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The severe conditions in the Antarctic make it an ideal location for such observations. The extremely cold atmosphere holds very little water vapour, a gas that blocks radio waves from space. Plus, the South Pole is located on a 2800-metre-high plateau, so the atmosphere is alpine thin.
Cosmologists use those observations to study large-scale structure in the cosmos. They are also sifting through the CMB for a signal from when the Universe was less than a second old. The signal—referred to as primordial or gravitational-wave B-modes—would be evidence that the Universe experienced a period of accelerated expansion known as inflation.
At the Dunlap Institute, they—along with graduate student Matthew Young—work on SPT-3G, the third-generation camera for the Antarctic telescope. Improvements to the instrument’s detectors will increase its sensitivity by an order of magnitude and enable ultra-sensitive studies of the polarization of the microwave sky.
In 2017, Natoli will return to the South Pole to help install the new camera on the SPT.