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hiphop-elements.com • View topic - a mission to study the oldest light in the universe

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PostPosted: 06/30/01 11:49:00 AM 
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Friday June 29 4:47 PM ET
Spacecraft to Study Oldest Light
By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - A NASA (news - web sites) spacecraft is set for launch this weekend on a mission to study the oldest light in the universe: the afterglow of the Big Bang.

``We're going to launch a mission that will take the ultimate baby picture,'' said Alan Bunner, a NASA science director.

Liftoff is set for Saturday afternoon. Thunderstorms, however, could force a delay.

Astronomers hope the full-sky pictures will tell them the precise age, content, shape and, of particular interest to Earth's inhabitants, fate of the universe.

Scientists believe that the universe began in a cataclysmic explosion called the Big Bang anywhere from 10 billion to 17 billion years ago, and that the universe has been expanding ever since.

The $95 million observatory, the Microwave Anisotropy Probe, will provide a picture of the universe as it looked roughly 400,000 years after the Big Bang. That is comparable to the first half-day of a human's life, said Charles Bennett, the NASA scientist in charge of the mission.

This so-called fossil light shows up as microwaves because the expansion of the universe has stretched the wavelengths.

``This background glow is a precious relic of the early history and, indeed, the architecture of the universe,'' Bunner said. ``We want to extract as many clues as we can from it.''

MAP will make its observations 1 million miles from Earth, on the side of the planet opposite from the sun. This vantage point will provide an unobstructed view of deep space, free of any interference from the Earth and sun - crucial since MAP will be studying microwave radiation that is more than 1 billion times fainter than what is emitted by the Earth and sun.

``If you want to make really, really accurate and precision measurements, you have to get away from the Earth and away from that thing which is effectively a blast furnace compared to the tiny signals that you're trying to measure,'' Bennett said.

It will take three months for MAP to reach its destination, using the moon's gravity to catapult it toward its destination. MAP will circle a point in space for two years, taking temperature measurements. It is designed to measure the temperature to a stunning accuracy of one-millionth of a degree.

MAP, in many ways, is the most sensitive spacecraft ever built, according to scientists. The light to be studied is so faint that the spacecraft must be extraordinarily quiet, without any temperature or electrical variations. Even slight changes could contaminate the measurements.

To guard against this, MAP's single science instrument will be shaded by the solar-panel blanket. In addition, radiators will keep the instrument at a constant 300 degrees below zero.

The $145 million mission is a partnership between NASA and Princeton University. The spacecraft should have flown last November but was delayed in order to replace suspect electronic parts.

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PostPosted: 07/04/01 04:36:00 AM 
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are you sure its the afterglow of the big bang? i saw a documentry the other day, and there are supposed to be thousands of flashes from deep space (billions of light years away) of intense bursts of radiation.. i thought the reason why they want to measure the afterglow (because hardly any evidence is left of the cataclysmic explosion; it is also sucked into the resultant black hole) was to measure the size of the collapsing star + the amount of energy expended.. i didnt think that these afterglows were anything to do with the big bang, apart from the fact that these flashes are the next biggest thing to the big bang - in astronomy there is only one big bang, but there are thousands of these flashes.. isnt the big bang calculated by using the red shift? i dunno, but want to know more!
peace


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