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Telescopes to probe universe's origin

Jan. 10, 2013 at 4:22 PM   |   Comments

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. physicists working with a massive telescope in Chile say they hope to detect space-time fluctuations produced immediately after the birth of the universe.

A team from the University of California, San Diego, has been awarded a $4.3 million grant to build and install two more telescopes to create a three-telescope combination to be known as the Simons Array, after the Simons Foundation, which provided the funds.

"The Simons Array will inform our knowledge of the universe in a completely new way," physics Professor Brian Keating said in a UCSD release.

The researchers said they will search for fluctuations in space-time, also known as "gravitational waves," thought to have imprinted the "primordial soup" of matter and photons of the Big Bang that later coalesced to become gases, stars and galaxies and all the structures in the universe we now see.

Last year, the first telescope of the Simons Array was set up in Chile's Atacama Desert, one of the highest and driest places on Earth at 17,000 feet above sea level and considered one of the planet's best locations for such a study.

"The Simons Array will have the same or better capabilities as a $1 billion satellite, and with NASA's budget constraints, there are no planned space-based missions for this job," Keating said.

The project is a collaboration between scientists from UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of Colorado, McGill University in Canada and the KEK Laboratory in Japan.

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