A detailed view of the Cosmic Microwave Background from WMAP, compared to the original view from the COBE satellite.
Click on image for full size
NASA/WMAP Science Team
The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
In the 1960's a startling discovery was made by accident. A pair of
scientists at Bell Laboratories detected some annoying background
noise using a special low noise antenna. The strange thing about the
noise was that it was coming from every direction and did not seem to
vary in intensity at all. They had discovered the Cosmic Microwave
This radiation fills the entire Universe and is no stronger or weaker
in any direction. It has only tiny fluctuations that were only
detected by the very sensitive space craft the Cosmic Background
Explorer, COBE. This radiation is believed to be a clue to the
Universe's brilliant beginning, known as the Big Bang.
More recently, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) team has made a
more detailed full-sky map of this oldest light in the universe. The WMAP image
brings the COBE picture into sharp focus, and provides firm answers to age-old
questions. WMAP resolves slight temperature fluctuations, which vary by only
a few millionths of a degree. These new data support and strengthen the Big Bang
and Inflation Theories.
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