The National Science Foundation has awarded $52.66 million to upgrade the Simons Observatory, a set of telescopes high in the Chilean desert that looks for traces of light from the earliest epochs of the universe.
A team led by the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and the University of Chicago will undertake a major infrastructure upgrade to the Simons Observatory, including doubling the scientific capabilities of the camera, solar panels to power the observatory in an environmentally sustainable manner, and support for a data analysis pipeline.
Located in the high Atacama Desert in northern Chile at an altitude of 5,200 meters, Simons Observatory provides scientists an unprecedented window into the nature of fundamental physical processes that have governed the origin and evolution of the universe since the dawn of time itself.
The observatory uses an array of four telescopes, which will have 100,000 detectors total, to detect the cosmic microwave background—light still traveling across the universe from the aftermath of the Big Bang.
Advanced Simons Observatory
The five-year project will result in the Advanced Simons Observatory. The upgrades will double the mapping speed of the main telescope—the six-meter Large Aperture Telescope receiver—and offer improvements to instrumentation, efficiency and sustainability, and community-focused data sharing.
After the upgrade is complete, the observatory will begin a five-year observing session (through 2033), which will produce a landmark large-scale survey of the sky with six-color imaging in the millimeter wavelength spectrum of light. This will enable precise measurements of a diverse set of phenomena: probing the dawn of the universe, what it looks like today, and tracking phenomena that are changing as astronomers watch, such as star flares or gamma-ray bursts.