Inside The Science
The specialized technical capabilities provided by MSE enable an enormous diversity of exciting science, tackling questions about stars and planets, galaxies and cosmology, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy. The motivating science for MSE has never been more compelling than it is right now.
The Growth of Supermassive black Holes
At the center of every galaxy lurks a supermassive black-hole, millions or even billions of times more massive than the Sun, from which nothing can escape.
The formation and growth of these most enigmatic objects are intrinsically linked to the formation and evolution of the surrounding galaxy.
MSE will measure the mass of thousands of supermassive black holes in thousands of galaxies – a dramatic increase over the number of current measurments. These data will allow scientists to trace the growth of supermassive black holes through cosmic time, charting the co-evolution of a galaxy and its central black hole “engine”.
Dark matter, bright future
The majority of matter in the Universe is not like the stuff that we, or all the objects visible in space, are made of. Rather, most of the matter in the Universe is in the form of what astronomers call ‘dark matter’.
Very little is known about dark matter, in large part because it does not emit any light…hence the name. It does, however, interact with normal matter through gravity, and it is here that MSE is poised to play a very powerful role.
MSE will measure the velocities of millions of objects throughout the Universe – from the smallest dwarf galaxies up to the most massive super-clusters of galaxies – all of which are moving under the influence of surrounding dark matter. In this way, MSE will be the ultimate facility to take an astrophysical measure of dark matter, and will literally weigh the Universe.
Cosmic Nucleosynthesis And the chemical evolution of the galaxy
MSE is the first astronomical facility for understanding the cosmic origins of the elements of the periodic table. It is the only facility that will probe the chemical evolution of the Galaxy at the very earliest times through direct measurements of the chemical abundances of stars in all regions of the Milky Way.
The combination of MSE spectroscopy and measurements from the Gaia satellite will have a lasting impact in our understanding of the origins of our Galactic home.
Galaxies and the large-scale structure of the universe
Galaxies exist within a vast and complex cosmic web. The structure of this web has been mapped observationally and can be explained with impressive accuracy using modern cosmological theory.
However, how can we explain the vast diversity of galaxy types that we observe within this web? MSE will begin a new era in our understanding of the evolution of galaxies, by linking their formation and evolution to the large-scale structure of the Universe.