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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

8 Dec 2017
NASA welcomes applications for Program Scientists Jan 2-31 via USAJOBS. »  Details [PDF]
1 Dec 2017
The 2017 PCOS Newsletter [PDF], focusing on PCOS's high energy particle and γ-ray astrophysics science themes, is now available! In addition to news from current and future missions and studies, it contains more than 20 articles on the current and future landscape of topics spanning from cosmic rays, neutrinos, and dark matter to γ-rays, gravitational waves, and multimessenger astronomy.
17 Oct 2017
NASA has selected NASA LISA Study Team members to help prepare the LISA Decadal survey science case; identified Study Office members, including a core team who will work closely with the study team members; and nominated representatives to ESA's LISA Science Study Team.

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