Frontiers

Picking Up Pieces of the Puzzle

Cosmologist Mark Devlin builds a telescope that floats to the edge of space.
August 2008

Cosmologist Mark Devlin wants to know how the universe got to be the way it is. How did it go from being a “smooth” universe a few hundred-thousand years after its birth to the ordered clumps of galaxies amid vast stretches of empty space that we see today? To find out, he and a team of scientists and graduate students custom built a sophisticated telescope and launched it to the very edge of space on a NASA weather balloon. BLAST, the Balloon-borne Large-Aperture Submillimeter Telescope, floated above the atmosphere taking snapshots of far-off galaxies – thousands of them – that still carry to earth the light of a very young universe. With BLAST’s galactic survey maps, Devlin says, cosmologists, for the first time, have the mass of data that will help them piece together the evolutionary puzzle of the universe.

In this audio slide show, hear Mark Devlin talk about his research while viewing photographs from the BLAST experiment.