A joint Fermilab/SLAC publication

Around the world in 80 telescopes

April 10, 2009

Without leaving your living room, you can get an inside look at the South Pole Telescope, a window to the early universe, that sits within walking distance of geographic bottom of the world, as well as insider views of 79 other renowned research telescopes.

The Web site "Around the World in 80 Telescopes" provides 24-hours of video from the most advanced observatories across the globe and in our skies. The European Southern Observatory originally created the program as a live Web cast April 3-4. 

The 24-hours worth of images has been archived by telescope on the Web site 100 hours of Astronomy, a keystone project of the International Year of Astronomy celebration.Among the highlighted telescopes are The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the The Very Large Array (VLA) telescope in New Mexico and the The 10-meter South Pole Telescope/IceCube Neutrino Telescope in Antarctica.While many of the telescopes seek to take images of the stars and planets in our solar system, astrophysics often focus their telescopes radio and light waves to piece together a picture of how the universe looked 13.7 billion years ago and how it has evolved since then.

A key investigator in this area is a team from nine institutions lead by University of Chicago professors John Carlstrom. They operate the 10-meter South Pole Telescope in a hunting for dark energy, thought to make cause the accelerating expanse of the universe, and evidence about the universe's origins and past evolution.

The team uses the telescope to search for cosmic microwave background radiation, the afterglow of light left over from the big band and for extremely weak gravity waves, distortions in space and time that Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts cosmic inflation should produce.

Construction of a new instrument, a  polarimeter,  attached to the telescope is designed to detect the electromagnetic radiation frequency of these gravity waves, found at submillimeter wavelengths, between microwaves and the infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Finding the waves would go a long way to proving the theory of cosmic inflation launching the big bang as well as discounting other theories of how the universe began.

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