Johns Hopkins Built a Telescope That Can See the Start of the Universe

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Milky Way in Antarctica
Milky Way in Antarctica

Finding evidence of water on Mars is cool and all, but do you know what’s really impressive? Building a telescope so powerful it might help us understand how the universe came to be.

That’s exactly what Johns Hopkins scientists are hoping to do with the Cosmology Large Angular Scale Surveyor (CLASS) telescope, a two-story microwave telescope which is on its way to be installed in Chile as we speak. The journey isn’t an easy one, either–in order to examine the darkest skies possible, the telescope will be installed on top of a 17,000-foot mountain in the middle of the Atacama Desert. Getting the telescope parts there will take six weeks.

Once it’s set up, CLASS will look for “subtle patterns in the cosmic microwave background, or CMB, a relic thermal energy of the hot infant universe more than 13 billion years old,” according to the Hopkins Hub. The telescope’s power means that it will be looking at cosmic radiation from when the universe was merely 380,000 years old–a spring chicken, in terms of astronomical time. In other words, as one of the scientists working on the project says, this telescope is basically “a time machine” enabling us to look back at the infant universe.

These experiments will help test the current hypothesis that the universe began with quantum fluctuations in a space smaller than an atom.



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