Monday, January 4, 2010

Radiation Echo

Radiation Echo

Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, two physicists at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, discovered that the earth is bathed in a faint glow of radiation. For this they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1978. The measurements taken by Penzias and Wilson demonstrated that the earth could not possibly be the source of this radiation glow. Their data indicated that they had found radiation left over from the initial explosion of the beginning of the universe, commonly refereed to as the Big Bang.

To help us visualize the radiation glow of a past event, think of what we see when we turn off a television set in a dark room. The television continues to glow (radiate) even after the source of power (electrons) has been cut off. The glow on the television tube is the radiation echo that was caused by electron beams bombarding the screen while the power was on.

Although they won the Nobel Prize, there were skeptics who resisted the idea of a beginning and wanted to discredit what they found, calling into question the accuracy of the data. However, within a few years cynics were silenced by another discovery that was celebrated as one of the most, if not the most, significant in the history of cosmology.

On November 18, 1989 a satellite name COBE was successfully launched into space with instruments aboard capable of measuring the radiation echo left behind from the Big Bang- if indeed it had actually happened. COBE was designed to measure the intensity of the radiation and its overall shape in order to determine what produced it.

In April of 1992 the final summation of COBE’s data was made public and hailed as unprecedented –even referred to as the Holy Grail of cosmology. George Smoot, University of California astrophysicist, said, “if your religious, its like looking at God.” The COBE mission successfully mapped out a picture of the cosmic background radiation caused by the initial explosion of the universe. Stephen Hawking called this discovery “the most important discovery of the century, if not all time. The most convincing aspect of this background radiation is the fact that it had the exact pattern and wavelength for the light and heat of an explosion calculated to be of the magnitude of the Big Bang. So I submit this observational evidence as Exhibit A in support of a theory of origin that affirms that the universe had a beginning.

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