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BICEP and KECK Array

Four cylinders emerge from a circular structure inside a large dish, with a snowy landscape behind.
BICEP array of four interconnected BICEP3 telescopes. 
Credit: Nathan Precup

Telescope Details



Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station 


Measure the cosmic microwave background (CMB) to search for signs of the Big Bang, the early inflation of the universe.

NIST’s role:

Provided chips and electronics to amplify signals and assemble them into a sequential time stream.

Significant discoveries:

Set the most stringent upper limits on the amplitude of gravity waves produced in the earliest moments of the universe, creating the deepest maps of the CMB.

Other interesting facts:

The South Pole is one of the best spots on Earth for microwave astronomy. At an altitude of more than 2,743 meters (9,000 feet), there’s little atmosphere above to disrupt incoming light from space. The thin air is extremely cold and dry, further minimizing atmospheric distortions.

Supported by:

National Science Foundation

Team members:

California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Minnesota, NIST, University of British Columbia, University of Chicago, University of Toronto and University of Wales Cardiff 


A person wearing purple gloves holds a circular reflective plate with square electronic chips at the center.
BICEP2 camera using NIST SQUID chips
Credit: Anthony Turner/JPL
Created October 4, 2021, Updated September 6, 2022