Mark Devlin, the Reese W. Flower Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences, and colleagues have been awarded a Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure-2 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Devlin will act as the principal investigator, with co-investigators at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, and collaborators at other institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Mathew Madhavacheril and James Aguirre, professors of physics and astronomy, will also be instrumental in the project.
The $52.66 million grant will fund a major infrastructure upgrade to the Simons Observatory (SO). Located in the high Atacama Desert in Northern Chile at an altitude of 5,200 meters, SO provides scientists an unprecedented glimpse into the nature of fundamental physical processes that have governed the origin and evolution of the universe since the dawn of time itself. SO uses an array of four telescopes, which will have 100,000 detectors on-sky, more than any other cosmic microwave background experiment.
A five-year project phase will result in the completion of the upgraded Advanced Simons Observatory (ASO). These updates will double the mapping speed of the Large Aperture Telescope (LAT) receiver and offer myriad improvements to instrumentation, efficiency, and sustainability as it relates to the observatory, and community-focused data sharing. The project phase will be followed by five years of observations (through 2033), which will produce a legacy large-scale millimeter-wave survey of the sky.
“The NSF award for the Advanced Simons Observatory will provide resources to make the Simons Observatory the most capable instrument studying the millimeter-wave sky for the coming decade,” says Devlin, who has made more than 50 trips to Chile and led the construction of the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) and LAT. “The results will have far-reaching impacts across multiple astronomical areas from our solar system all the way to the beginning of the universe. I cannot imagine a more exciting area for discovery.”
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