NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Artist's impression of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, launched in November 1989. The satellite will study the structure & spectrum of the microwave background (the cold, faint echo of the radiation emitted during the Big Bang). The radiation was emitted when the universe was a hot fireball and initially had a spectrum characteristic of this temperature. As the universe expanded, the radiation cooled and now has a temperature of only 2.7 degrees Kelvin. Any fine structure found in the microwave background would indicate inhomogeneities in the primaeval fireball. These would have profoundly influenced the large-scale structure of the present universe.
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