Researchers from the UK are joining an international effort to uncover what the universe looked like after it arose and how the cosmic order we see today emerged from primordial chaos.
Six UK universities will compress data and create new instruments for the Simons Observatory, a group of telescopes that scans the sky from a point in Cerro Toco, 5,300 meters above Chile’s Atacama desert.
The observatory houses a 20 ft telescope and three small 16 inch instruments measuring it. cosmic microwave background (CMB) – heat left over from the birth of the universe. British scientists will build two more telescopes to increase the sensitivity of the facility.
Dr Colin Vincent, deputy director of astronomy at the Science and Technology Facilities Council, said funding UK researchers would allow them to “lead explorations” with teams from other countries and uncover “secrets from the beginning of time”.
US radio astronomers stumbled upon the existence of the CMB in the 1960s when they were investigating the origins of a startling “buzz” coming from every corner of the sky. Mysterious microwaves have been traced from the beginning of the universe to heat that cooled as it expanded.
Thanks to the CMB’s detailed measurements, astronomers hope to learn what a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the universe began. Many scientists believe that as the universe went through a period of deep expansion known as cosmic inflation, tiny fluctuations in energy in the early universe became the seeds for galaxies and galaxy clusters.
Simons Observatory aims to measure CMB so accurately that researchers can decipher which of the many proposed inflation patterns the universe seems to follow. The observatory also has dark matter, the mysterious invisible matter clinging to galaxies, and the proposed dark energy Brief tremors in space-time thought to have caused the expansion of the universe and preyed on primordial gravitational waves, which may have raced through the universe from the time it emerged.
The US-led project, along with Imperial College London and the universities of Cambridge, Cardiff, Manchester, Oxford and Sussex, is committing 85 institutes from 13 countries to new projects at the observatory from next month.
at the Erminia Calabrese School of Physics and astronomers The observatory in Cardiff said it will map the microwave sky with unprecedented precision over the next decade. “Small fluctuations in CMB radiation tell us about the origin, content and evolution of the universe, and how all the structures we see in the night sky today began,” he said.
“Cardiff has been a member of the Simons Observatory since its inception, but this new UK investment will significantly increase its engagement and will deliver new contributions to hardware and data processing with unique UK technologies.”
Prof Mark Devlin, spokesman for the Simons Observatory at the University of Pennsylvania, said he was “very excited” by the UK teams involved in the project. “The addition of new telescopes and researchers will be a significant addition to our program and will help Simons Observatory bring back incredible science for years to come,” he said.
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