What is the cosmic microwave background radiation and how does it work

(ORDO NEWS) — The Cosmic Microwave Background is the oldest and most distant radiation that we can see in the entire Universe.

It was formed shortly after the Big Bang, which is considered the beginning of the universe. But let’s talk about how it works.

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is light, but we cannot see it with the naked eye. The type of light we can see is called visible light, but there are other types of light.

Microwaves are a type of light, as are X-rays, which we use to check for broken bones, and radio waves, which we use to listen to music in the car.

CMB was originally a very high-energy X-ray light. Over time, it lost energy and became ordinary microwave radiation.

In fact, CMF is light from the beginning of the universe. At this point in time, the universe was very hot and dense and full of particles called electrons and protons.

These particles have an electrical charge and when light reaches one of the particles, the electrical charge sends it in the other direction. This stopped the light from traveling very far.

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mage of the CMF from the Planck telescope (colors show the temperature of different spots of the CMF)

Cooling the Universe

Over time, the universe expanded and cooled down. Subsequently, as soon as the universe became cool enough, electrons and protons began to bind together and form hydrogen atoms.

These atoms do not have an electrical charge, so they do not affect light in the same way that electrons and protons do. Light could pass through them and on through the universe, as if it were completely empty.

The universe was cooling at the same rate everywhere, so this process took place everywhere at the same time. Suddenly, light could travel very far and quickly across the entire universe at the same time.

This light is still traveling today, and that is what is now reaching Earth in the form of the Cosmic Microwave Background.

The light of the CMF has always been in the Universe, but it could not propagate far until the first atoms were formed. In fact, we know that it began to spread 380,000 years after the Big Bang.

It sounds like a long time between the Big Bang and the start of the CMB, but since the Universe is almost 14 billion years old, this happened when the Universe was very young.

The CMF “tells” us a lot of important information about what the Universe was like long ago. According to the Big Bang theory, the early universe was very hot and full of radiation.

As the universe expanded and cooled, this radiation was eventually released. It even has the temperature provided by the Big Bang theory, and therefore we can say that the CMB is proof that the Big Bang theory is correct.

Accidental discovery

The cosmic microwave background was discovered by accident. Two American scientists, Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias, used a microwave telescope and constantly saw the same additional signal wherever they pointed the antenna.

They thought the extra signal might be caused by a malfunction in their telescope, or even pigeon poop on their antenna.

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15-meter Golmdel horn antenna, which was used to detect CMF

Subsequently, they realized that they were the first people ever to discover the CMF, the existence of which was assumed by the Big Bang theory. They received the Nobel Prize for their discovery.

Since then, people have sent many telescopes into space to get the best images of the CMF. Looking at the oldest light in the universe will help us understand how everything we see today came into being.


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