Starlight from eight billion years ago is set to be captured by the world's most powerful digital camera.
The ancient rays have crossed countless distant galaxies to find heir way to a mountaintop in Chile where a giant sky mapping machine called the Dark Energy Camera recorded them.
The light may hold within it the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in physics - why the expansion of the universe is speeding up.
One of the first images from the Dark Energy Camera, showing the spiral galaxy NGC 1365, in the Fornax cluster of galaxies, which lies about 60 million light years from Earth.
Although dark energy appears to account for about 75% of the energy-mass content of the universe scientists have no real idea what it is.
Dark energy is arguably one of the major outstanding issues facing 21st-Century science.
This mysterious force appears to be accelerating the expansion of the Universe.
Recognition of its existence and effect in 1998 earned three scientists a Nobel Prize.
The Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration have announced the camera, which took eight years to build by scientists on three continents, has achieved first light.
The first pictures of the southern sky were taken by the 570-megapixel camera on 12 September.
Professor Ofer Lahav, of University College London, who heads the UK arm of the consortium, said: 'The achievement of first light through the Dark Energy Camera brings us a step closer to understanding dark energy, one of the biggest mysteries in the whole of physics.
'The deep observations with the DES camera will tell us why the universe is speeding up and if a major shift is required in our understanding of the universe.'
The camera, which is roughly the size of a phone booth, is the most powerful survey instrument of its kind, able to see light from over 100,000 galaxies up to 8 billion light years away in each snapshot.
The camera's array of 62 devices have an unprecedented sensitivity to very red light and will allow scientists from around the world to pursue investigations ranging from studies of asteroids in our own Solar System to the understanding of the origins and the fate of the universe.
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