Tomorrow is Here

Cosmic Background Radio Waves Mystery

by on Feb.05, 2009, under Deep Space

Artist's impression of the ARCADE experiment.


Scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have discovered an unexpected cosmic background radio noise. The team led by Alan Kogut, have been examining data from a balloon-borne instrument named the Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission (ARCADE).

ARCADE viewed about 7 percent of the sky. The observed region is coloured on this all-sky radio map. The plane of our galaxy runs across the centre.

“The universe really threw us a curve,” Kogut says. “Instead of the faint signal we hoped to find, here was this booming noise six times louder than anyone had predicted.” The source of this noise is unknown.

ARCADE was launched in July 2006 and flew to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere. Here it searched for signs of the first stars formed about 13 billion years ago. It found a cosmic puzzle.

“This is what makes science so exciting,” says Michael Seiffert, a team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “You start out on a path to measure something — in this case, the heat from the very first stars — but run into something else entirely, something unexplained.”

Map of the background radio waves in the sky,

Background Radio Waves

Image Credits: NASA/ARCADE/Roen Kelly

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