Date: 25-Apr-92 16:38 EDT Subj: Big Bang-Quotes +quot;If you're religious, it's like looki

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Date: 25-Apr-92 16:38 EDT Subj: Big Bang-Quotes "If you're religious, it's like looking at God." -- Research team leader George Smoot, an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley. ------ "We have observed what we believe are the largest and most ancient structures in the universe." -- George Smoot. ------ "If they are right, it is a very big deal." -- Joseph Silk, a professor of astronomy and physics at UC-Berkeley. ------ "They have found the Holy Grail of cosmology." -- Michael Turner, a University of Chicago physicist. ------ "It tells us how the universe developed from an almost featureless explosion to something that's been broken up into huge clusters of galaxies and huge empty spaces." -- John Mather, scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. ------ "What we have found solves a major mystery, revealing for the first time the primeval seeds that developed into the modern universe." -- John Mather. ------ "If the research is confirmed, it's one of the major discoveries of the century. In fact, it's one of the major discoveries of science." -- Physicist Joel Primack of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Date: 25-Apr-92 16:38 EDT Subj: Big Bang By LEE SIEGEL AP Science Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A spacecraft has discovered the largest and oldest structures in the universe, wispy clouds that show how creation's "big bang" led to formation of stars and galaxies, scientists said Thursday. "If you're religious, it's like looking at God," said research team leader George Smoot, an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley. The discovery was made by NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite during its $400 million mission to study the universe's origins. Researchers say more than 300 million measurements by the spacecraft answer a question that has long vexed scientists: How did matter that was uniformly spread out in the newborn universe start clumping together to produce stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies? If the research is confirmed, "it's one of the major discoveries of the century. In fact, it's one of the major discoveries of science," said physicist Joel Primack of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Smoot and his team presented the findings at an American Physical Society meeting in Washington, D.C. NASA also issued an announcement. "We have observed what we believe are the largest and most ancient structures in the universe," extremely thin clouds or ripples that represent the earliest stages of matter starting to clump together in the newborn universe, Smoot said during a Washington news conference. He said the clouds were formed only about 300,000 years after the big bang, the primordial blast scientists believe created the universe 15 billion years ago. The largest clouds stretch across two-thirds of the known universe, or 59 billion trillion miles, Smoot said. That's roughly 120 million billion roundtrips between Earth and the moon. "If they are right, it is a very big deal," said Joseph Silk, a professor of astronomy and physics at UC-Berkeley. He said it would answers nagging doubts about the big bang theory. "This is unbelievably important," said Michael Turner, a University of Chicago physicist. "The significance of this cannot be overstated. They have found the Holy Grail of cosmology. ... If it is indeed correct, this certainly would have to be considered for a Nobel Prize." The discovery also supports the theory that up to 90 percent of the universe is made of invisible "dark matter" that scientists haven't yet been able to identify, Smoot said. The big bang theory gained crucial support with the 1964 discovery of cosmic background microwave radiation, the big bang's "afterglow." But the radiation was "smooth," which meant matter was uniformly distributed through the newborn universe. The Earth-orbiting COBE satellite, launched on an unmanned rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1989, detected incredibly tiny temperature variations in the afterglow, which measures 454 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Those differences -- only 30 millionths of a degree -- represent different densities of matter in wispy clouds and surrounding regions, Smoot said. Once the clouds formed, gravity made increasing amounts of matter clump together, eventually creating galaxies, stars and galaxy clusters, he said. "It tells us how the universe developed from an almost featureless explosion to something that's been broken up into huge clusters of galaxies and huge empty spaces," said John Mather, COBE's chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "What we have found solves a major mystery, revealing for the first time the primeval seeds that developed into the modern universe." The smallest ripples stretch across 500 million light years of space, or about 2.9 billion trillion miles, Smoot said. Until now, the largest known structure in the universe was the "great wall," an arc of galaxies about 200 million light years long, he said. Since the ripples were created almost 15 billion years ago, their radiation has been traveling toward Earth at the speed of light. By detecting the radiation, COBE is "a wonderful time machine" able to view the young universe, Smoot said. Besides Smoot and colleagues at Berkeley and Goddard, the research was conducted by scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Princeton University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UCLA, UC-Santa Barbara, the University Space Research Association, General Research Corp. and Hughes STX, a research company.

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