by Morgan Kelly, Princeton University Office of Communications
Assembled or taken apart, SPIDER exhibits such size and complexity that it’s hard to believe how William Jones, a Princeton University assistant professor of physics, so easily accepts that the instrument will likely never be seen again in one piece. Then again, the arduous trip awaiting the enormous orb — which will ascend far above Antarctica to capture images of the early universe’s remnants — leaves little room to hope for its safe return.
Constructed primarily in Princeton’s Jadwin Hall, SPIDER is a stratospheric spacecraft that in December will begin a 20-day orbit in Earth’s stratosphere at an altitude of roughly 110,000 feet. During that period, SPIDER’s six large cameras will look for the pattern, or polarization, of gravitational waves produced by the fluctuation of energy and density that resulted from the Big Bang.