Princeton Researchers Plan to Study the Early Universe at the Simons Observatory

Thursday, Jul 25, 2019
by Department of Astrophysical Sciences

On June 30, the groundbreaking ceremony was held to mark the official start of construction of the Simons Observatory in the high Atacama Desert of Chile. Princeton will be a primary partner in the consortium building and using the observatory to peer deep into the past history of the Universe. An article on Princeton University’s news homepage provides details of the Simons Observatory project as a transformational effort in cosmology. An international team of researchers, including the Department of Astrophysical Sciences’ David Spergel and Jo Dunkley, are leading the scientific planning and development of the observatory. David Spergel, Emeritus Professor of Astrophysical Sciences, is a member of the Executive Board of the Simons Observatory. Jo Dunkley, Professor of Physics & Astrophysical Sciences, is the Simons Observatory Chair of the Theory and Analysis Committee. From Physics, Suzanne Staggs, Henry DeWolf Smyth Professor of Physics, is leading detector development, and Lyman Page, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Physics, is a member of the Observatory’s Executive and Planning Board. In addition, many postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and undergraduates in Astrophysics are integral to the work of the Simons Observatory project.

The Simons Observatory will be used to study the origins of the early universe using specialized telescopes that will scan the sky’s cosmic microwave background radiation, looking for polarization signatures of gravitational waves generated shortly after the creation of the Universe. The celebratory ground breaking event took place at the observatory’s site in the Atacama Desert in anticipation of the arrival of the 4 telescopes that will comprise the observatory. The Simons Observatory is made possible by the Simons Foundation that previously provided \$60 million dollars for construction and installation of the Observatory and an additional \$20 million dollars of funding for operational support for five years from 2022 to 2027.

Professor Dunkley commented about the Observatory, “This is wonderful news for us. I am so excited about the science we will be able to do with the Simons Observatory. It will allow us to answer so many questions about the universe, from understanding the aftermath of the Big Bang itself, to measuring the tiniest particles in the cosmos. The Simons Observatory will involve many of our Peyton Hall students and post-docs in the coming decade.”

The full story can be read here.