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Cosmology and Fundamental Physics with ESPRESSO (CosmoESPRESSO)
COMPETE2020: POCI-01-0145-FEDER-028987 & FCT: PTDC/FIS-AST/28987/2017

Principal Investigator
Carlos J. A. P. Martins

The observational evidence for the acceleration of the universe demonstrates that canonical theories of gravitation and particle physics are incomplete, and possibly incorrect. The three theoretical pillars of modern cosmology (inflation, dark matter and dark energy) all imply the presence of new physics. The universe provides us with a unique laboratory in which to probe fundamental physics, and future progress in theoretical physics will increasingly rely on astronomical observations. The next generation of astrophysical facilities must search for, identify and ultimately characterise this new physics.

ESPRESSO is a fiber-fed, cross-dispersed, high-resolution echelle spectrograph for the combined Coud'e focus of ESO's VLT. It is being built by an international consortium including the proposers, and commissioning is scheduled for late 2017. The combination of the extreme precision, stability and a large telescope makes it the world's most powerful astronomical spectrograph, providing the community with unique new scientific capabilities. The Consortium will use the Guaranteed-Time Observations (GTO), awarded by ESO for two cutting-edge scientific programmes: searching for rocky extra-solar planets in the habitable zone of their host stars, and testing the universality of physical laws by probing the stability of fundamental physical couplings. This project will fund the Portuguese contribution to the latter. Specifically, its key goals and deliverables are:

1. Carry out the fundamental physics part of the ESPRESSO GTO, obtaining the most reliable astrophysical tests of the stability of the fine-structure constant and the proton-to-electron mass ratio, with an improvement in sensitivity will improve by a factor of five.

2. Use our ESPRESSO measurements, together with other laboratory, astrophysical and cosmological data(including those of the UVES Large Program for Testing Fundamental Physics, and new measurements with ALMA) to constrain dynamical dark energy scenarios, and improve constraints on Weak Equivalence Principle violations by at least a factor of 3.

3. Leverage our ESPRESSO experience to carry out detailed post Phase A studies for the ELT-HIRES spectrograph, to which Consortium we also belong. We will carry out detailed simulations of its fundamental physics science cases, including the stability of fundamental couplings, measurements of the CMB temperature, and the redshift drift.

The project is led by the IA-Porto team, with teams from IA-Lisbon and external collaborators (including the ESPRESSO Project Scientist), each contributing at the 15% level of total FTEs. Half of the budget will fund a 3-year experimental spectroscopy research contract, for work on the ESPRESSO data analysis. The team is young (talented students contribute 8 of the 12 FTEs) but experienced, active and very well connected internationally, and our recent work demonstrates our ability to fully exploit the new opportunities afforded by ESPRESSO.

- total investment (investimento total): € 224.279,97
- EU financial support (apoio financeiro da UE): € 185.069,22
- national public financial support (apoio financeiro público nacional): € 39.210,75

1 June 2018
31 May 2022

Funding Institution
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia  Compete 2020  Portugal 2020  FEDER

Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia