COBE Satellite Marks 20th Anniversary

November 17, 2009 by Francis Reddy,
COBE Satellite Marks 20th Anniversary

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite rocketed into Earth orbit on Nov. 18, 1989, and quickly revolutionized our understanding of the early cosmos. Developed and built at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., COBE precisely measured and mapped the oldest light in the universe -- the cosmic microwave background.

COBE showed that the radiation's spectrum agrees exactly with predictions based on the Big Bang theory. And COBE's map of slight hot and cold spots within this background let scientists glimpse the roots of cosmic structure we see around us today. In essence, COBE produced the first "baby picture" of the universe.

For these results, COBE scientists John Mather, at Goddard, and George Smoot, at the University of California, Berkeley, shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics. The mission ushered cosmologists into a new era of precision measurements, paving the way for deeper exploration of the microwave background by NASA's ongoing WMAP mission and the European Space Agency's new Planck satellite.

Image Credit: NASA

The cosmic microwave background radiation is a remnant of the . These minute temperature variations (depicted here as varying shades of blue and purple) are linked to slight density variations in the early universe. These variations are believed to have given rise to the structures that populate the universe today: clusters of , as well as vast, empty regions. This image, representing data collected between 1990 and 1992, received much publicity at the time. It was later superseded by a more accurate four-year COBE map.

Provided by JPL/NASA (news : web)

Explore further: ESA's Planck satellite builds on Nobel-prize-winning science

Related Stories

Introducing the 'coolest' spacecraft in the universe

February 9, 2007

The European Space Agency's Planck mission, which will study the conditions present in our Universe shortly after the Big Bang, is reaching an important milestone with the integration of instruments into the satellite at ...

Could the Universe be tied up with cosmic string?

January 18, 2008

A team of physicists and astronomers at the University of Sussex and Imperial College London have uncovered hints that there may be cosmic strings - lines of pure mass-energy - stretching across the entire Universe.

NASA approves construction of satellite to scan galaxies

October 19, 2006

After eight years of study, NASA has approved the construction of an unmanned satellite that will scan the entire sky in infrared light to reveal nearby cool stars, planetary "construction zones" and the brightest galaxies ...

Big Bang's Afterglow Fails an Intergalactic Shadow Test

September 1, 2006

The apparent absence of shadows where shadows were expected to be is raising new questions about the faint glow of microwave radiation once hailed as proof that the universe was created by a "Big Bang."

Recommended for you

Three 'super-Earths' orbiting a cool dwarf star discovered

January 23, 2018

Using NASA's prolonged Kepler mission, known as K2, astronomers have found three new "super-Earth" exoplanets. The newly detected alien worlds orbit the cool dwarf star designated LP415-17. The finding is reported January ...

Scientist proposes new definition of a planet

January 23, 2018

Pluto hogs the spotlight in the continuing scientific debate over what is and what is not a planet, but a less conspicuous argument rages on about the planetary status of massive objects outside our solar system. The dispute ...

Dust storms linked to gas escape from Martian atmosphere

January 23, 2018

Some Mars experts are eager and optimistic for a dust storm this year to grow so grand it darkens skies around the entire Red Planet. This type of phenomenon in the environment of modern Mars could be examined as never before ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.