South Pole Telescope

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Overview

The South Pole Telescope is a 10 meter diameter telescope designed to observe from the microwave to submillimeter part of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is located at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica and opened in 2007 to replace the Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope at the same location. The South Pole Telescope has the primary mission of measuring the faint signatures of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation while also using the CMB’s interaction with ionized gas to detect galaxy clusters and explore dark energy.

The South Pole Telescope is located on a very cold, dry plateau of the Antarctic region and therefore is elevated above most of the water vapor that typically obstructs Earth-based observing in the submillimeter range. This, along with the very long Antarctic nights (from Feb. to Oct), makes the South Pole Telescope situated in a perfect place to make important observations relating to the cosmic microwave background.

In 2012, the SPT polarization (STPpol) camera was installed on the telescope that is able to measure the polarization of incident light. It consists of 780 polarization-sensitive pixels that are divided between observing 90 GHz and 150 GHz. This camera is designed to measure a component of the polarized cosmic microwave background with the purpose of probing the physics of the universe during its earliest points and with the highest energy scales.

The South Pole Telescope is a collaboration between a number of North American institutions, including the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation.