Gadget-in-Extremis: Measuring cosmic microwaves from a younger universe


Gadget-in-Extremis: Measuring cosmic microwave background from a younger universe

It’s run by Fermilab, an American particle physics and accelerator laboratory, working with the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. It’s vision is to “to solve the mysteries of matter, energy, space and time for the benefit of all”.

The third-generation camera has now begun its multiyear survey. According to University of Chicago Professor John Carlstrom, the principal investigator for the South Pole Telescope project:

“Being able to detect and analyse the CMB, especially with this level of detail, is like having a time machine to go back to the first moments of our universe.”

“Encoded in images of the CMB light that we capture is the history of what that light has encountered in its 14 billion-year journey across the cosmos,” he added. “From these images, we can tell what the universe is made up of, how the universe looked when it was extremely young and how the universe has evolved.”

To be precise, it will operate at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

The South Pole Telescope is funded and maintained by the National Science Foundation, as manager of the U.S. Antarctic Program, the national program of research on the southernmost continent.

Pictured below is The South Pole Telescope team, led by the University of Chicago, Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory.

Relic light

Fermilab describes CMB as “the oldest light in our universe”, produced in aftermath of the Big Bang but before even the formation of atoms. Apparently, these particles of lightdate from nearly 14 billion years ago, providing clues both about how the universe looked at the beginning of time and how it has changed since.

“This relic light is still incredibly bright — literally outshining all the stars that have ever existed in the history of the universe by over an order of magnitude in energy,” said University of Chicago professor and Fermilab scientist Bradford Benson, who was in charge of building the camera.

“The cosmic microwave background is a remarkably rich source for science,” Benson said. “The third-generation camera survey can give us clues on everything from dark energy to the physics of the Big Bang to locating the most massive clusters of galaxies in the universe.”

The specific hope is that this glimpse of an early universe will allow scientists to better understand the different kinds of matter and energy that make up space, such as neutrinos and dark energy.