The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, or WMAP, was launched by NASA in 2001 and stationed 1.5 million kilometers outside the Earth’s orbit. The instrument scans the sky every six months to create a “microwave map” of the universe. This allows cosmologists to study the origins and history of the universe. Although there is some controversy regarding the validity of the data gathered from this process, it has produced some breakthrough revelations about how scientists have been perceiving the universe.
The maps that are made by WMAP allow scientists to see the microwaves. This information reveals how temperature fluctuations across the universe. This is important because it proves that “stars, galaxies and other large-scale structures grew from density perturbations in the early universe.” However, according to Gerrit Verschuur, a physicist from the University of Memphis, the microwaves are caused by hydrogen atoms and are not the existing remains of the big bang.
Yet, this is not a completely credible accusation about the study. Scientists have already measured the margin of error produced by the hydrogen atoms. According to WMAP, about 4% of the universe is “normal material.” This is material that can be studied. Dark matter and dark energy make up the rest of the universe. This is matter that has an unknown origin. These are the parts of the universe that can give cosmologists the answers that we have always wanted to know.
WMAP’s biggest discovery was finding a “cold spot.” This is an important find because it is, “according to one study, associated with a giant void today may result from an exotic, long sought structure called a cosmic defect.” This is something that happens in crystallization. It indicates that there was a change in states of matter. Cosmologists hope that by studying these defects, they will find the one primordial state of matter that the four/five types have come from, a theory that they have been speculating for some time.(3)
With the theories that have arisen over recent years, the information provided by WMAP is important for what cosmologists want to study. There is always controversy when it comes to scientific discovery. This is good because it forces the scientists who are doing the study to back up the information that they find. This probe has been a gift to cosmologists. It is the basis that will open many doors for scientists to find more answers in there quest to discover the origins of the universe.
(1) Chaisson, Eric, Astronomy Today 5th Edition Pearson 2001. P 737
(2) Cartwright, Joe “Analysis confronts model of universe’s formation” PhysicsWorld.com Nov 16, 2007 http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/31828
(3) “Cosmic anomaly could point to ultimate realities” WorldScience.com Oct 25, 2007