Speaker: Dr. Jeff McMahon (University of Chicago)
In the last decade a 'standard model' for cosmology has emerged which fits current observations with only a handful of free parameters. While remarkably successful, the physics underlying this model is incomplete since it requires dark energy, dark matter, and inflation, which are not well understood. Improved observations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) will illuminate the underlying physics of these phenomena. Specifically, the ability to observe clusters of galaxies over all redshifts using the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (SZ) effect will allow us to trace the evolution of dark energy through its effect on the growth of large scale structure. Additionally, observations of the polarization of the CMB are sensitive to the the energy scale of inflation through the imprint of primordial gravitational waves. Detecting these signals requires significant improvements in instrumentation. In 2006 we built the South Pole Telescope (SPT) and outfitted it with a powerful 1000 pixel camera optimized for detection of SZ clusters and small-scale CMB temperature anisotropy. This instrument has now collected two years of survey data and we are currently building a new polarization sensitive camera (SPTpol) to be deployed in 2011. In this talk I will describe the telescope and instrumentation, provide an update on current and forthcoming results, and discuss plans for future science with SPT.