The Simons Observatory: Cryogenic half wave plate rotation mechanism for the small aperture telescopes

K. Yamada, B. Bixler, Y. Sakurai, P. C. Ashton, J. Sugiyama, K. Arnold, J. Begin, L. Corbett, S. Day-Weiss, N. Galitzki, C. A. Hill, B. R. Johnson, B. Jost, A. Kusaka, B. J. Koopman, J. Lashner, A. T. Lee, A. Mangu, H. Nishino, L. A. PageM. J. Randall, D. Sasaki, X. Song, J. Spisak, T. Tsan, Y. Wang, P. A. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We present the requirements, design, and evaluation of the cryogenic continuously rotating half-wave plate (CHWP) for the Simons Observatory (SO). SO is a cosmic microwave background polarization experiment at Parque Astronómico de Atacama in northern Chile that covers a wide range of angular scales using both small ( ⌀ 0.42 m) and large ( ⌀ 6 m) aperture telescopes. In particular, the small aperture telescopes (SATs) focus on large angular scales for primordial B-mode polarization. To this end, the SATs employ a CHWP to modulate the polarization of the incident light at 8 Hz, suppressing atmospheric 1/f noise and mitigating systematic uncertainties that would otherwise arise due to the differential response of detectors sensitive to orthogonal polarizations. The CHWP consists of a 505 mm diameter achromatic sapphire HWP and a cryogenic rotation mechanism, both of which are cooled down to ∼50 K to reduce detector thermal loading. Under normal operation, the HWP is suspended by a superconducting magnetic bearing and rotates with a constant 2 Hz frequency, controlled by an electromagnetic synchronous motor. We find that the number of superconductors and the number of magnets that make up the superconducting magnetic bearing are important design parameters, especially for the rotation mechanism’s vibration performance. The rotation angle is detected through an angular encoder with a noise level of 0.07 μrad s . During a cooldown process, the rotor is held in place by a grip-and-release mechanism that serves as both an alignment device and a thermal path. In this paper, we provide an overview of the SO SAT CHWP: its requirements, hardware design, and laboratory performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number024504
JournalReview of Scientific Instruments
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Instrumentation


Dive into the research topics of 'The Simons Observatory: Cryogenic half wave plate rotation mechanism for the small aperture telescopes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this