I will discuss how we are collecting the oldest light in the Universe, called the Cosmic Microwave Background, in order to determine what happened in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang. We collect this light with microwave telescopes in the Atacama Desert in Chile. I will discuss a new $40 million project to build the next generation of microwave telescopes in Chile, which will be called the Simons Observatory. This new observatory has the potential to detect ancient gravitational waves that could unlock the mysteries of how galaxies and stars (and we) came to be. The detection of this signal would also unlock the mysteries of how gravity works by providing direct evidence that gravity and quantum mechanics are joined at the highest energies. I will also explain how work at Stony Brook plays a critical role in this research.
Neelima Sehgal is a Cosmologist in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Stony Brook. She studies the Cosmic Microwave Background, which is the oldest light in the Universe, to determine what happened during the first few fractions of a second after the Big Bang. She also studies the Cosmic Microwave Background to discover the properties of neutrinos, dark matter, and dark energy. Neelima is a member of the Atacama Cosmology Telescope and the Simons Observatory Collaborations. She received her B.S. in Physics and Mathematics from Yale University and her PhD in Physics and Astronomy from Rutgers University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford and Princeton Universities before joining the faculty at Stony Brook in 2012.