Building on the legacy of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-I and II), SDSS-III is a program of four spectroscopic surveys on three scientific themes: dark energy and cosmological parameters, the history and structure of the Milky Way, and the population of giant planets around other stars. In keeping with SDSS tradition, SDSS-III will provide regular public releases of all its data, beginning with SDSS Data Release 8 (DR8), which was made public in 2011 January and includes SDSS-I and SDSS-II images and spectra reprocessed with the latest pipelines and calibrations produced for the SDSS-III investigations. This paper presents an overview of the four surveys that comprise SDSS-III. The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey will measure redshifts of 1.5 million massive galaxies and Lyα forest spectra of 150,000 quasars, using the baryon acoustic oscillation feature of large-scale structure to obtain percent-level determinations of the distance scale and Hubble expansion rate at z < 0.7 and at z ≈ 2.5. SEGUE-2, an already completed SDSS-III survey that is the continuation of the SDSS-II Sloan Extension for Galactic Understanding and Exploration (SEGUE), measured medium-resolution (R = λ/Δλ 1800) optical spectra of 118,000 stars in a variety of target categories, probing chemical evolution, stellar kinematics and substructure, and the mass profile of the dark matter halo from the solar neighborhood to distances of 100 kpc. APOGEE, the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment, will obtain high-resolution (R 30,000), high signal-to-noise ratio (S/N ≥ 100 per resolution element), H-band (1.51 μm < λ < 1.70 μm) spectra of 105 evolved, late-type stars, measuring separate abundances for 15 elements per star and creating the first high-precision spectroscopic survey of all Galactic stellar populations (bulge, bar, disks, halo) with a uniform set of stellar tracers and spectral diagnostics. The Multi-object APO Radial Velocity Exoplanet Large-area Survey (MARVELS) will monitor radial velocities of more than 8000 FGK stars with the sensitivity and cadence (10-40 m s -1, 24 visits per star) needed to detect giant planets with periods up to two years, providing an unprecedented data set for understanding the formation and dynamical evolution of giant planet systems. As of 2011 January, SDSS-III has obtained spectra of more than 240,000 galaxies, 29,000 z ≥ 2.2 quasars, and 140,000 stars, including 74,000 velocity measurements of 2580 stars for MARVELS.
- Galaxy: evolution
- cosmology: observations
- planets and satellites: detection
- surveys Online-only material: color figure
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science