NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) spacecraft used to study the cosmic microwave background. Launched in June 2001, the probe has collected microwave radiation from every part of the sky. The data have allowed cosmologists to find that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, and is expanding at a rate of 71 kilometres per second per megaparsec (1Mpc = 3262 light years). The data have also backed up the theory that the universe went through a brief inflation phase, when it expanded far faster that it currently does. MAP lies at the L2 Lagrangian point some 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth on the opposite side from the Sun, pointing away from both.
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