Optical design of PICO: A concept for a space mission to probe inflation and cosmic origins

Karl Young, Marcelo Alvarez, Nicholas Battaglia, Jamie Bock, Jullian Borrill, David Chuss, Brendan Crill, Jacques Delabrouille, Mark Devlin, Laura Fissel, Raphael Flauger, Daniel Green, Kris Gorski, Shaul Hanany, Richard Hills, Johannes Hubmayr, Bradley Johnson, William Jones, Lloyd Knox, Alan KogutCharles Lawrence, Tomotake Matsumura, James McGuire, Jeff McMahon, Roger O'Brient, Clement Pryke, Brian M. Sutin, Xin Zhi Tan, Amy Trangsrud, Qi Wen, Gianfranco De Zotti

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

8 Scopus citations


The Probe of Inflation and Cosmic Origins (PICO) is a probe-class mission concept currently under study by NASA. PICO will probe the physics of the Big Bang and the energy scale of inflation, constrain the sum of neutrino masses, measure the growth of structures in the universe, and constrain its reionization history by making full sky maps of the cosmic microwave background with sensitivity 80 times higher than the Planck space mission. With bands at 21-799 GHz and arcmin resolution at the highest frequencies, PICO will make polarization maps of Galactic synchrotron and dust emission to observe the role of magnetic fields in Milky Way's evolution and star formation. We discuss PICO's optical system, focal plane, and give current best case noise estimates. The optical design is a two-reflector optimized open-Dragone design with a cold aperture stop. It gives a diffraction limited field of view (DLFOV) with throughput of 910 cm2sr at 21 GHz. The large 82 square degree DLFOV hosts 12,996 transition edge sensor bolometers distributed in 21 frequency bands and maintained at 0.1 K. We use focal plane technologies that are currently implemented on operating CMB instruments including three-color multi-chroic pixels and multiplexed readouts. To our knowledge, this is the first use of an open-Dragone design for mm-wave astrophysical observations, and the only monolithic CMB instrument to have such a broad frequency coverage. With current best case estimate polarization depth of 0.65 μKCMB-arcmin over the entire sky, PICO is the most sensitive CMB instrument designed to date.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2018
Subtitle of host publicationOptical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave
EditorsGiovanni G. Fazio, Howard A. MacEwen, Makenzie Lystrup
ISBN (Print)9781510619494
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2018: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave - Austin, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2018Jun 15 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2018: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Cosmic microwave background
  • Cosmology
  • Instrument design
  • Mission concept
  • Mm-wave optics
  • Polarimetry
  • Satel- lite


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