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Kavli Institute for Cosmology, Cambridge


From a vantage point high in the Chilean Andes, cosmologists with the Simons Observatory have begun searching for evidence of what happened in the minuscule fraction of a second that followed the Big Bang.

The observatory, which just completed its main construction phase, will make some of the most precise measurements ever taken of the oldest light in the universe. That light, known as the cosmic microwave background (CMB), originated about 380,000 years after the Big Bang and holds secrets of the universe’s birth.

A large number of Cambridge researchers have been involved in the planning and preparation for the analysis of data from the Simons Observatory. The team are very excited to be part of the international effort working on these data, and the forthcoming higher-resolution data from the large-aperture telescope, to seek answers to some of the most profound questions about the birth and evolution of our Universe.

Physicists predict that a period of rapid expansion of the newborn universe, called inflation, generated ripples in the fabric of space-time. Those ripples would have led to giant swirling patterns in the polarization of the CMB light called ‘B-modes.’ Despite decades of CMB observations, the swirls elude detection. Detecting those B-modes would provide unprecedented insights into the universe’s earliest moments. In addition to the B-mode hunt, the observatory will provide fresh insights into the universe’s age, the distribution of dark matter, the motions of our solar system’s asteroids, the mass of ghostlike particles called neutrinos, and more.

The Simons Foundation is the primary funder of the observatory, which is named after Jim Simons and foundation co-founder and chair Marilyn Simons. Planned extensions have already been funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, U.K. Research and Innovation and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

Based on a press release from the Simons Foundation.