This image is the detailed, all-sky picture of the infant universe created from seven years of WMAP data. The image reveals 13.7 billion year old temperature fluctuations (shown as color differences) that correspond to the seeds that grew to become the galaxies.
Credit: NASA

The End of How it All Began

In a real sense it began with a simple curve yielding a temperature of 2.7 degrees above absolute zero. The temperature of the Universe, as measured by the COBE satellite, garnering its measurers a Nobel prize. Incontrovertible proof that the Universe expanded from a state of unimaginable density and energy, what some facetiously called the Big Bang. But how, from this unimaginably smooth state, did the present Universe, in all its intricate lumpiness, arise? The answer to this question was the driving force behind the Microwave Anisotropy Probe, renamed in honor of David Todd Wilkinson, a saxophonist and pioneering cosmologist, as WMAP. The job of WMAP was the search for tiny bits of imperfection scattered through the Universe, and it did its job unbelievably well. Its accomplishments are astounding. It provided the most accurate age for the Universe, 13.7 billion years. And it demonstrated that the Universe we know is only 4.6% of the real Universe, the other 95.4% consisting of stuff we don't yet understand or directly observe. WMAP was launched on June 30, 2001. Its science mission has now concluded after 9 years. Job well done.
Published: October 11, 2010

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Thursday, 03-May-2012 14:30:32 EDT