Secrets of the Cosmic Microwave Background

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Hook up an old antenna to your TV and scan between channels. The static buzz you hear is mostly due to the ambient radio produced by our noisy pre-galactic civilization. But around one percent of that buzz is something very different – it’s the cosmic microwave background radiation – the remnant of the heat-glow released when the hot, dense early universe became transparent for the first time. It sound likes random static, but that buzz contains an incredible wealth of hidden information. It holds the secrets of the universe’s fiery beginning,

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It’s not surprising that scientists have spent half a century and built multiple satellites to unlock the mysteries of the cosmic microwave background. We’ve delved into its nature before – from its formation 380,000 years after the Big Bang, to its 1964 discovery by Penzias and Wilson with the Holmdel Horn Antenna, to its increasingly accurate mapping across the sky with ever-better satellites. It all culminated in this – the Planck satellite’s map of the CMB.


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