Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (wmap)

NASA Explorer mission launched in June 2001 to map the temperature fluctuations of the CMB radiation with much higher resolution, sensitivity, and accuracy than the earlier COBE mission (see http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/). WMAP is named in honor of David Wilkinson of Princeton University, my freshman physics professor and (incidentally) a world-renown cosmologist and WMAP team member who died in September 2002.

Image source: http://en.wikivisual.com/index.php/WMAP.

WMAP’s main science goals are to: (1) improve the precision of the measurement of various cosmological parameters; (2) shed light on the process by which galaxies and other structures formed in the universe; and (3) more accurately deduce the epoch at which the first objects formed in the universe. WMAP produced a map of the CMBR, the temperature of which ranges from 2.7251 to 2.7249 K. This map shows the state of the universe about 380,000 years after the Big Bang with the tiny variations reflecting the earliest lumps and bumps in the universe — seeds for galaxies and stars. WMAP data indicate that the universe is made of 4% ordinary matter, 23% of dark matter, and 73% of dark energy), and that the age of the universe is 13.7 ± 0.2 Ga. Lastly, the data also reveal that the first generation of stars ignited only 200 million years after the Big Bang, much earlier than many scientists had expected.

Image source: http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/media/080997/index.html.

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