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Fundamental Physics from the Cosmic Microwave Background

Final Report Summary - FPCMB (Fundamental Physics from the Cosmic Microwave Background)

This ERC project ran from 2011-16. During this time my team extracted cosmological information from new data taken from the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT), and the Planck satellite mission, as well as leading design work for the next generation of microwave telescopes for cosmology. ACT is a 6-meter telescope in Chile that observed the microwave sky with its first-generation camera from 2007-10, and its second generation camera from 2013-15. This ERC project covered the analysis of the full first-generation dataset, completed in 2013, and the initial analysis of the second-generation dataset. The Planck satellite was launched by ESA in 2009, with data taken from 2009-12. This project therefore covered the cosmological analysis of this full Planck data, with major release dates in 2013 and 2015.

The project involved our team of post-docs and students analyzing both ACT and Planck data, in particular developing new methods to remove contamination from extragalactic and Galactic foregrounds: light that obscures the more distant signal we are looking for. One of our new methods produced the most iconic figures showing the cosmological data from the Planck satellite combined with ground-based experimental data.

We also developed optimum ways to describe the cosmological data in order to extract cosmological parameters. In doing so we found that no model fits the current data better than our current ‘concordance’ model, known as LambdaCDM, which is a flat universe filled with baryons, photons, dark matter, neutrinos, and a cosmological constant. We obtained new and stringent limits on the number of neutrino species in the universe, excluding one or more additional species at high confidence.