Dramatically improving observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) – a faint radiation pervading the whole sky, thought to have been left behind after the Big Bang – will put inflation and other early Universe theories firmly in the dock. In predicting a completely uniform CMB, standard inflation already faces its most stringent test, with rather equivocal confirmation emerging from investigations from the WMAP satellite to date. With the successful launch in May 2009 of the Planck satellite, the world’s most ambitious CMB experiment, this analysis will improve by nearly an order of magnitude within the next few years. CTC members play a leading role within the Planck consortium searching for CMB non-uniformities. This will help in distinguishing between cosmological models.
The statistical properties (higher order correlations) of the primordial perturbations encode the dynamics of the early Universe. Measuring these quantities plays a similar role to that of colliders for particle physics. Given the improving experimental constraints on non-uniformities, there is the potential to make ground-breaking discoveries. There is a need to classify the range of possibilities for general inflation models systematically and to extend consistency conditions, allowing us to define and implement rigorous tests on inflationary scenarios.
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