365 Days of Astronomy

Encore: CMB: Origin of the Universe

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Date: December 23rd, 2012

Podcaster: Thomas Hofstätter

Organisation: :: The Hidden Space Project :: www.hidden-space.at.tf

Description: There have been several efforts for searching for the age of the earth and the universe. Most of them were absolutely wrong and based on very few information. The Cosmic Microwave Background is one way to measure the exact age of the universe and to observe the big bang.

Bio: Born in 1993 near Vienna, Austria, Europe. Upper High School with focus on Computer Science.Interested in extreme small and extreme big, devious and uninvestigated things. My main aim is to bring astronomy to public and to establish secular interest in astronomy, physics and mathematics. Host of :: The Hidden Space Project :: at http://hidden-space.at.tf.


Hello and welcome to this episode of 365 Days of Astronomy. My name is Thomas Hofstätter and I am the hoster of :: The Hidden Space Project :: at www.hidden-space.at.tf.

[Leon:] And I’m Leon Dombroski from the state of Connecticut in the United States.

There have been several efforts for searching for the age of the earth and the universe. Most of them were absolutely wrong and based on very few information. The CMB or Cosmic Microwave Background radiation is one way to measure the exact age of the universe and to observe the big bang. Indeed, no one knew the age of the universe exactly before Edwin Powell Hubble discovered the general expansion of the universe in 1923 when he observed that farther galaxies are moving away from us much faster than nearer ones.

[Leon:] Since then, our knowledge of the beginning of the universe has been improved in big steps. The Law of Hubble says that the expansion of the universe is acceleration with a constant factor. This fact lets us suppose that there has been a beginning of the universe which is estimated to be 13.75 ± 0.17 billion years. This beginning is now generally known as the “Big Bang” in which all the matter of the universe has been formed.

The Cosmic Microwave Background radiation – CMB – is the second evidence for the truth of the Big Bang model. This evidence is given by the fact that in the beginning, the universe was nothing but so-called quarks gluon plasma, which means that there were no protons, electrons or neutrons – the stuff (nearly) everything is made out of.

[Leon:] Instead, the first protons formed later on but the temperature was still too hot for protons and electrons to go together to form atoms. But the universe expanded quite fast and therefore cooled down to a temperature that allowed protons to “catch” electrons and combine to Hydrogen atoms – the simplest form of atoms. During this process, the universe became transparent and allowed light particles – so-called Photons – to move. – It was light!

This light can be measured today as the faint CMB radiation because the wavelength has been stretched through the Doppler shift which means that the light in infrared and visible light has been stretched to the radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum. That’s the reason for the sky to be nearly absolutely dark in the optical part of the spectrum.

[Leon:] In 1964, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were the first to detect a faint glow at the radio antennas of the Bell Laboratories. At first, they supposed it to be triggered by bird droppings and cleaned the antennas. Later on, when the glow didn’t disappear, a paper published in 1948 by George Gamow and Ralph Alpher called their attention because they had predicted the radiation earlier. Penzias and Wilson got the Nobel Price for their detection in 1978.

Over time, there were more and more evidence for the CMB to be an indicator of the age of the universe. It has a temperature of 2.726C above absolute zero and has been mapped by three major telescopes right now. The first one was the Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite (COBE), which had a quite low resolution. The next better one was the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which supported scientists with the most precise data until the beginning of 2011.

[Leon:] This year, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced date of the brand-new Planck Space Telescope to be released within the next months. Planck supplies the most precise data ever and possibly allows scientists to improve their knowledge of the beginning of the universe.

George Gamow himself never really has been honoured for his work although he had laid the foundation for the observation of the big bang. He died in 1968. Ralph Alpher was honoured with the National Medal for Science in 2005. He died in 2007.

That’s it for today. I hope, you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, write me an email to hidden-space (at) gmx (dot) at or visit me at my website at www.hidden-space.at.tf.

Thanks for listening and clear-skies!
[Leon:] Good bye for now!


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365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the New Media Working Group of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. Until tomorrow…goodbye.