Cosmic Anniversary: ‘Big Bang Echo’ Discovered 50 Years Ago Today

Two Cosmic Microwave Background anomalies hinted at by the Planck observatory ‘s predecessor, NASA ‘s WMAP, are confirmed in raw high-precision data revealed on March 21, 2013. In this image, the two anomalous regions have been enhanced with crimson and blue sky shadow to make them more intelligibly visible. Humanity ‘s understand of the population took a giant leap forward 50 years ago today. On May 20, 1964, American radio astronomers Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias discovered the cosmic microwave setting radiation ( CMB ), the ancient light that began saturating the population 380,000 years after its creation. And they did sol pretty much by accident.

Bell Labs ‘ Holmdale Horn Antenna in New Jersey picked up an odd buzz phone that came from all parts of the sky at all times. The noise puzzled Wilson and Penzias, who did their best to eliminate all possible sources of hindrance, even removing some pigeons that were nesting in the antenna. [ cosmic background radiation : Big Bang Relic Explained ( Infographic ) ] “ When we first heard that inexplicable ‘hum, ‘ we didn ’ t understand its meaning, and we never dreamed it would be connected to the origins of the universe, ” Penzias said in a statement. “ It wasn ’ metric ton until we exhausted every possible explanation for the phone ‘s origin that we realized we had stumbled upon something large. ” And it was indeed big. Penzias and Wilson had spotted the CMB, the predicted thermal resound of the universe ‘s explosive birth. The landmark detect put the Big Bang theory on solid ground, suggesting that the universe did indeed grow from a bantam source — a single point — about 13.8 billion years ago. The two radio astronomers won the 1978 Nobel Prize in physics for their cultivate, sharing the prize with soviet scientist Pyotr Kapitsa. The Cosmic Microwave Background ( CMB ) radiation tells us the senesce and composition of the universe and raises modern questions that must be answered. See how the Cosmic Microwave Background works and can be detected here ( double citation : Karl Tate, SPACE.com Infographics Artist ) Ancient light The CMB is the oldest light in the universe, dating from the first epoch in which photons could travel freely. shortly after the Big Bang, the cosmos was a seething-hot, opaque obscure of plasma and energy ; things changed about 380,000 years late, when temperatures dropped enough for electrically impersonal atoms to form, and the universe became crystalline.

The CMB is markedly uniform, lending support to the theory of cosmic ostentation, which posits that the universe expanded much faster than the travel rapidly of faint just a few bantam fractions of a second after the Big Bang. “ Why the cosmic microwave backdrop temperature is the lapp at different spots in the sky would be a mystery if it was not for inflation saying, well, our unharmed sky came from this bantam area, ” Charles Bennett of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore told Space.com last year. Bennett is star investigator of NASA ‘s CMB-mapping Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe ( WMAP ), which launched in 2001 and stopped gathering data in 2010. But the CMB besides contains bantam temperature variations, which signify areas of unlike densities. These concentration fluctuations were the seeds that finally gave rise to stars, galaxies and all the early social organization that we observe in the population today, researchers say. Scientists have extracted a great deal of information from the CMB over the years. In March, for model, a team of astronomers announced that they had found evidence of aboriginal gravitational waves in the CMB — a discovery that, if confirmed, provides a long-sought “ smoke gun ” for the hypothesis of cosmic inflation. such discoveries continue to impress Wilson. “ It ‘s amazing to me that people can dig something out that ‘s a tenth of a function per million of the cosmic background, particularly given a fortune of foreground that might get in the means, ” he told Space.com in March. “ And I guess my real think is how much has come out of what can be seen in the cosmic background radiation, ” he added. “ The real signature we saw was that it was absolutely constant, and immediately the bantam variations in it have turned out to hold a wealth of information. ” [ Cosmic Inflation and Gravitational Waves : complete Coverage ] Celebrating the discovery Bell Labs is hosting a fiftieth anniversary celebration today at its Holmdale adeptness, which Penzias and Wilson — who are now 81 and 78 years old, respectively — will attend, as will Bell Labs president and CTO Marcus Weldon. During the event, Bell Labs — the research arm of Paris-based company Alcatel-Lucent — will besides announce the Bell Labs Prize, a competition that gives scientists around the globe the casual to introduce to the worldly concern their ideas in the fields of information and communication technology. The challenge offers a expansive choice of $ 100,000 ; second prize is worth $ 50,000 and third gear $ 25,000. Winners may besides get the casual to develop their ideas at Bell Labs, company representatives said. “ I think it is fitting that nowadays, as we honor and celebrate this incredible, Nobel Prize-winning accomplishment by Arno and Bob, we are launching a program intended to inspire world-changing discoveries and innovations by new researchers that may one sidereal day walk in their footsteps, ” Weldon said.

“ The Bell Labs Prize is intended to recognize innovators with the ability and vision to challenge the common assumptions, and find ways to revolutionize the way we live, workplace, communicate, collaborate and connect with each early and our digital universe, ” he added. The deadline to enter the Bell Labs Prize is July 15. You can learn more about the competition here : www.bell-labs.com/prize Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @ michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @ Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. originally published on Space.com .