The first photo of the Cosmic Microwave Background taken by the Planck spacecraft.

Faculty and Staff

Scientific team scoops major awards for work confirming the standard model of cosmology

August 16, 2018

By Diane Mar-Nicolle

SFU physicist Andrei Frolov is one of only a few Canadian faculty members on an international team, called Planck, that has detailed the first definitive measurements of our universe’s properties, including its age, expansion, history and content.

Planck is an elite collaboration between scientists, the European Space Agency, and industry partners.

Over the last few months, this international team received two important awards for its ground-breaking work collecting data from the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). CMB is a relic radiation taken from the moment the universe cooled enough for hydrogen atoms and photons to decouple and go their separate ways.

“Essentially, CMB is a 380,000-year-old baby photo of the universe,” says Frolov, who notes that the Planck team has incrementally improved on this “baby photo” with each new discovery over the past several years.

The European Space Agency's Planck spacecraft.

The Planck satellite’s first glimpse of this “cosmic blueprint” in 2013 enabled the team to determine the age, expansion, history and contents of the universe with exquisite precision.

The Planck Legacy papers are the result of the subsequent accumulation of knowledge and research that the blueprint has been able to provide.

The international Marcel Grossman award recognizes the team’s research achievements, “acknowledging the unique information garnered about the re-ionization of the universe and the distribution and properties of the dust and magnetic fields in our galaxy.”

The Gruber award “honours a leading cosmologist, astronomer, astrophysicist or scientific philosopher for theoretical, analytical, conceptual or observational discoveries leading to fundamental advances in our understanding of the universe.”

Frolov has been a member of the Planck team since 2013. His contribution focused on helping to reconstruct inflationary history, analysing the isotropy and statistics of the primordial cosmological fluctuations and characterizing the interstellar dust polarization.