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The First Detailed Full Sky Picture of the Oldest Light in the Universe.


Full-sky image made from WMAP spacecraft data

The Microwave Sky image from the WMAP Mission
What is this Picture?

The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) team has made the first detailed full-sky map of the oldest light in the universe. It is a "baby picture" of the universe. Colors indicate "warmer" (red) and "cooler" (blue) spots. The oval shape is a projection to display the whole sky; similar to the way the globe of the earth can be projected as an oval.

The microwave light captured in this picture is from 379,000 years after the Big Bang, over 13 billion years ago: the equivalent of taking a picture of an 80-year-old person on the day of their birth.

The Light in Sharp Focus

In 1992, NASA's COBE mission first detected tiny temperature fluctuations (shown as color variations) in the infant universe, a landmark discovery.

Color image of the COBE full-sky map   Color image of the WMAP full-sky map

Out-of-focus black & white image of baby.

Roll
over

Black & white image of baby in sharp focus

The WMAP image brings the COBE picture into sharp focus, similar to bringing the hospital wristband of the baby into readable focus (above right). The new, detailed image provides firm answers to age-old questions.

In the Details

Close-up of the WMAP full-sky image

The data brings into high resolution the seeds that generated the cosmic structure we see today. These patterns are tiny temperature differences within an extraordinarily evenly dispersed microwave light bathing the Universe, which now averages a frigid 2.73 degrees above absolute zero temperature. WMAP resolves slight temperature fluctuations, which vary by only millionths of a degree.

The new data support and strengthen the Big Bang and Inflation Theories. The science data for this mission is stored in a new on-line archive: Legacy Archive for Microwave Background Data Analysis (LAMBDA).

Last updated: Tuesday, 01-25-2005 Skip Additional Sub Section and Site Navigation. Return to page top.


New Details on the Oldest Light in the Universe
THE baby picture.

The First Stars Were Earlier than Expected
The universe's first steps.

The Age of the Universe with a New Accuracy
WMAP results.

The Geometry of the Universe
Open, closed, flat? The results are in!

Results Promote Winning Theories
Some of the most important results: what is not possible.

What is This Map?
Ripples of heat in the sky, and what they mean.

WMAP Data
WMAP's science data is available on-line.

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First Stars

Age

Content/Shape

Winning Theories

Whats This Map?

WMAP Data

Image of baby's readable wrist band