Background Science Information



The project I'm working on is an astrophysics experiment with collaborators in the United States, Italy, Canada, and the United Kingdom. We are attempting to study the properties of a certain kind of light coming from outer space. When most people think of light, they think of light that we can see with our eyes. This visible light is actually a very narrow range of "colors" that are only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The light that we are looking at lies in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Microwaves have a color that is far "redder" than any colors we can see with our eyes. Another way of saying this is that microwaves have a wavelength that far longer than that of visible light.

These microwaves are an "afterglow" of the primordial explosion (known as the Big Bang) that formed the universe. This light is nearly uniform across the sky, and is often referred to as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). A good treatment of how the Big Bang gave rise to the CMB is here.

Our experiment is a telescope designed to study small fluctuations in the "color" of the CMB across a patch of sky. We are also studying how the CMB is polarized, which will hopefully give us insight into the exact nature of the very early expansion of the Universe.