Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE)

COBE

Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE)

The Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite began its mission to map energy leftover from the early Universe – known as cosmic microwave background radiation, or CMB – in 1989.

COBE found very subtle irregularities in the otherwise very uniform CMB, something predicted by theorists. COBE's findings are considered important evidence in support of the Big Bang theory.

The CMB was first discovered in the mid-1960s by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.

Image: An artist's conception of COBE (credit: NASA/COBE Science Team)

Watch and listen to clips from past programmes TV clips [2]

COBE

Introduction

A satellite finds important evidence supporting the Big Bang.

About Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE)

The Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), also referred to as Explorer 66, was a satellite dedicated to cosmology. Its goals were to investigate the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) of the universe and provide measurements that would help shape our understanding of the cosmos.

This work provided evidence that supported the Big Bang theory of the universe: that the CMB was a near-perfect black-body spectrum and that it had very faint anisotropies. Two of COBE's principal investigators, George Smoot and John Mather, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for their work on the project. According to the Nobel Prize committee, "the COBE-project can also be regarded as the starting point for cosmology as a precision science".

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