Cosmic microwave background and first molecules in the early universe
Observatoire de Paris, LERMA, 75014, Paris, France
2 University of Montpellier II, CNRS UMR 5024, GRAAL CC72, 34000, Montpellier, France
* e-mail: email@example.com
Published online: 12 December 2008
Besides the Hubble expansion of the universe, the main evidence in favor of the big-bang theory was the discovery, by Penzias and Wilson, of the cosmic microwave background (hereafter CMB) radiation. In 1990, the COBE satellite (Cosmic Background Explorer) revealed an accurate black-body behavior with a temperature around 2.7 K. Although the microwave background is very smooth, the COBE satellite did detect small variations—at the level of one part in 100 000—in the temperature of the CMB from place to place in the sky. These ripples are caused by acoustic oscillations in the primordial plasma. While COBE was only sensitive to long-wavelength waves, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP)—with its much higher resolution—reveals that the CMB temperature variations follow the distinctive pattern predicted by cosmological theory. Moreover, the existence of the microwave background allows cosmologists to deduce the conditions present in the early stages of the big bang and, in particular, helps to account for the chemistry of the universe. This report summarizes the latest measurements and studies of the CMB with the new calculations about the formation of primordial molecules. The PLANCK mission—planned to be launched in 2009—is also presented.
© Springer-Verlag / Società Italiana di Fisica, 2009