The Universe Tonight

Feb 5, 2011 6:00pm
Joshua Williams, AMiBA

Joshua Williams

AMiBA: Astronomy on the "Other" Mountain? Those Astronomers Are Everywhere!!!


AMiBA (Array for Microwave Background Anisotropy) is a unique observatory designed to observe the very beginnings of the universe we live in. Having started observations in October of 2006, its purpose is to measure the cosmic microwave background (CMB) as well as the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (SZ) effect in galaxy clusters. Being centered on 94 GHz (3 mm) and being located at an elevation of approximately 3,300m helps to minimize the foreground noise from other radio sources and allows us to take advantage of higher atmospheric transparency. Currently, the array consists of 13 dishes, each 1.2 meters in diameter and is expandable up to 19 dishes.

Having been discovered as recently as 1964 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Labs (both of which went on to earn the 1978 Nobel Prize), still not a lot is known about the CMB. But various instruments are shedding more light on this relic from the big bang. Its very discovery proved to be key in the big bang model of the universe. Precise measurements are critical to cosmology since any proposed model of the universe has to explain this radiation.

In measuring the CMB, the array more specifically measures the anisotropies (directional variations) in both the temperature and polarization of the CMB. In doing so, we hope to learn more about the primordial and early structures of our universe.

This talk will go over the various major parts of the AMiBA observatory, the goals and science behind the observations, the CMB and the SZ effect, as well as other projects that are doing similar observations, and what the future plans for AMiBA might be.


Speaker Biography:

Josh Williams is currently a telescope assistant/operator at the AMiBA observatory on Mauna Loa where he's been for a little more than a year now. He got his B.S. from the University of Hawai'i at Hilo where he majored in astronomy and minored in mathematics and physics. Prior to working for AMiBA, he was an Interpretive Guide for the Mauna Kea Visitor Center where he left behind the "Ice Cream Cone" asterism and simultaneously picked up the highly appropriate (though coincidental) nick name "Ice Cream". His passion is in the budding field of astrobiology and aspires to attend the University of Washington to earn his Ph.D in astrophysics as well as a certificate in astrobiology. Though currently he is very much enjoying working for an observatory concerned with the field of cosmology, which in it's infancies was a very abstract subject, though now with tools like AMiBA, is becoming more and more concrete.
If you look closely enough, you just might see his picture or name somewhere on the walls of the visitor center.

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