Astronomy survey helps shed light on universe's dark matter
Scientists believe billions of new stars could be discovered in newly-released data from a major astronomy survey.
A project using a 1.8-metre telescope at the summit of the Haleakala volcano in Maui, Hawaii, captured large images of the sky every 30 seconds for four years.
Researchers will now be able to study the "farthest reaches of the universe and gain insights into elusive dark energy and dark matter", experts say.
The Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) captured fast-moving objects and tracked exploding stars across the sky.
The project is part of an international collaboration including the universities of Edinburgh and Durham, and Queen's University Belfast. It was also supported by Nasa and the National Science Foundation.
Images from the project, being released by the Space Telescope Science Institute and the University of Hawaii, will now be analysed to identify and catalogue astronomical objects.
Some data from the survey has already been shared with astronomers and led to the discovery of hundreds of supernovae - exploding stars that give off massive amounts of energy as they die.
It has also enabled scientists to see individual stars in nearby galaxies, and to discover giant streams of stars in the Milky Way.
Professor Andy Lawrence, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics and Astronomy, said: "This rapid, repeating survey has enabled us to discover very rare events in which a massive black hole shreds a passing star, which otherwise would have been impossible to spot.
"Releasing the data will now enable astronomers round the world to study huge numbers of distant stars and galaxies in ways we can't even guess."