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Capturing the Afterglow of the Big Bang (Updated!) - Windows to the Universe

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This computer drawing shows MAP leaving the Sun, Earth and Moon behind as it heads towards the L2 Lagrange point 1.5 million kilometers beyond Earth.
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Courtesy of the MAP Science Team, NASA

Capturing the Afterglow of the Big Bang (Updated!)
News story originally written on July 10, 2001

Some of the best news of the week is that the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) was launched successfully last Saturday! Liftoff on its Delta II rocket occurred on time on June 30, 2001. The MAP teams says they couldn't have asked for a better start to the mission!

There is a radiation that fills the universe, called Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB). CMB radiation is the heat left over from the time after the Big Bang, when the universe was really hot!

Today CMB radiation is very cool; it is only ~2.73 degrees Kelvin. That's just about 3 degrees above absolute zero, the coldest temperature possible. CMB radiation is everywhere!

MAP's job is to map CMB radiation from across the universe. The map it creates will help scientists look back in time so that they might answer questions like these: What happened right after the Big Bang? How were galaxies that we see today formed? Will the universe expand forever or will it collapse? Does the universe have dark matter? What is the shape of the universe?

The MAP probe will make its CMB radiation map from the L2 Lagrange point, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. MAP will reach the L2 point in about 3 months. The probe will take about 18 months to finish a full-sky map of CMB radiation.

Last modified July 13, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF