BICEP, the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, is an experiment that used almost 100 detectors to scan the sky at microwave frequencies ( 100 GHz and 150 GHz, angular resolutions of 1.0° and 0.7°) in order to measure the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB).
From their location (near competing experiments) at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station they have been working toward what sounds like a simple goal - to try and get firm evidence of the cosmic microwave background at the moment after the Big Bang. The hypothesis of an inflationary epoch - where the size of the universe underwent exponential expansion during its first 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 (10 -38) second - and recent observations suggesting just that, mean the hunt has been on to find evidence of ancient gravitational waves Einstein predicted.
An upcoming press conference means we might be close to getting some confirmation, which would bring us a step closer to ruling out other models of the early universe.
It's not as easy as it sounds. Finding a gravity wave background (GWB) in all that data, and factoring in the effects of gravitational lensing (matter - energy density - can curve spacetime and that can deflect the path of a ray of light) in how it is polarized after all this time, is daunting. The ability of gravitational lensing to create a false GWB signal, along with galactic dust and synchrotron polarized emissions, mean that the results will undergo heavy scrutiny, including by competing researchers who are searching for the exact same thing.
Comparison of estimated polarized foregrounds from synchrotron (magenta), vibrational dust (red), rotational dust (blue), and point source emission (green) from the "middle of the road" Tegmark et al. (1999) model. The shaded regions indicate where the foregrounds contribute more than 0.8 µK. Credit and link: Caltech
At 9 AM Pacific Time on Monday, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is going to make an announcement and what they might reveal is just speculation and rumor. University College London astronomer Hiranya Peiris gave Stuart Clark at The Guardian a great quote: "But if they do have a robust detection … Jesus, wow! I'll be taking next week off."
There's a lot that can go wrong, of course, supraluminal (faster than light) neutrionos taught the lesson quite recently that nature is not going down without a fight, but it could be exciting stuff.
BICEP - Caltech Observational Cosmology Group
H/T Real Clear Science
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Why I’ll Talk Policy With Climate Change Deniers But Not Science
- Today's Global Warming Is Nothing Special
- HIP 116454b Shows That Despite Malfunction, Kepler Can Still Find Planets
- Worldwide, Life Expectancy Has Gone Up Over 6 Years Since 1990
- There Was No 'Paleo Diet' - Ancient People Ate What They Had
- Curiosity Detects Spike In Methane, And Other Organic Molecules, On Mars
- You Can Self-identify With Any Ancestry You Want, But Genetically...
- "You spend a great deal of time on the ideological motivations of climate change deniers, but mistakenly..."
- "Or we can blame my mother. It was to be their senior trip in 1959 but Castro and Che Guevara got..."
- "Solution aversion is very real. Talking about solutions which the climate skeptics could live with..."
- "For the avoidance of doubt, as judges are wont to say, it was Buckminster Fuller himself who first..."
- "Thank you for including the Four Myths of Nature. It is very helpful to keep these in mind when..."
- Tooth loss linked to slowing mind and body
- Latest evidence on using hormone replacement therapy for treating menopausal symptoms
- Less than half of UK prescriptions for antipsychotics issued for main licensed conditions
- Don't be tempted to buy your teen a cheap (old) car, parents warned
- The Lancet: Doctor who survived Ebola received experimental drug treatment