According to most present theories, the universe originated 12-15 billion years ago in the Big Bang. About 300 000 years after, the universe became transparent in the so-called recombination era. Before that time, a dense mixture of ionised gas and radiation was present in every part of the universe but because of the free electrons, the radiation was continuously scattered.
In the recombination era, electrons and protons combined to form the first atoms, and the radiation could freely stream. This radiation has survived to the present time and is called the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). As the CMB radiation originated in a very early epoch of the history of the cosmos, observing it can provide invaluable information about the physical processes, which took place during the birth of the universe.
This project aims at developing statistical and mathematical methods to exploit the information about the early universe present in observations of the CMB. To achieve this, small deviations from a Gaussian distribution of temperature fluctuations in the CMB radiation will be exploited. In particular, the project aims at developing these data analyses methods for the European Planck satellite experiment, which is scheduled for launch in 2007.
Its high sensitivity to the CMB could bring about a revolution in the field of high-energy physics and cosmology. The field of CMB research has been dominated historically by American experiments, and European researchers have had the possibility to analyse the data only after it has been released.
Now that a European experiment is being prepared, it is crucial to keep scientists in Europe so that a critical mass can be reached, enabling full exploitation of the huge amount of cosmological data, which is expected to arrive after the launch of the Planck satellite.
This will be of utmost importance for increasing the European competitiveness in the field of cosmology and high-energy physics.
Call for proposal
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