Columbia Researchers Prepare To Launch "Big Bang" Telescope

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Amber Miller leads the Columbia University Experimental Cosmology group, dedicated to studying relic signatures from the Big Bang with the goal of understanding the origin and evolution of the universe.
(image by Columbia University)

Most cosmologists agree that the universe started out hot, dense and microscopically small. But where did it come from, and how did it expand into its present form? One prevailing theory suggests that, in a fraction of a second, this embryonic universe expanded faster than the speed of light, increasing in size at a greater rate than it has in the 15 billion years since. Physicists believe that proving or disproving this theory will help them understand what existed before the big bang and why the big bang occurred in the first place. 'Something special happened at that time,' said Miller. The plasma cooled enough to allow for photons, which had previously been bound up with electrons, to break free and travel through the universe. 'As that light got away,' she said, 'it carried with it an imprint, a photograph, of what the universe looked like before anything was formed.'

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