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NASA Space Science

Mission Complete! WMAP In 'Graveyard Orbit' 114

Posted by timothy
from the perpetual-care dept.
astroengine writes "The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) has, quite literally, changed our view of the Universe. And after nine years of mapping the slight temperature variations in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, its job is done and NASA has commanded the probe to fire itself into a 'graveyard orbit' around the sun. WMAP measured the most precise age of the universe (13.75 billion years), discovered more evidence supporting dark energy and dark matter theories, and found one or two mysteries along the way."
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Mission Complete! WMAP In 'Graveyard Orbit'

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  • Uuhhh... clumsy PR? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oldhack (1037484)
    That project was supposed to go on for a few more months I thought... The cooling system exhausted prematurely, didn't it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Afforess (1310263)
      No, according to wikipedia the project was actually extended an extra year to 2010. So it went above and beyond it's original mission.
    • by sznupi (719324) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @11:58PM (#33832972) Homepage

      If there's some clumsy PR, it seems to be in other part of TFS. WMAP has not ,"quite literally, changed our view of the Universe" - it further refined it nicely [tufts.edu], continuing in the footsteps (if mentioning only large space experiments) of COBE and RELIKT-1 (the latter might be one sad example of another type of clumsy PR - apparently already gave us large part of the results for which COBE is praised, but...)

      • by PvtVoid (1252388)

        COBE and RELIKT-1 (the latter might be one sad example of another type of clumsy PR - apparently already gave us large part of the results for which COBE is praised, but...)

        RELIKT-1 saw the quadrupole, but only at 90 percent confidence [wikipedia.org]. COBE rightly gets credit.

        • by sznupi (719324)

          Which is of course some part of the results. RELIKT-1 gets virtually no credit at all...rightly?

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Sometimes I can't figure out why TFS links one source when there are better sources. It seems NASA's report [nasa.gov] is a far better FA than Discover Magazine. And here's [nasa.gov] a link to the official WMAP website.

    • by oldhack (1037484)
      My bad. I was thinking of WISE project.
  • So Dark Matter was a theory invented to explain why stars orbit a galaxy's core like they were on spokes around the hub of a wheel ...instead of how we observe the motion of object orbiting our sun. So if Dark Matter exerts such a huge force to keep huge objects (stars) moving in such a manner, how come that same force doesn't affect the objects going around the star? Or, in other words, if it's powerful enough to keep the outer-most stars in a galaxy moving in the same period as inner stars, how come we ca
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2010 @11:37PM (#33832912)

      So Dark Matter was a theory invented to explain why stars orbit a galaxy's core like they were on spokes around the hub of a wheel ...instead of how we observe the motion of object orbiting our sun. So if Dark Matter exerts such a huge force to keep huge objects (stars) moving in such a manner, how come that same force doesn't affect the objects going around the star? Or, in other words, if it's powerful enough to keep the outer-most stars in a galaxy moving in the same period as inner stars, how come we can't detect it here? Or have we detected such tidal forces already?

      While there's a lot of dark matter in a galaxy compared to "normal" matter, it's typically spread out over a much larger volume than the viewable parts of a galaxy. Thus, it is actually quite diffuse and has very little effect within something on the scale of a solar system (to the point of being unmeasurable with current technology).

    • by ChromaticDragon (1034458) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:08AM (#33833006)

      The dark matter halo around our galaxy is theorized roughly as a large sphere, not just extra mass along the flattened wheel of the spiral. Look at the graphic here: http://startswithabang.com/?p=656 [startswithabang.com]

      That's a lot of extra room. So much so that even when those researchers calculated that our solar system should have 300 times the dark matter density compared to the galactic dark matter halo, this only ends up being a very tiny fraction of the earth's mass in dark matter bound to our solar system. See: http://www.universetoday.com/15266/dark-matter-is-denser-in-the-solar-system/ [universetoday.com]

      So basically, it's going to be rather difficult to detect dark matter nearby.

      • The dark matter halo around our galaxy is theorized roughly as a large sphere, not just extra mass along the flattened wheel of the spiral.

        I guess no one knows such things, but I wonder what would prevent it from clumping up like normal baryonic matter. Maybe it's too diffuse to form dark matter nebulae, but those are only held together by gravity too, right? Or would fast-moving particles just fly apart before gravity could act? Or maybe we just can't see the clumps. Or maybe it's a happy medium—loosely bound to the galaxy but nothing more...

        Argghh! So many questions and so little knowledge of cosmology and particle physics!

        I guess

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ETEQ (519425)

          I guess no one knows such things, but I wonder what would prevent it from clumping up like normal baryonic matter. Maybe it's too diffuse to form dark matter nebulae, but those are only held together by gravity too, right? Or would fast-moving particles just fly apart before gravity could act? Or maybe we just can't see the clumps. Or maybe it's a happy medium—loosely bound to the galaxy but nothing more...

          Actually, the explanation for this one is pretty simple: it's because the dark matter is dark. The reason why baryonic matter collapses into a (relatively) tiny disk in the center of a much larger dark matter halo is that baryonic matter emits light... and light carries off energy. So baryonic matter quickly loses all the energy it can while still conserving angular momentum, and the result is a disk-like structure (spiral galaxies). Once it collapses into a disk, the density becomes high enough that it c

          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            It's not the light emissions of baryonic matter that causes the clouds to collapse, it's the collisions of the 'conventional' matter particles with each other that cause those emissions in the first place. Dark matter on the other hand is thought to interact so weekly with itself that it won't cause a collapse of the dark matter cloud.
          • Gosh, that really is painfully obvious. How embarrassing. Thanks!
          • by tepples (727027)

            dark matter is dark

            Obvious tautology is obvious [encycloped...matica.com]. But is dark matter darker than Longcat is long?

  • What if the cosmic background "warmth" which hovers just above 2 Kelvin isn't the remnants of the Big Bang but rather a physical phenomenon produced by some more general aspect of our universe. Like goldfish in a bowl, the limits of our experience are defined by our universe, so the phenomena we experience define and are defined within that framework. But like a human outside the goldfish bowl, we can understand why certain phenomena (such as bending of light through the glass) occurs at a simpler, more gen

    • by sznupi (719324)

      If only CMB was actually strictly about things "in the bowl" / providing data beautifully supportive of some ideas about the early state of "the bowl"... we can dream, huh?

      Oh, wait.

    • Ah. After reading your analogy and then seeing your name, it was like stopping by the gas station and realizing you won't have enough quarters for laundry if you completely fill the tank. It really is incredible though. I read as many of those pop-sci books as I could get my hands on as a kid in the 90's, and it astounds me to see how our view of the universe has changed in just that short time. The fish bowl isn't a bad analogy overall—hopelessly inadequate, of course—but I've never felt so
    • by syousef (465911) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:09AM (#33833012) Journal

      What if the cosmic background "warmth" which hovers just above 2 Kelvin isn't the remnants of the Big Bang but rather a physical phenomenon produced by some more general

      What you need to understand is that what you said, while sounding philosophical to the uneducated is gibberish. To a scientist what you said sounds something like "What if what I thought was my hand was actually an ardvaark in disguise". There are specific properties/features of the CMB that require it to be left over radiation from the Big Bang. Of course to understand this you also need to understand the Big Bang itself and why we'd collectively believe something so counter-intuitive as the universe beginning from a singularity. In other words you need to read your science historyf or the last couple of hundred years.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Actually, remnants of the big bang is simply the best theory we have going. There may or may not be another interesting theory that would explain it (and the universe) as well, but given that we have a workable elegant theory now, that's all just pie in the sky. It isn't however quite so ludicrous as my hand being a disguised aardvark.

        • by syousef (465911)

          Actually, remnants of the big bang is simply the best theory we have going.

          It's a pretty good theory, though. Well tested, lots of lines of evidence. Ignoring it is like ignoring evolution, or better yet gravity. You won't see me walking off any cliffs and speculating that hey gravity might be wrong.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            You've misunderstood the difference between doubting a theory and doubting an observable. Walking off a cliff would be stupid, it it clearly observed that things fall. On the other hand doubting that the reason is due to the attraction of masses, perhaps in favour of some alternative source of the force, does not lead to such stupid mistakes.

            The original poster did not contradict the evidence for the big bang, rather the explanation.

            • by m50d (797211)
              Walking off a cliff would be stupid, it it clearly observed that things fall.

              It's been observed that things fall in the past. But that gives no a priori proof that you will fall if you walk off a cliff. Of course, every time we observe something it does fall, which means the simplest consistent explanation is that things always fall, independent of time - but the exact same thing is true, on a higher level, of the real theory of gravity. And doubting that falling was due to gravity would in fact lead to eq

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by syousef (465911)

              The original poster did not contradict the evidence for the big bang, rather the explanation.

              The CMB *IS* part of the evidence for the Big Bang.

              The CMB is the afterglow - of a very consistent temperature produced by the Big Bang. This explanation is greatly oversimplified: The Universe being very compact in the past resulting in a uniform distribution of energy at the point at which it went from being opaque to translucent is the only good explanation we have for a uniform glow in all directions.

              WMAP mapped the very minor variations in the CMB that tell us about conditions at the point in time when

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by sjames (1099)

                More accurately, CMB is an observation we have made that is currently best explained by the Big Bang theory.

      • by ColaMan (37550) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:57AM (#33834180) Homepage Journal

        I concur, and a favorite comic springs to mind:
        Science: It works, bitches [xkcd.com]

        From the wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] about the CMB:
        Two of the greatest successes of the big bang theory are its prediction of its almost perfect black body spectrum and its detailed prediction of the anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background.

        When basically the whole observable universe matches your theory, it's generally considered pretty strong evidence that you're going in the right direction.

      • Actually he's not so far off in his suggestion, but he's missing additional facts. The CMB could in fact be caused by some phenomena giving the universe a certain temperature. But the CMB is not the only evidence for the Big Bang.

        I saw a (BBC) educational program once where a scientist was put in a fictional dock, before a court and accused of making the big bang up. It was a nice way of presenting the debate by lamp-shading the fact that, at a basic level, the Big Bang theory is an extraordinary propositio

    • After reading Janna Levine's How the Universe Got Its Spots, I have to say that the WMAP was all about trying to figure out what kind of space we live in (its topology), even though we can't step outside it and look at it.
    • by melikamp (631205)

      Dude, you should make a website. About analogies. Just like ideas are experienced.

    • by sincewhen (640526)

      But surely there is no "outside the bowl".
      Or am I just thinking like a goldfish?

    • by sempir (1916194)
      Methinks your Jeans are too tight!
    • by m50d (797211)
      What could be more simple and general than the big bang? (Unless you mean the physical laws that caused the big bang, I guess, but even so, those laws won't invalidate the big bang as the mechanism for the CMB. Just like knowing how electricity works gives a deeper and more fundamental explanation for what happened when someone got struck by lightning, "they were struck by lightning" is still the reason why they died).
    • Oddly, I recently heard a similar analogy used as a "proof" of the existence of god.
  • So long..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tpstigers (1075021) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:14AM (#33833028)
    ..... and thanks.
  • Yea I know its failing, but instead of sending it on a death mission couldnt it just float around till it crapped out? maybe get every single last ounce out of it, and besides what is it going to hit?

    of course my wife picks on me about how clean my plates are after eating so I am just that way

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:53AM (#33833184) Homepage
      The prior orbit was at the L2 point http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrangian_point#L2 [wikipedia.org] one of the very few stable points in the solar system. Leaving WMAP there would be a bad idea because it makes a very nice spot become more hazardous. We're already having serious trouble with spacejunk in Earth orbit. There's no good reason to star trashing up the rest of the system also.
      • by Framboise (521772) on Friday October 08, 2010 @04:44AM (#33833948)

        The orbit was *around* L2, not at L2. The orbit around L2 appears as loops with an apreciable extension wrt to the Earth-L2 distance.
        The paradox is that L2 is actually unstable, but orbits can be found around L2 which are stable over a sufficiently long time.

           

        • by m50d (797211)
          I thought it was using thrusters to stabilize its orbit. In which case, no paradox.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by John Hasler (414242)

            And that's why it has to be moved to a retirement orbit. The fuel will run out soon and left where it was it would wander off into some unpredictable and perhaps inconvenient orbit, possibly cluttering up the L2 region and making it hard to use it for anything else. This way it's in a known, out-of-the-way orbit.

            • by gophish (65390)
              I understand not junking up lagrange points with non-functional space junk, but if we leave it orbiting the sun or crashing into the sun or a dozen other possibilities aren't we a) just cluttering up the wider solar system, or b) eliminating our chance at recouping and reusing the materials onboard? I think a giant pile of junk satellites on the moon would be pretty anyway. Future tourist attraction/place for disenfranchised lunar youth to go scavving.
              • by sznupi (719324)

                On sufficiently wide scale it won't really register above "background noise" of natural debris, especially if left in uniteresting spots. I'd also guess that once you can spend a lot of fuel hunting and bringing wrecks to processing facility, then few hundred kg / max few tons of raw materials aren't of much use.

                A pile on the moon? Even having fuel to direct old spacecraft in its general direction would be an enormous luxury...there would be certainly nothing left for soft landing; what's good a field of cr

              • by m50d (797211)

                a) just cluttering up the wider solar system

                Sure, but we have to leave it somewhere - there isn't enough fuel to send it back to earth or anything - and it's better if that somewhere isn't the L2 point, which is a small region with some nice properties for certain types of missions.

                b) eliminating our chance at recouping and reusing the materials onboard?

                If we're placing it in a known, stable retirement orbit we can always pick it up later if we need it - space being a vacuum there's very little differenc

  • Now it can go hang out with Veejer and taunt alien races.

  • by Tablizer (95088)

    Ever since Bush, people say mission "complete" instead of "accomplished". Then again, the word "stimulus" is tainted also, replaced with "recovery program".

    • Ever since Bush, people say mission "complete" instead of "accomplished".

      In this case I don't think it has anything to do with Bush.
      "Complete" simply states that the mission is over, without the context of success or failure. An "accomplished" mission is a mission that is complete and confirmed successful.

      The mission (forgive me if I'm way off-base) was to determine the nature of the universe. As we've no other data to compare to, we don't know if what the probe related to us is correct or not.
      Because the probe isn't going to send us any more data, its mission is, indeed, co

  • Based on all the band-aides on the map, I'd say God is a clumsy shaver. I hope he doesn't try to create a sentient being.......oh

  • by hyades1 (1149581)

    This stupid thing would have accurately reported the age of the universe as 6,000 years (give or take a little) if only they hadn't launched it with a rocket (Satan's Gravity Sled).

    Obviously shooting it off into space like that wrecked its sensors. They should have done it the way god said...by having Jesus throw it toward the dinosaur Adam and Eve were riding to church and letting it use its tail to blast it on its way like Babe Ruth done with them baseballs.

    Who says us Creation Science people don't

    • by CrazyJim1 (809850)
      Not all creationists believe the world was 6,000 years old. But ya, I think we're all pretty much in agreement that rockets can be used for nothing good.
      • by radtea (464814)

        Not all creationists believe the world was 6,000 years old.

        That's right: only the intellectually rigorous creationists believe that. Old Earth Creationists have to for some reason accept geology and parts of physics and chemistry, while denying the greater part of physics, chemistry and, most importantly, probability theory. Which I guess makes sense to them, because it's "only a theory".

        They are subject to the same sort of insanity makes people think casino gambling is a game of chance.

        • by neminem (561346)
          Casino gambling *is* a game of chance, though. It's just a game designed to be lost.

          In that way, it's sort of like the game. Which I just lost.
      • by sznupi (719324)

        Heretics!!!

    • by MysteriousPreacher (702266) on Friday October 08, 2010 @03:23AM (#33833670) Journal

      Silly Christian propaganda! Islam provides a far more accurate view of the heavens than any man-made space doohickey . I bet Muhammed (Geese be upon him) got a pretty good look at space while he was traveling around on his flying mutant horsie, hobnobbing with all and sundry in heaven.

      Hmm, come to think of it I think there may have been some man/horse love - at least if this excerpt is anything to go by:

      "Hearing this he (the mutant horsie) was so ashamed that he sweated until he became soaked, and he stood still so that the Prophet mounted him."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242)

      You know, despite being an atheist i'm finding these frequent and gratuitous anti-christian trolls tedious. They are not funny, they are not relevant, they are not informative, and they are not original. They are all crap.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Atrox Canis (1266568)
        As a fellow athiest, I have to agree. I don't much care for the mythology believing folks calling me a devil worshipper (damned odd that you would think I believe in a fallen angel when I profess to not believe in a diety, but I digress). So, I try not to make fun of the believers. So, all you other non-believers, cut those folks some slack. There are in fact a number of very bright, well educated and yes, even articulate individuals that profess a belief in a god. They are not all slack-jawed, mouth breat
        • > They are not all slack-jawed, mouth breathing rednecks...

          Unfortunately, some atheists are.

          > ...from the hinterlands.

          Most doofuses, whether christian fanatic or anti-christian troll, are from the city (as are most people). Most of us country dwellers are as rational and reasonable as any other human being (i.e., not very). Dismissing all country people as ignorant hicks is 19th century bigotry.

          • Not sure what point you may be trying to infer but for the record. I was raised on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma (just north of Edmond), joined the Army and have lived in 7 different countries. I've also lived in Chicago and Tampa. I currently provide network security services for a fortune 1000 company in Texas. So, if I'm insulting anyone, I would necessarily be insulting myself. Or rather, to be blunt. I was making a subtle point about how stupid it is to be a bigot. Sorry if your failure to get the point
            • Sorry if your failure to get the point offended you.

              Ease up there with the backhanded apologies.

              It was just a slight misinterpretation.

              You intended it to be a descriptive element to one insult. He interpreted it to be TWO separate potential insults. Likely due to the fact that they are often tied together. "You must be from West Virginia." is used as an insult, so him getting it confused is not unlikely.

              That you both got bent out of shape over mundane issues is really what you two should be examining.

          • by sznupi (719324)

            "Most people" (as in "above 50%") are from the city since, basically, right now. Urbanization has surpassed 50% only a year or two ago.

            Doesn't help how some places how somewhat lax and/or weird standards or calling something a "city"...

        • by gophish (65390)
          Unfortunately it is the "slack-jawed, mouth breathing rednecks from the hinterlands" who tend to make the most noise and get the most attention. If smart people ran around yelling at (and/or threatening personal violence towards) people they disagreed with perhaps they would get more traction. On the other hand, you are correct, people should lay off the theist-bashing. Just because someone holds one or two unfalsifiable personal beliefs does not by proxy mean that their other, more scientifically rigoro
          • Unfortunately it is the "slack-jawed, mouth breathing rednecks from the hinterlands" who tend to make the most noise and get the most attention.

            No. It is the "slack-jawed, mouth breathing bluenecks from the cities" who tend to make the most noise and get the most attention. The "slack-jawed, mouth breathing rednecks from the cities" come in second. The "slack-jawed, mouth breathing rednecks from the hinterlands" come in a distant third.

  • Does this mean we are going to another darker universe, were the weak forces are strong?

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.

Working...