QUEST at DASI, also known under its acronym QUaD was a bolometric receiver or telescope used for detecting cosmic microwave background (CMB) polarisation at the South Pole. Scientific experiment started in May 2005 but after three observation sessions, the QUaD became inoperative.

The Importance of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB)

The cosmic microwave background (CMB), sometimes also referred to as cosmic microwave background radiation and relic radiation, is left-over radiation from the time of the so-called recombination, that is formation of a bound state of electrons and protons forming electrically neutral atoms of hydrogen immediately after the Big Bang. It is extremely important for cosmology as it is the oldest light in the universe. However, it is not visible with a classic telescope. Instead, the space between stars appears black.

The CMB light becomes visible only if the space is observed with an adequately sensitive radio telescope. In this case, it is possible to see a slight glow or light which is virtually everywhere and isn’t related with stars or other glowing astronomical objects.

Discovery of the CMB

The CMB was discovered only in the 1960s by American astronomers Arno Allan Penzias (1933-) and Robert Woodrow Wilson (1936-). In 1964, they built a microwave receiver system which was to be used for radio astronomy observations. However, their receiver system detected an unexpected radio noise. After excluding a series of possible explanations, the two astronomers turned to the respected American physicist Robert H. Dicke (1916-1997) who implied that the noise could be the relic radiation as theorised by some cosmologists. Further studies and investigation of the mysterious noise confirmed Dicke’s explanation which in turn confirmed the Big Bang theory. For their discovery of the CMB, Penzias and Wilson were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1978.

National Space Foundation and Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council

The QUaD was financed by National Space Foundation (NSF) and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC). The NSF is a U.S. government agency which funds non-medical science and engineering research projects. The PPARC was a British research council which was created in 1994 as the Science and Engineering Research Council split up into multiple research councils. It existed until 2007 when it became a part of the newly created Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).