COBE scientists share Nobel Prize

Two of the scientists that headed up the team behind the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite have been named as the winners of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics. The astrophysicists - John Mather (Goddard Space Flight Centre) and George Smoot (Univ California at Berkeley) - both worked on the mission which was the first to confirm the temperature of the cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the big bang. I've previously written about the CMB, and how you can even detect a little of it in your own living room, so I won't repeat myself here.

Their measurements showed that this primordial radiation, which has been cooling since a time around 300,000 years after the big bang, now has a temperature of 2.7 Kelvin or -270.5 Celcius! Not only did COBE detect this very cool temperature, but it was able to detect miniscule changes in that temperature - we're talking about 100,000th of a degree - when looking in different directions. It was a staggering result when it was announced back in the early 1990s. Hey, it still is even though we now have WMAP and in the future we should have Planck which do (or will do) even more accurate measurements of this. COBE was the experiment that lead the way. My congratulations to both the winners and the rest of the COBE team.

As it happens, there is an interview about the Cosmic Microwave Background (MP3 - 10.7MB) including COBE and WMAP on the October edition of the Jodcast (shameless plug).

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Tuesday 03rd Oct 2006 (16:40 BST) | Permalink
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