The Greatest Discovery (COBE, 1992)

l "unbelievably important... They have found the Holy Grail of cosmology" Michael Turner (University of Chicago)
l "It is the discovery of the century, if not all time" Stephen Hawking (Cambridge University, UK)
l "What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe. It’s like looking at God." George Smoot (UC Berkeley - COBE project leader)

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COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) was a satellite that measured the temperature of the radiation left over from the Big Bang. This background heat was expected to be present from the tremendous energy released as a result of the Big Bang explosion. The temperature had been measured many years before and was found to be ~3°K wherever anybody looked. However, in order for galaxies to have formed, it was required, according to the theory, that there would be small variations of temperature on the order of one part in 10,000. None of our previous instruments were sensitive enough to measure this small variation, until COBE. The COBE satellite found the expected variation in temperature and mapped it, providing a startling confirmation of the Hot Big Bang model. These results have largely silenced critics of the Big Bang, who were hoping to get rid of the “problem” of an initial beginning to the universe.
Last Modified October 4, 2004


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