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Astrophsyics

PCOS Science Goals

Precisely measure the cosmological parameters governing the evolution of the universe and test the inflation hypothesis of the Big Bang

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) originated just 380,000 years after the Big Bang, when the Universe was dense, hot, and opaque. As the Universe cooled, the light was decoupled and escape from the matter. We observe that same light today, stretched by the expansion of the universe to a cold 2.7K glow. Observations of the CMB have driven our understanding of the early Universe, and are one of the few probes of the inflationary epoch. Inflation describes the brief period of extraordinary expansion where the Universe went from the atomic scale to visible scales, and where small density fluctuations ultimately led to the large-scale structure—galaxies and clusters of galaxies—that we observe today. Maps of the CMB provide a precise measurement of the geometry of the Universe, and show that it is "flat," governed by Euclidean geometry on cosmic scales. The detailed spatial and statistical properties of CMB maps are consistent with the predictions of inflation. However, the physical process behind inflation remains unknown. New measurements of the polarization properties of the CMB will help uncover this process, which lies at energies and densities beyond standard particle physics, and beyond terrestrial particle accelerators. By searching for a characteristic polarization signal from a background of gravitational waves produced by inflation, we can infer the energy scale of inflation, which may lie at the scale of grand unification of the forces of nature.



PCOS News

Program News and Announcements

1 February 2019
Dr Terri Brandt confirmed as PCOS Chief Scientist.
20 December 2018
LISA Preparatory Science 2018 (LPS) proposals have been selected! »  Full details
17 December 2018
NASA HQ has publicly posted an updated Astrophysics Implementation Plan (AIP), detailing progress made by NASA's Astrophysics Division in implementing the 2010 Decadal recommendations since the previous update in 2016. Please see »  full details
29 November 2018
The National Academies has released updated information about the 2020 Decadal Survey call for Community Science White Papers. They are now due 7 January–19 February 2019. See here for further instructions. Further, it is our pleasure to announce that the President of the National Academy of Sciences Marcia McNutt has appointed Dr. Fiona Harrison and Dr. Robert Kennicutt, Jr. to serve as co-chairs of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey committee.

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