The South Pole may be one of the most inhospitable destinations on Earth, but for astronomers studying the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), it's the best seat in the house.
The icy, arid climate provides perfect viewing conditions for telescopes aiming deep into our cosmic past, focusing on faint, leftover light from the earliest days of the Universe.
One of these telescopes, BICEP2, recently detected the first evidence of gravity waves bending light from just after the Big Bang, leaving behind ripples that mark the Universe's moment of inflation—the fraction of an instant when everything expanded impossibly fast and incredibly far.
BICEP2's larger neighbor, the South Pole Telescope, is also observing microwaves to understand inflation and the expansion of the Universe. In this Astro Bulletin, researchers at the South Pole Telescope install lenses for a new camera capable of detecting a polarized signal left by gravitational waves on the light from the CMB.
South Pole Telescopepole.uchicago.edu
Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicagokicp.uchicago.edu
National Science Foundation: Office of Polar Programs (OPP)www.nsf.gov/dir/index.jsp?org=OPP
UCLA: Cosmic Microwave Backgroundwww.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/CMB.html
NASA Science: The Big Bangscience.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-area
To learn more about BICEP2's landmark discovery:
Behind This Week's News About The Big Banghttp://www.amnh.org/explore/news-blogs/news-posts/behind-this-week-s-news-about-the-big-bang
First Direct Evidence of Cosmic Inflationhttp://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2014-05
Cosmic News: Astronomers Find the Twisted Fingerprints of Inflation in the Background Glow of the Universehttp://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/03/17/evidence_of_inflation_astronomers_detect_gravitational_waves_from_the_early.html