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Thursday, December 4, 2014

SPIDER: A balloon-borne telescope

At this very moment, a team of astronomers is braving the Antarctic summer weather (which is just as bad, if not worse, as winter here in Toronto) for SCIENCE! The experiment called SPIDER (which I mentioned in a previous post) is a balloon-borne telescope designed to measure the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the light left over from the Big Bang. It will be launched later this month to commence a 20-day journey around the Antarctic continent in order to collect light from the CMB and to try to look for the pattern of ripples in space-time produced from the Big Bang itself.


Photo courtesy Jon Gudmundsson

Among these intrepid scientists are a few of my colleagues from the University of Toronto. My friend Jamil is taking some gorgeous photos of SPIDER's assembly, as well as of the breathtaking Antarctic landscape. He was also interviewed on the CBC's Metro Morning and gave a wonderful explanation of what the project is all about. It's well worth a listen.

Finally, if you want to learn more about this really cool project, you should check out the SPIDER blog, set up by the Princeton contingent of the team. There you'll see how the telescope is being assembled, and get a unique snapshot into the lives of people currently living in Antarctica.