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Published April 15, 2000 | Published
Journal Article Open

Polarization pursuers' guide


We calculate the detectability of the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) as a function of the sky coverage, angular resolution, and instrumental sensitivity for a hypothetical experiment. We consider the gradient component of the polarization from density perturbations (scalar modes) and the curl component from gravitational waves (tensor modes). We show that the amplitude (and thus the detectability) of the polarization from density perturbations is roughly the same in any model as long as the model fits the big-bang-nucleosynthesis (BBN) baryon density and degree-scale anisotropy measurements. The degree-scale polarization is smaller (and accordingly more difficult to detect) if the baryon density is higher. We show that the sensitivity to the polarization from density perturbations and gravitational waves is improved (by a factor of 30) in a fixed-time experiment with a deeper survey of a smaller region of sky.

Additional Information

© 2000 The American Physical Society Received 17 September 1999; published 1 March 2000 We thank L. Knox for providing the updated CMB data, and S. Hanany, A.T. Lee and the whole MAXIMA team for inspiring some of the work described herein. This work was supported at Columbia by the DoE Outstanding Junior Investigator Program, DEFG02-92-ER 40699, NASA NAG5-3091, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and at Berkeley by NAG5-6552 and NSF KDI grant 9872979.

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