JHU Abstract 2014-The Cosmic Microwave Background

The Cosmic Microwave Background

Michael Mistretta (Hereford High School), Jeremy Smith (Hereford High School), Tyler Bradley (Towson High School), Dr. Morris Swartz (Johns Hopkins University)


My research was focused on learning more about the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and the information about the early stages of the universe which it contains. I read through various publications regarding the CMB including those from COBE, WMAP, PLANCK, and BICEP-2 to understand what kind of information that can be gained from analyzing the CMB and how these researchers are using these data to refine various theories about the behavior of our universe. The CMB is the afterglow of the Big Bang, it is essentially a snapshot of the universe as it was immediately following the Big Bang and can provide key insight into how the universe became what it is today. Its discovery alone was predicted in the early 60’s by the early Big Bang theories, and once it was discovered it became the smoking gun for the Big Bang theory. NASA’s COBE satellite later found that temperature of the light emitted from the CMB was, although astonishingly uniform, anisotropic to one part in one hundred thousand. COBE was then followed by more advanced telescopes such as WMAP and PLANCK which measured these anisotropies with much more precision. Researchers believe that these slight temperature variations could be a result of density perturbations in the early universe. Recent discovery of b-mode polarization in the radiation emitted by the CMB, as detected by BICEP-2, is believed to be evidence of gravitational waves in the very early stages of the universe, which could potentially provide insight for a refined theory of Cosmic Inflation. Research of the CMB is essential to understanding various aspects of our universe such as inflation, how galaxies and other celestial bodies were formed, and unlocking some of the mysteries of dark matter and energy.