22nd June 19:12
$400,000 Gift Brings UC San Diego Closer to Funding Telescope for Unique Look Back at the "Big Bang" (Forwarded)
University Communications Office
University of California-San Diego
Jade Berggren, (858) 822-5309
Judy Piercey, (858) 534-6128
March 21, 2007
$400,000 Gift Brings UC San Diego Closer to Funding Telescope for Unique
Look Back at the "Big Bang"
Proposed "POLARBEAR" telescope will -- for the first time -- use
gravitational waves to allow physicists to better understand how the
By Jade Berggren and Kim McDonald
The University of California, San Diego Division of Physical Sciences has
received a $400,000 gift toward funding a proposed $1 million telescope and
observatory that will allow physicists -- for the first time -- to measure
the "gravitational waves" that emanated from the universe during the first
moments of its creation.
Initial funding for constructing the telescope, known as "POLARBEAR" for
Polarization of Background Radiation, comes from the James B. Ax Family
Foundation with the goal of advancing new areas of scientific research. The
POLARBEAR telescope allow scientists to get a backwards glance to the birth
of the universe -- less than a billionth of a nanosecond second after the
Big Bang -- by capturing an imprint of primordial gravitational waves on 3K
cosmic microwave background radiation.
Pending the completion of funding, the telescope is expected to be built in
2008 at a site east of California's Sierra Nevada mountain range near the
Owens Valley. A team of scientists from UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Colorado is collaborating
on the project. UCSD and UC Berkeley are heading up fundraising efforts for
the telescope, which will be property of the University of California.
The POLARBEAR telescope will be composed of a 3.5 meter diameter aluminum
mirror, which focuses radiation onto an array of 320 microwave-sensitive
detectors capable of detecting the imprint of gravitational waves -- the
minute ripples in space-time predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of
general relativity -- on the cosmic microwave background.
"Einstein's unique insight was that space-time is not a static component of
the universe, but rather, dynamic and influenced by matter and the
propagation of energy," said Brian Keating, Ph.D., an assistant professor of
Physics at UCSD and one of the leaders of the collaboration.
"Gravitational waves are distortions of space-time which propagate at the
speed of light, and can penetrate 'through' matter -- like an x-ray. The
impressions of the waves are captured by the POLARBEAR telescope to give
scientists a unique view back to the universe's beginning."
Until now, astronomers have used electromagnetic radiation, such as light or
microwaves, to probe the Big Bang. NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE)
satellite allowed physicists to see the faint ripples of cosmic microwave
background radiation 400,000 years after the birth of our universe, an
experiment which earned one of Keating's colleagues, George Smoot of UC
Berkeley, the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics. Because gravity is a weaker
force of nature than electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves can
penetrate all matter in the universe.
Keating said that the telescope's detection of gravitational waves in the
first moments of the universe's creation should increase physicists'
understanding of perhaps the most vexing question in all of science: how did
the universe begin?
"The answer to this question will impact countless fields from astrophysics
to high-energy particle physics and beyond. Diverse fields, such as
metaphysics and philosophy will participate in this revolution of our
understanding of the cosmos, its origin and our place in it," Keating added.
Further background on this innovative telescope, its capabilities and other
fundamental questions can be found at
With $600,000 yet to raise for the POLARBEAR telescope and observatory,
those interested in supporting the project may contact Melanie Cruz Walsh in
the UC San Diego Physical Sciences Division by calling (858) 822-3258.
Gifts contribute to the $1 billion fundraising goal of The Campaign for
UCSD: Imagine What's Next.
* POLARBEAR Telescope
* Department of Physics
* The Campaign for UCSD