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Simons Observatory

Beams of a building under construction stand in a desert under a blue sky.
Simons Observatory lab building under construction, with Licancabur volcano and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in the background.
Credit: Dave Boettger

Telescope Details



Atacama Desert in Chile


Study how the universe began, what it is made of, and how it evolved to its current state. The project will investigate the cosmic microwave background (CMB) — the most ancient light in the universe — to better understand the physics of the Big Bang, the nature of dark energy and dark matter, the properties of neutrinos, and structure formation in the universe.

NIST’s role:

Built and delivered 39 detector arrays with a total of more than 70,000 sensors, plus electronics to efficiently collect all data. 

Significant discoveries:

This observatory is still under construction.

Other interesting facts:

This is the most ambitious of all CMB experiments to date in terms of funding levels and sheer numbers of participants, telescopes, sensors and cosmological questions to be studied. 

Supported by:

Simons Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and University of Michigan 

Operated by:

Collaboration of 35 institutions


Six-sided gold-colored plate with many holes
Prototype NIST sensor array
Credit: S. Duff/NIST
Created September 30, 2021, Updated November 3, 2021