Cosmic Frontier


Cosmic Frontier researchers seek to understand the nature of the overwhelming majority of the contents of the universe by searching for evidence of mysterious dark matter and dark energy.

The Office of High Energy Physics supports the following experiments and facilities at the cosmic frontier.

Jump to: Dark Energy Experiments | Dark Matter Experiments | Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) Experiments | Cosmic-ray and Gamma-ray Experiments

Dark Energy Experiments

Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS)External link

at the Apache Point Observatory, New Mexico

The Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey is improving our understanding of dark energy by studying the large-scale spatial distribution of over a million galaxies and cosmic bodies in the universe. The structure of the universe has evolved from acoustic vibrations in the hot, dense matter of the early universe to the great distances between galaxies today. Mapping this evolution allows researchers to understand the way dark energy has influenced the growth of the universe over time.

Dark Energy Survey (DES)External link

at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, Chile

The Dark Energy Survey is investigating the origin of the accelerating universe and helping uncover the nature of dark energy. The ongoing 5 year survey of a large portion of the southern sky will catalogue over 300 million galaxies out to vast distances and observe about 3,000 supernovae to improve precision measurements of the 14-billion-year history of cosmic expansion.

Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI)External link

at the Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona

The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument is the next-generation spectroscopic survey that will improve our understanding of the way dark energy has influenced the expansion of the universe by creating the largest three dimensional map of the universe ever made. Using 5,000 robotically positioned optical fibers, DESI will obtain optical spectra for tens of millions of galaxies and quasars spanning the nearby universe out to 12-billion light years away.

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)External link

at Cerro Pachón, Chile

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is the next-generation imaging survey that is custom designed to characterize the properties of dark energy and map out dark matter over huge volumes of the universe. The LSST will produce an unprecedented wide-field astronomical survey of tens of billions of stars and galaxies in our dynamic universe using an 8.4-meter telescope to map the entire visible sky once every few nights.

Dark Matter Experiments

Axion Dark Matter eXperiment-Generation 2 (ADMX-G2)External link

at the University of Washington in Seattle

The Axion Dark-Matter eXperiment-Generation 2 aims to definitively discover particles called axions that could constitute dark matter. ADMX-G2 searches for evidence of axions converting into microwave radiation by using a sensitive, ultra-cold detector embedded in the strong magnetic field of a superconducting magnet.

Large Underground Xenon (LUX)External link

at Sanford Underground Research Facility, South Dakota

The Large Underground Xenon experiment aims to directly detect galactic dark matter in a deep underground laboratory located under the Black Hills of South Dakota. LUX uses highly-sensitive photomultiplier tubes in an effort to detect the flash of electroluminescence produced by an interaction between dark matter and atomic nuclei inside a container of liquefied, ultra-pure xenon.

LUX-Zeplin (LZ)External link

at Sanford Underground Research Facility, South Dakota

LUX-Zeplin is a second-generation dark matter experiment that will use 7 tons of liquified xenon to search for faint interactions between galactic dark matter and regular matter. The experiment will be located nearly 1 mile underground in the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, South Dakota.

Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (SuperCDMS – Soudan)External link

at Soudan Underground Laboratory, Minnesota

The SuperCDMS underground experiment aims to discover dark matter by measuring the recoil energy imparted to an atom due to collisions with dark matter. Thin superconducting films monitor the activity in germanium crystal detectors for evidence of energy received from a dark matter interaction.

Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search – SNOLab (SuperCDMS – SNOLab)External link

at Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Laboratory, Sudbury, Canada

The next-generation SuperCDMS experiment will extend the sensitivity of the experiment to dark matter particle masses below that of the proton improving detector response to ultra-low energy interactions. SuperCDMS-SNOLab will operate in the deepest underground laboratory in North America to provide additional shielding from high-energy cosmic ray particles in an extremely clean environment.

Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) Experiments

South Pole Telescope-polarization (SPTpol)External link

at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station

The South Pole Telescope-polarization (SPTpol) experiment searches for signs of the early moment of rapid cosmic expansion that may be embedded in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background light. SPTpol uses the 10-meter diameter South Pole Telescope to conduct a large area, high sensitivity survey of the southern sky to search for this signature of cosmic inflation.

South Pole Telescope-3rd Generation (SPT-3G)External link

at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station

The South Pole Telescope-3rd Generation experiment will significantly advance the search for the signature of early cosmic inflation in the cosmic microwave background. The improved light polarization detectors mounted on the 10-meter South Pole Telescope will also improve cosmic constraints on the sum of the three neutrino masses.

Cosmic-ray and Gamma-ray Experiments

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02)External link

on the International Space Station

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is a space-based experiment that searches for dark matter, cosmic antimatter, and signs of new physics while performing precision measurements of high-energy cosmic particles emanating from stars and galaxies millions of light years beyond the Milky Way.

Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (FGST) – Large Area Telescope (LAT)External link

Space-based Telescope

Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope uses two onboard instruments, the Large Area Telescope and the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor, in an effort to determine the cosmic origin of very high energy particles of light, called gamma-rays, and search for signs of new physics. From its location in Earth’s orbit, the LAT performs a wide-field scan of the sky with high detail every three hours so that it can measure the energy and direction of short bursts of gamma-rays.

High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) ObservatoryExternal link

at the Sierra Negra volcano, Puebla, Mexico

The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Observatory studies the nature and origin of high-energy cosmic particles using an array of 300 water-based detectors on the ground. With an effective field of view that covers 15% of the sky, HAWC performs a scan of two-thirds of the entire sky each day.

Pierre Auger ObservatoryExternal link

at Pampa Amarilla, Argentina

Pierre Auger Observatory seeks to improve our understanding of the highest energy particles in the universe, which shower down on Earth in the form of cosmic rays. The Auger Observatory combines ultraviolet light detectors, to measure the flashes of light cosmic rays produce high in the atmosphere, with water tanks on the ground, to observe the spray of particles a cosmic ray produces when it interacts with the air.

Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS)External link

at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, Arizona

The Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System studies particles of light, with energies up to four times higher than the Large Hadron Collider, which reach Earth from natural cosmic sources. VERITAS uses an array of four telescopes to measure the light produced in the atmosphere when these high-energy particles of cosmic light collide with Earth.

Last modified: 3/5/2016 8:06:57 PM