Hunting for Inflation

The BICEP/Keck program aims to discover signatures of cosmic inflation through its imprint on the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The CMB is believed to contain a polarization pattern uniquely sourced by gravitational waves generated during the Universe's early expansion. To this day the theory of inflation lacks direct experimental confirmation. Models predict the existence of B-mode polarization at degree angular scales, and such a detection would be a major step forward in our understanding of physics in the early Universe.

Instruments

The BICEP3 and Keck Array telescopes are run at the South Pole by a collaboration that includes Harvard, Caltech/JPL, Stanford and the University of Minnesota. Keck Array started observing in 2012 with 5 receivers at 150 GHz. Taking advantage of the array's modularity, Keck receivers have since then been converted to operate at different frequencies in order to deliver complementary data for foreground removal. With an order of magnitude more detectors, since 2016 BICEP3 represents the next step up in sensitivity at 95 GHz. Composed of four BICEP3-type receivers, BICEP Array is currently under construction and will feature more than 30,000 detectors over five frequency bands.

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