A new high-tech telescope has been launched at the observatory in Alto Chorrillos, near San Antonio de Los Cobres, in the Argentine province of Salta.
The ceremony was presided over by Science Minister Daniel Filmus. Also present were National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) Chief Adriana Serquis, and National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) Chief Ana Franchi.
Named Qubic, the device will seek to delve into what happened in those first fractions of a second after the Big Bang to trace the origin of the Universe, it was reported. Over 130 scientists from six countries and 23 laboratories worked on the Qubic (Q&U Bolometric Interferometer for Cosmology) project, an experimental cosmology undertaking designed to measure polarization properties of the cosmic radiation background, which could reveal the presence of gravitational waves produced in the early stages of the big bang.
It is the result of a collaboration between researchers and engineers in France, Italy, Argentina, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. The instrument was developed in France at APC (Paris) between 2008 and 2018 and tested in the same laboratory between 2019 and 2020.
The mission is to observe the microwave background radiation, the fossil remnant of the big bang to try to discover what happened before the moment when photons started to travel the universe freely.
The telescope is a novel instrument design, intended to probe what is called the physics of the primordial universe, that is, what happened a few fractions of a second after the first moments of the universe, which is believed to have left traces in the cosmic microwave background radiation.
At 4,980 meters above sea level, the Salta altiplano is an ideal place to place a telescope of this style for its dry climate. The same applies to the powerful ALMA radio telescope on the Chilean side not far away.
Antarctica was also said to be a good setting but was ruled out due to logistics hindrances.
Scientists also plan to launch the Llama astronomy project in northern Argentina. The joint venture with Brazil will seek to install and operate a radio observatory capable of making observations at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths.
Qubic is enclosed in a cylindrical casing or cryostat, 1.8 m high and 1.6 m in diameter, which protects it and maintains it at -269°C. It is open to the sky through a 45-centimeter diameter window of rigid high-density polyethylene, transparent to the microwave radiation that the experiment seeks to measure. The instrument examines space in detail at two frequencies: 150 and 220GHz.