Big Bang Afterglow Showing How Galaxies Form

Holding a Bank Note Up to the Light

That technique of holding a banknote up to the light lets you see watermarks or unique markings on it. Having a backlight often reveals detail you can’t detect under ambient light.

Two People in Charge Were Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson

The two people in charge of the project were Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. They knew that the signals they were looking for were very faint, so they did everything humanly possible to eliminate any kind of earth-based interference.

Kept Receiving the Same Microwave Background Signal

No matter what they tried, they kept receiving the same microwave background signal. Penzias and Wilson were confident that they had ruled out every source other than something beyond our galaxy.

Radiation from the Big Bang Red-Shifted into Microwaves

Penzias found out about the hypothesis on which the Princeton team was working. They wrote back and forth, and eventually, Dicke came out to visit the Bell Labs antenna.

Signal Became Known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB)

Penzias and Wilson’s signal became known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). Their discovery tipped the scales favouring the Big Bang Theory, which is today’s standard model in cosmology.

Less Than 10% of a Galaxy’s Gas Forms into Stars

For reasons that scientists don’t yet understand, less than 10% of a galaxy’s gas forms into stars. The research team is determined to explain why the process is so inefficient.

No Way to Directly Observe the Process

The reason scientists have difficulty explaining how galaxies form because they have no way to directly observe the process. The process takes place over billions of years, so any individual galaxy at which an astronomer looks will always be at one fixed point in the evolutionary process.

Motions of the Gas Inside a Proto-Galaxy

Using these combined calculations, the team can observe the motions of the galactic medium. They’ve been able to determine some parameters about galaxy formation, and their work is ongoing.

Remarkable Capacity for Self-Organization

Every culture needs an origin story, and in western culture, our story is based on science. Our creation story won’t be fully satisfying until scientists unravel how galaxies form, organize themselves into stars and evolve.

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