properties of the mysterious Dark Energy is the main goal of DESI” said Licia Verde , ICREA professor at ICCUB. “We know that at present 70% of the energy content of the Universe is made of Dark Energy, but we know very little about its properties". Dark Energy determines the expansion rate of the universe , Verde  explains. As the DESI instrument looks out in space and time, she says, “we can simultaneously observe the universe at different epochs, and by comparing them, figure out how the energy content evolves as the universe gets older.”
DESI is supported by the DOE Office of Science and by the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, a DOE Office of Science user facility. Additional support for DESI is provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Science and Technologies Facilities Council of the United Kingdom, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico, the Ministry of Economy of Spain, and by the DESI member institutions.
Researchers at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) involved in DESI are Benjamín Camacho, Ricard Casas, Francisco Javier Castander, Martín Crocce, Pablo Fosalba, Enrique Gaztañaga, Mar Mezcua, Santiago Serrano, Isaac Tutusaus y Cristian Nery Viglione.

The DESI collaboration is honored to be permitted to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak), a mountain with particular significance to the Tohono O’odham Nation.
May 2021

ICE initiates a project funded by the European Research Council: ERC IMAGINE

ICE initiates a project funded by the European Research Council: ERC IMAGINE
ICE researcher Daniele Viganò
Last year, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) obtained seven Starting Grants awarded annually by the European Research Council (ERC). These projects are included in the Excellent Science pillar of the Horizon 2020 program of the European Union (EU).

Daniele Viganò, researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC), obtained an ERC Starting Grant for the IMAGINE project, which aims to study magnetic fields on exoplanets. IMAGINE started officially last Saturday, May 1.

This ongoing project "focuses on magnetic fields as a key factor for the habitability of rocky planets, just like on Earth, and as a messenger of the internal composition and dynamics of exoplanets in general”, explains scientist Daniele Viganò.

“Combining a novel formulation, detectable radio wave emission studies, and partially imported advanced numerical techniques adapted from the magnetised neutron star scenario, IMAGINE will predict magnetic field values ​​for different exoplanets, comparing the associated observable properties of gas giants and contributing to identify the best candidates for rocky worlds for their habitability”, says researcher Viganò.

You can learn more here.
Institute of Space Sciences (IEEC-CSIC)

Campus UAB, Carrer de Can Magrans, s/n
08193 Barcelona.
Phone: +34 93 737 9788
Website developed with RhinOS

Follow us

An institute of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas

An institute of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
Affiliated with the Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya

Affiliated with the Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya