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This Johns Hopkins-built telescope is searching for the cosmic dawn

The CLASS telescope is getting up and running in Chile.

CLASS in Chile. (Photo by Matthew Petroff for CLASS)

A telescope in Chile is getting ready to find some of the oldest light in the universe.
According to JHU Hub, the Cosmology Large Angular Scale Surveyor (CLASS), which was built at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood campus, hit “first light” last week. That means it collected radiation for the first time.

Perched at 17,000 feet above sea level in the Atacama Desert, CLASS will set out to collect information at the early universe. The telescope is designed to look at specific patterns in ancient radiation, known as the cosmic microwave background. While our earthly definition of ancient goes back a few thousands years, these particular cosmic remnants are 13.8 billion years old. By observing those patterns, astronomers think they’ll be able to determine the precise time of the cosmic dawn. That’s the moment when the first stars in the first galaxies formed.
The telescope is still a work in progress, as a second 30-foot-tall tower is being prepared at Homewood right now.
The telescope is an example of the space research happening at Hopkins. Another is the Pluto mission run out of the university’s Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md.
The research can seem like it’s in separate galaxies. That’s why leaders want to get the university’s astronomy stars aligned with a new initiative called Space@Hopkins.
Along with providing a single place to grab space news coming out of the university, officials also hope it will spur collaboration. Plus, a pair of Ph.D. students now get to call themselves “space fellows.”

Companies: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Bio-Rad Laboratories

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