AMEC’s telescope looks back in time

AMEC is nearing completion of the Atacama Cosmology Telescope , which will look back in time to study how the universe has evolved since the ‘Big Bang’.


Project management and engineering company AMEC is nearing completion of the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT), which will look back in time to study how the universe has evolved since the ‘Big Bang’.



Testing of the telescope will take place throughout May in Canada. Once successfully completed, ACT will be shipped to the Atacama Desert region in Chile.



Designed to scan a patch of sky millions of times, ACT will detect faint microwaves and then provide a series of images that will be used to show how the structure of the universe has evolved. As more distant microwaves are detected, researchers are able to, in effect, look back in time.



Dr. Mark Devlin, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania, is leading the testing. “Our goal is to look at microwaves in finer resolution and greater sensitivity than has ever been done before,” said Devlin. “This will help determine new things about the universe. Foremost, we will directly test models of the very early stages of the birth and evolution of the universe. We will observe how clusters of galaxies evolved over time. This telescope is the first of this size and is designed specifically to make these measurements.”



ACT’s 6.4 metre reflector makes it one of the world’s largest millimetre-wave telescopes.



ACT will be sited in Atacama Desert’s Cerro Toco mountains at an altitude of 5,200 metres. The region’s high winds and extreme temperature swings presented unique design challenges. A massive bowl-shaped shield will protect the telescope. The entire structure is 12.2 metres high.



“This telescope has a very scientific requirement,” said AMEC’s David Halliday, Vice President Special Projects. “Within two years of the telescope’s operation, scientists should have sufficient data to identify and study some of the most massive structures in the universe giving them greater insight into the ‘Big Bang’ theory. It’s an extremely important piece of equipment and we are thrilled to be part of the team developing it.”



AMEC has also begun working on the design for the world’s largest telescope, the Thirty-Metre Telescope. With the mirror the size of an American football field, it will be housed in a stadium-sized observatory. The project, scheduled for completion in 2015, will provide astronomers with clearer views than any other ground-based optical telescope.