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Why study the Cosmic Microwave Background?

The CMB is markedly uniform, lending support to the theory of cosmic inflation, which posits that the universe expanded much faster than the speed of light just a few tiny fractions of a second after the Big Bang. But the CMB also contains tiny temperature variations, which signify areas of different densities.


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These density fluctuations were the seeds that eventually gave rise to stars, galaxies and all the other structure that we observe in the universe today, researchers say. Scientists have extracted a great deal of information from the CMB over the years.

The expanding Universe - Revision 6 - Higher Physics - BBC Bitesize

During the event, Bell Labs — the research arm of Paris-based company Alcatel-Lucent — will also announce the Bell Labs Prize, a competition that gives scientists around the globe the chance to introduce to the world their ideas in the fields of information and communications technology. Winners may also get the chance to develop their ideas at Bell Labs, company representatives said.

The deadline to enter the Bell Labs Prize is July Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community space.

The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation

In this image, the two anomalous regions have been enhanced with red and blue shading to make them more clearly visible. This is known as the epoch of recombination , and it is at this time that photons were finally able to escape the fog of the early Universe and travel freely.


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The data from COBE match the theoretical blackbody curve so exactly that it is impossible to distinguish the data from the curve. In particular, Big Bang theory predicts certain characteristics for the radiation left over from the birth of the Universe, all of which are confirmed by the CMB :. In particular, once we remove the dipole that arises due to our motion in the Universe, the CMB is incredibly uniform across the sky, varying by no more than one part in ten thousand.

2009: The 3K cosmic background radiation (Wilson)

However, this is not possible given standard Big Bang theory, the age of the Universe, and the finite speed of light. A period of inflation is also necessary so that regions of the early Universe are close enough to thermally equalise. The red line in the figure on the left shows that according to Big Bang theory, the Universe had a radius of more than 10 metres at 10 seconds after the Big Bang. Big Bang theory therefore makes it impossible for the whole Universe to have equalised its temperature at these early times, as not all the Universe was in communication.

In everyday life we cannot receive information beyond our horizon, so this is known as the horizon problem.