Paula Cleggett-Haleim Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

August 10, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-0883) Michael Finneran Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. (Phone: 301/286-5565) RELEASE: 93-145 COBE "BIG BANG" DATA MADE AVAILABLE TO SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY Researchers from around the world now have access to data from the NASA satellite that provided the scientific community with an unprecedented look at how the universe began. "There are many theories of the early universe that can be tested with our data," said Dr. John Mather, Project Scientist for the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., which built and manages the Earth-orbiting observatory. The first data sets from COBE were delivered the third week in July to the National Space Science Data Center at Goddard, from which scientists can access the data over computer networks. More data sets are expected to be delivered. In essence, the satellite, launched in November 1989, has peered back in time to detect the now faint whispers of the Big Bang that is widely believed to have started the expansion of the universe about 15 billion years ago. "What we've done is to measure the microwave radiation that comes to us almost equally from every direction and that is thought to be the primary remnant of the Big Bang," Mather said.

COBE's first test of the Big Bang theory verified that the spectrum of the radiation agreed with predictions. The second test discovered the predicted hot and cold spots in the Big Bang radiation, the telltale sign of lumpiness in the primordial universe. As the universe aged, the lumps condensed into the structures -- galaxies and clusters of galaxies, stars and planets -- that abound today. The space surrounding the primordial lumps evolved into the giant empty holes or "voids" found in the present-day arrangement of galaxies. - more - 2The same data that can be used to pursue the mission's cosmological objectives also provide information about the local universe, including the Earth's own Milky Way galaxy and the solar system. "The dust, molecules and atoms in the plane of our own galaxy, as well as stars, are all of great interest to people who are concerned about how stars and planets are formed and basically, how we got here," Mather said. "We've measured the pattern of dark and bright spots of the microwave radiation in the sky, and some theories make specific kinds of predictions about those spots," he added. "Also, we've measured the spectrum of the radiation, which is the intensity at every wavelength, and some theories predict that this might not be exactly the way we see it. So those also can be tested." The data, which come from the three instruments aboard COBE, are digital images of the sky as it appears at infrared and microwave wavelengths. The data sets available for analysis include full sky maps from the first year of operation of COBE's Differential Microwave Radiometers (DMR) and data covering the galactic plane from the Diffuse Infrared Background Experiment (DIRBE) and the high-frequency channel of the Far Infrared Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS). The DIRBE measurements were made in 10 infrared wavelengths ranging from 1.25 to 240 micrometers. The FIRAS high-frequency channel covers the wavelength range 105 to 500 micrometers.

Data Center One of World's Largest The facility storing this data - Goddard's National Space Science Data Center - is one of the largest of its kind in the world. The center is a clearinghouse for astrophysics and space science data and is linked to similar facilities around the globe for the sharing and disemination of information. The center accepts data not only from Goddard, but from other NASA facilities and outside organizations. Additional data products are planned for delivery in June 1994, including full-sky maps for all experiments and all wavelength bands, data from the second year of the DMR operation and time-ordered data. Interested users may contact David Leisawitz at Goddard's Astrophysics Data Facility at 301/286-0807 or by electronic mail at the Internet address leisawitz@stars.gsfc.nasa.gov. In addition, a guest investigator program has been established at the Cosmology Data Analysis Center near Goddard, where researchers selected by NASA Headquarters can gain expertise on how to work with the data and perform their analyses. - end -