List of cosmic microwave background experiments

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A comparison of the sensitivity of WMAP with COBE and Penzias and Wilson's telescope. Simulated data.

There have been a variety of experiments to measure the Cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation anisotropies and polarization since its first observation in 1964 by Penzias and Wilson. These include a mix of ground-, balloon- and space-based receivers. The most notable of these are COBE, which first detected the temperature anisotropies of the CMB, and showed that it had a black body spectrum; DASI, which first detected the polarization signal from the CMB; CBI that made high-resolution observations and obtained the first E-mode polarization spectrum, WMAP, and the Planck spacecraft, which has produced the highest resolution all-sky map to-date of both the temperature anisotropies and polarization signals, as well as various ground-based experiments primarily intended to investigate small-scale anisotropies and trying to detect the polarization caused by gravitational waves in the early universe.

The design of cosmic microwave background experiments is a very challenging task. The greatest problems are the receivers, the telescope optics and the atmosphere. Many improved microwave amplifier technologies have been designed for microwave background applications. Some technologies used are HEMT, MMIC, SIS and bolometers. Experiments generally use elaborate cryogenic systems to keep the amplifiers cool. Often, experiments are interferometers which only measure the spatial fluctuations in signals on the sky, and are insensitive to the average 2.7 K background.

Another problem is the 1/f noise intrinsic to all detectors. Usually the experimental scan strategy is designed to minimize the effect of such noise. To minimize side lobes, microwave optics usually utilize elaborate lenses and feed horns. Finally, the atmosphere is an issue because water absorbs microwave radiation (a fact utilized in the operation of microwave ovens), it is rather difficult to observe the microwave background with ground-based instruments. CMB research therefore makes increasing use of air and space-borne experiments. Ground-based observations are usually made from dry, high altitude locations such as the Chilean Andes and the South Pole.

The list below consists of a partial list of past, current and planned CMB experiments. The name, start and end years of each experiment are given, followed by the basis of the experiment—whether space, balloon or ground based—and the location where appropriate. The frequency and amplifier technologies used are given, as is the main targets of the experiments.

Image Name Start End Basis Location Frequency (GHz) Detector technology Targets References
Advanced Cosmic Microwave Explorer (ACME)
1988 1996 Ground 26–35; 38–45 HEMT Temperature anisotropies [1]
Antarctic Plateau Anisotropy Chasing Experiment (APACHE) 1995 1996 Ground Antarctic 100, 150, 250 Bolometer Temperature anisotropies [1]
Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission (ARCADE) 2001 Balloon 3, 5, 7, 10, 30, 90 HEMT CMB Spectrum [1]
Archeops Archeops 1999 2002 Balloon 143, 217, 353, 545 Bolometer Measured large and intermediate scale with improved precision at the larger scales. [1]
Arcminute Cosmology Bolometer Array Receiver (ACBAR) 2001 Ground 150, 219, 274 Bolometer Temperature anisotropies [1]
AMI Arcminute Microkelvin Imager (AMI) 2005 Ground UK: Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory 12-18 Interferometer SZ effect, Temperature anisotropies [1]
ARGO 1988, 1990, 1993 1993 Balloon 150-600 Bolometer [1]
AMiBA Array for Microwave Background Anisotropy (AMiBA) 2002 Ground Hawaii: Mauna Loa 86-102 Interferometer/MMIC SZ effect; Polarization [1][2][3]
ABS Atacama B-Mode Search (ABS) 2012 Ground Chile: Atacama Desert 150 Bolometer Polarization [1]
ACT Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) 2007 Ground Chile: Atacama Desert 145, 225, 265 Bolometer Temperature anisotropies [1]
APEX Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) 2005 Ground 150, 217 Bolometer Temperature anisotropies; SZ effect [1]
ATCA Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) 1991 1997 Ground 8.7 HEMT [1]
Background Emission Anisotropy Scanning Telescope (BEAST) 2000 Balloon, Ground 25-35; 38-45 HEMT A ground single dish CMB observatory at the University of California's White Mountain Peak Research station. [1]
Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP) 2006 2008 Ground South Pole 100, 150 Bolometer Will measure large scale polarization with improved precision. [1]
Balloon-borne Anisotropy Measurement (BAM) 1995 1998 Balloon UBC Balloon Expt 110-250 Spectrometer Used differential Fourier Transform Spectrometer to measure degree scale anisotropy [1]
Balloon-borne Radiometers for Sky Polarisation Observations (BaR-SPoRT) Future Balloon 32, 90 Polarizer / OMT [1]
Berkeley-Illinois-Maryland Association (BIMA) 1986 2004 Ground 70-116; 210-270 SIS [1]
BOOMERanG BOOMERanG experiment 1997 2003 Balloon Long-duration balloon above Antarctica 90-420 Bolometer Measured intermediate scale fluctuations with improved precision. [1]
B-mode RAdiation INterferometer (BRAIN) Never Ground Dome-C, Antarctica
Clover Never Ground 97, 150, 230 Bolometer Will measure the small scale fluctuations with improved precision, and the B-mode polarization. [1]
Cobra 1982 1990 Sounding Rocket University of British Columbia 15-800 Bolometers/ FTS Measured spectrum of CMB [1]
Cosmic Anisotropy Polarization Mapper (CAPMAP) 2002 Ground 40, 90 MMIC/HEMT [1]
Cosmic Anisotropy Telescope (CAT) 1994 1997 Ground Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory 13-17 Interferometer / HEMT Measured the very small scale fluctuations in small regions of the sky. [1]
CBI Cosmic Background Imager (CBI) 2002 2008 Ground Llano de Chajnantor Observatory, Chile 26-36 HEMT Measured the very small scale fluctuations with improved precision in small regions of the sky and polarization of CMB. [1]
CLASS Experiment Site Rendering Feb 2014 Cosmology Large Angular Scale Surveyor (CLASS) 2015 - Ground Llano de Chajnantor Observatory, Chile 40, 90, 150, 220 TES Bolometer B-mode polarization signal at multipoles from 2 to 100
COSMOSOMAS 1998 Ground Teide Observatory, Tenerife, Spain 10-18 HEMT Circular scanning experiments for CMB and foregrounds in Tenerife. [1]
COBE Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) 1989 1993 Space Earth orbit Temperature anisotropies [1]
Cosmological Gene 1999 Ground 0.6 to 32 HEMT [1]
Degree Angular Scale Interferometer (DASI) 1999 2003 Ground 26-36 HEMT A temperature and polarization telescope at the South Pole. [1]
The E and B Experiment (EBEX) Future Balloon Antarctica 150-450 Bolometer Detection of the inflationary gravitational-wave background (IGB) signal is a primary goal of the EBEX experiment [1]
Far Infra-Red Survey (FIRS) 1989 1989 Balloon 170-680 Bolometer [1]
KU-band Polarization IDentifier (KUPID) 2003 Ground 12-18 HEMT [1]
Medium Scale Anisotropy Measurement (MSAM) 1992 1997 Balloon 150-650 Bolometer [1]
MAXIMA Millimeter Anisotropy eXperiment IMaging Array (MAXIMA) 1995, 1998, 1999 1999 Balloon Near Palestine, Texas 150-420 Bolometer Measured intermediate scale fluctuations with improved precision. [1]
Millimeter Interferometer (MINT) 2001 2002 Ground Cerro Toco, Chile 145 SIS [4]
Millimeter-Wave Bolometric Interferometer (MBI-B) Future Ground 90 Bolometer [1]
Mobile Anisotropy Telescope (MAT) 1997, 1998 1998 Ground 30-140 HEMT / SIS [1]
Polarization Observations of Large Angular Regions (POLAR) 2000 2000 Ground 26-46 HEMT [1]
Polarbear POLARBEAR 2011 Ground Chajnantor plateau (Chile) 150 Antenna-coupled TES CMB Polarization. Primordial and lensed B-modes. [1]
Polatron Never Ground 100 Bolometer [1]
Princeton I, Q, and U Experiment (PIQUE) 2002 2002 Balloon 90 Bolometer [1]
Python 1992 1997 Ground 30-90 HEMT / Bolometer [1]
QMAP 1996 1996 Ground 30-140 HEMT / SIS [1]
QUaD QUaD 2005 2007 Ground South Pole 100, 150 Bolometer Measured intermediate scale polarization with improved precision. [1]
Qubic Future Ground 97, 150, 230 Bolometer Will measure the B-mode polarization on intermediate scale.
Q/U Imaging ExperimenT (QUIET) 2008 Ground Llano de Chajnantor Observatory, Chile 40, 90 HEMT [1]
RELIKT-1 1983 1984 Space Earth orbit Temperature anisotropies [1]
Saskatoon experiment 1993 1995 Ground Saskatchewan 26-46 HEMT [1]
Sky Polarization Observatory (SPOrt) Future Space International Space Station Polarization [1]
South Pole Telescope 2006 Ground South Pole Will measure the small scale fluctuations and polarization. [1]
SPIDER 2011 Balloon 90, 150, 220 Bolometer Will measure very large scale polarization.
SZA Sunyaev-Zeldovich Array (SZA) 2004 2008 Ground Owens Valley Radio Observatory 26-36; 85-115 Interferometer Produced sensitive CMB anisotropy constraints at l ~ 4000, measured the SZ effect in 100s of galaxy clusters. Now part of CARMA [1]
Sunyaev-Zeldovich Infrared Experiment (SuZIE) 1996 Ground 150, 220, 350 Bolometer SZ effect [1]
Tenerife Experiment 1984 2000 Ground Tenerife 10, 15, 33 HEMT [1]
TopHat 2002 Balloon 150-720 Bolometer [1]
Very Small Array 2002 2008 Ground 26-36 Interferometer / HEMT Measured intermediate and small scale fluctuations with improved precision in small regions of the sky. [1]
WMAP Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) 2001 2010 Space Lagrange 2 23-94 HEMT Temperature anisotropies; Polarization [1]
Planck 2009 2013 Space Lagrange 2 30-857 HEMT / Bolometer Polarization; Temperature anisotropies; Foregrounds [1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba "LAMBDA — CMB Experiment Sites". 18 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  2. ^ Ho, Paul; et al. (2008). "The Yuan-Tseh Lee Array for Microwave Background Anisotropy". arXiv:0810.1871. Bibcode:2009ApJ...694.1610H. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/694/2/1610. 
  3. ^ Wu, Jiun-Huei Proty; et al. (2008). "AMiBA Observations, Data Analysis and Results for Sunyaev-Zel'dovich Effects". arXiv:0810.1015. Bibcode:2008arXiv0810.1015W. 
  4. ^ Fowler; et al. (2005). "CMB Observations with a Compact Heterogeneous 150 GHz Interferometer in Chile". arXiv:astro-ph/0403137. Bibcode:2005ApJS..156....1F. doi:10.1086/426393.