In DepthCosmology

Microwave background teams mull a grand unification

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  29 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6358, pp. 1339
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6358.1339

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution


The half-dozen groups and hundreds of scientists studying the afterglow of the big bang—the cosmic microwave background (CMB)—are planning to join forces in a single big experiment. By uniting, they hope to reach an elusive goal: detecting direct evidence that in the moment after the big bang, the universe expanded exponentially in a mind-bending growth spurt called cosmic inflation. The flash of exponential growth should have produced ripples in space itself called gravitational waves, which would have left tell-tale spiral patterns in the polarization of CMB microwaves called primordial B modes. The proposed project is called CMB stage 4 and next month, a concept definition team, will lay out the science goals and technological requirements and sketch out a "strawman" design for the hardware. Researchers envision a variety of small and large telescopes at the South Pole, in Chile's Atacama Desert, and possibly elsewhere, and hope to have the project up and running by the middle of the next decade.