We are in the era of “Precision Cosmology.” In many cases, this precision is earned through creating and analyzing vast data sets obtained by surveys to obtain statistically significant, i.e. precise, results. UChicago was one of the founding members of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), one of the first major sky surveys. Observations and analysis of this survey was ongoing at the KICP’s founding and the science naturally made its way into the KICP’s research portfolio; survey science has been a part of the KICP since its founding.
Following the KICP’s work with the SDSS, KICP members conceived and helped to develop the next major astronomical optical survey, the Dark Energy Survey, or DES. KICP scientists were involved in every aspect of DES, helping to create the survey strategy, designing and building the camera used for the survey (the DECam), observing, and analyzing the data. DES took observations for 6 years beginning in 2012 and analysis of the data is still a major focus of the KICP’s survey science efforts.
DES’ survey footprint was designed to overlap that of another KICP led survey project, the South Pole Telescope -Sunyaev-Zel’dovich (SPT-SZ) survey. This survey observed the millimeter and sub-millimeter sky, i.e. the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) looking for the SZ decrement. This methodology ensured an unbiased sample of massive galaxy clusters and resulted in a catalog that is still widely used. By combining the optical results from DES and microwave results SPT-SZ many important discoveries continue to be made.
As the analysis of DES’ data is completed, the KICP is playing a major role in the next generation of survey’s: LSST in the optical and CMB-S4 in microwave. Using techniques developed and honed with DES and SPT-SZ, KICP scientists are planning the next leap in cosmological precision using these two survey’s that will come online in the upcoming decade.