Nicoletta Krachmalnicoff elected unanimously Chair of the Simons Observatory Theory and Analysis Committee

The astrophysicist from SISSA will take on a crucial role in the international project aiming to detect Cosmological Gravitational Waves.

The Simons Observatory, a system of Telescopes deployed at an altitude of 5000 m in the Atacama desert, in Chile, has just started observations, with “first light” achieved on October 10th.  One of the main goals of the observatory is to  scrutinize the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background in order to find the imprint of Cosmological Gravitational Waves, emitted at the Big Bang. Their discovery would open an unprecedented window into the mysteries of Physics at Planckian energies. 

Through the Astrophysics and Cosmology Group, SISSA has been a Member Institution of this collaboration since its creation, grouping hundreds of scientists in tens of institutions across the globe. 

While the telescope construction is being finalized, the collaboration is now preparing for the next most important phase: the simulation and analysis of data. With this scope, the Theory and Analysis Committee (TAC), the highest body in the collaboration with scientific responsibility, made of 8 selected scientists working in international centers across the collaboration, has indicted elections for chairing the group, and on October 18th, 2023, Nicoletta Krachmalnicoff, tenure track and SO group leader at SISSA, has been unanimously elected for the next term, lasting for two years. 

“I feel strong responsibility in this role for the Simons Observatory  and for SISSA.”, Nicoletta explains. “These will be hard times, as the TAC instructs and coordinates the procedures of the Analysis Working Groups operating throughout the entire collaboration, and the Chair has direct connection to the Simons Foundation which is the main funding source for the experiment.” 

“For accessing the potential signal coming from Cosmic Gravitational Waves, the measurements are particularly challenging.”, Nicoletta continues. “Unlike previous Cosmic Microwave Background observations, the signal we’re targeting comes from the Big Bang directly, and it is very faint. The radiation from astrophysical sources dominates the sky emission, and therefore, exceptional care has to be implemented in understanding how the instruments are influenced by the contaminants, and how to remove them from the CMB polarization component which contains the CGWs, the so-called, B-mode.” Nicoletta will be leading, for SO and representing the School, this extremely delicate and important phase.

“Nicoletta has been chosen because of her outstanding performance for SO, other CMB observations, and international groups, in guiding the investigation in scientific challenges, and her leading attitude in groups and projects. We look very much forward to her guidance as a Chair and the whole TAC in this very crucial phase.”, Carlo Baccigalupi, head of the APC PhD group at SISSA, explains. “SISSA is uniquely set up for participating in these projects, constituting crucial challenges for modern physics.”, Baccigalupi continues. “The agile and small teams made of PhD students, Post-Docs and Staff Members constitute a very effective formula to attract trust from international collaborations, reliability of responsibility, secure visibility to junior members, and promote internationality in job and grant applications. The APC group at SISSA holds direct responsibility in three other most important challenges represented by the Large Scale Structure through the Euclid Satellite, and the future network of CMB detectors from the ground (CMB-Stage IV), and the LiteBIRD Satellite.”

Will we measure Cosmological Gravitational Waves? “We don’t know if we’ll be able to uncover such a fundamental signature of unknown Physics, but will do everything in our hands to achieve  this goal.” Answers Nicoletta. “One of the last papers from the SO collaboration, led by my student Kevin Wolz with first authorship, who’s starting a Post-Doctoral Position in Oxford this Fall, sets the current, still to be studied, scrutinized, tested, improved, pipeline to this goal.”