Nobel Prize Goes to Scientists Who Helped Confirm the Big Bang
Mather, Smoot Win Nobel Prize for Big Bang Research (Update2)
By Daniel Frykholm
Oct. 3, 2006 (Bloomberg)
U.S. scientists John Mather and George Smoot won the Nobel Prize in physics for research into cosmic microwave background radiation that helped explain the origins of galaxies and stars.
Mather, 60, and Smoot, 61, used measurements from a satellite launched by NASA in 1989 for results that support the Big Bang scenario, the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation said in a statement on its Web site today. ``This year the physics prize is awarded for work that looks back into the infancy of the universe,'' said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize.
Mather, who is senior astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and Smoot, a professor of physics at the University of California, will share the award of 10 million kronor ($1.37 million). Mather coordinated the process of measuring the results from the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, while Smoot was responsible for measuring small differences in the temperature of the radiation.
Under the Big Bang theory, the universe developed from a state of intense heat and the cosmic microwave background radiation is a relic of this earliest phase of the universe's existence. If the theory is correct, the radiation today would have a form called ``blackbody,'' which Mather and Smoot proved from the measurements by the satellite, the academy said.
Their work increased support for the Big Bang theory as it is the only scenario that predicts the kind of cosmic microwave background radiation measured by the satellite, the academy said. ``The results received a standing ovation'' at an astronomy conference, the academy said.
Smoot's measurements also showed there are extremely small differences in the temperature of the radiation, which show how matter in the universe began to form after the Big Bang. ``This was necessary if the galaxies, stars and ultimately life like us were to be able to develop,'' the academy said. . .