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)
A satellite finds important evidence supporting the Big Bang.
Cosmologists try to explain the Universe's uniformity.
Cosmologists have written a series of mathematical equations sometimes referred to as the Standard Model of Cosmology that attempts to describe the Universe as it is today. Working the equations backwards in time has allowed scientists to predict how the Universe started - the Big Bang. However, they've encountered problems along the way. One issue is that the Universe's temperatures are uniform - something at odds with the expected vast temperature variations. This conundrum led particle physicist Alan Guth to develop the inflation theory.
The spacecraft gathers data on the cosmic microwave background radiation.
Three years after its 1989 launch, experts began to understand the data from the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), a satellite studying the cosmic microwave background radiation from the early Universe.
The Cosmic Background Explorer maps the early Universe.
Nobel prize winner Professor George Smoot explains how the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) launched in 1989 and mapped the cosmic microwave background radiation - leftover, cooled down radiation from early in the Universe's history. The most widely accepted age for the Universe is now 13.7 billion years, not 15 billion years as stated in this clip.
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".