We present a new upper limit on cosmic microwave background (CMB) circular polarization from the 2015 flight of Spider, a balloon-borne telescope designed to search for B-mode linear polarization from cosmic inflation. Although the level of circular polarization in the CMB is predicted to be very small, experimental limits provide a valuable test of the underlying models. By exploiting the nonzero circular-to-linear polarization coupling of the half-wave plate polarization modulators, data from Spider's 2015 Antarctic flight provide a constraint on Stokes V at 95 and 150 GHz in the range 33 < ℓ < 307. No other limits exist over this full range of angular scales, and Spider improves on the previous limit by several orders of magnitude, providing 95% C.L. constraints on ℓ( ℓ+1)Ct δV/2π ranging from 141 to 255 μK2 at 150 GHz for a thermal CMB spectrum. As linear CMB polarization experiments become increasingly sensitive, the techniques described in this paper can be applied to obtain even stronger constraints on circular polarization.
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- cosmic background radiation