New telescope in Chile will provide new insights into the origins of the universe

Wide-field telescope in Chile’s mountains will allow scientists to gain new insights into star and planet formation as well as the Big Bang / Canadian partners in consortium to receive 4.9 million USD in funding

High up in the mountains of the Chilean Atacama Desert, at an altitude of 5,600 metres, is one of the driest places on Earth: Cerro Chajnantor. With the help of the new Fred Young Submillimeter Telescope (FYST), astronomers hope to gain new insights into the formation of stars and galaxies in our universe. Researchers from the University of Cologne, led by Professor Dr Jürgen Stutzki, are participating in the international scientific consortium. The project is now on a secure footing thanks to the funding of 4.9 million USD the Canadian consortium partners have secured from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The wide-field FYST telescope makes observations in the submillimetre radiation range, which is easily distorted by water vapour in the Earth’s atmosphere, requiring a high and dry site. Its innovative wide-angle design makes it the optimal instrument to measure light from the earliest moments after the Big Bang.

Unlike visible light, submillimetre radiation typically comes from dust and molecular clouds surrounding distant supermassive black holes and star-rich galaxies, as well as from regions where stars and planetary systems are forming. Therefore, in addition to studying these regions, FYST observations are expected to provide crucial information about the Big Bang by explaining observations of the cosmic microwave background, the oldest light in the universe.

The Fred Young Submillimeter Telescope is part of the CCAT-prime project, an international collaboration of Cornell University, the Canadian Atacama Telescope Consortium led by the University of Waterloo and including Dalhousie University, the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Toronto, as well as a German consortium of the University of Cologne, the University of Bonn, and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. The Canadian team, led by Michel Fich, a professor at the University of Waterloo, will receive 4.9 million USD from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to build the telescope.

’We are glad to see that our long-term partners in CCAT-prime are finally on secure financial grounds’, said Jürgen Stutzki of the Institute of Astrophysics at the University of Cologne and head of the German CCAT-prime consortium. ’Their expertise in several of the scientific areas of CCAT-prime has been and will continue to be a welcome and necessary enrichment for the project. With this telescope, we will gain insights into star formation as the driving force behind the evolution of the universe - from the early days of the first stars to the universe today.’


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