The PASIPHAE (Polar-Areas Stellar-Imaging in Polarization High-Accuracy Experiment) project is a planned polarization survey of stars at high Galactic latitudes, aiming to clear the path towards the detection of the imprint on primordial light of the moment of creation of the Universe. PASIPHAE is an international collaboration between the Crete Astrophysics Group, Caltech in the US, IUCAA in India, the South African Astronomical Observatory, and the University of Oslo in Norway. It is coordinated by Prof. Konstantinos Tassis, IA Affiliated Faculty.
PASIPHAE, named after the Minoan Queen, will measure the polarization of millions of stars at high Galactic latitudes, with combined statistical and systematic accuracy of 0.1%. To achieve this unprecedented accuracy, PASIPHAE will use the WALOP (Wide-Area Linear Optical Polarimeter) instruments, which are novel innovative polarimeters, currently under development at IUCAA, under the leadership of Prof. A.N. Ramaprakash, IA Research Fellow. The WALOPs will build on the technology of RoboPol, expanding its high-accuracy capabilities to a large field of view, and further improving on its sensitivity and systematic uncertainties.
The survey will map concurrently the northern and southern sky, using the Skinakas Observatory 1.3 m telescope in Crete and the South African Astronomical Observatory 1.0 m telescope in Sutherland, South Africa. PASIPHAE will, for the first time, enable us to perform Magnetic Tomography of the Interstellar Medium (a technique developed by our group) on large fractions of the sky. This tomographic mapping can in turn be used to drastically improve the accuracy with which polarized emission from dust (the major foreground in studies of CMB polarization) can be subtracted from CMB data, to allow for much higher sensitivity searches for inflationary B-modes. At the same time, PASIPHAE data will have important applications on the astrophysics of the interstellar medium and star formation, high-energy astrophysics, and stellar astrophysics.
PASIPHAE is supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the European Research Council, the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States, the Infosys Foundation in India, and the South African National Research Foundation (NRF).