Balloon Observations of Millimetric Extragalactic Radiation ANd Geophysics

The Boomerang Project was one of these nifty little science experiments physicists love to tinker with.

This one was sort of a follow-up to COBE, the famous infrared satellite that detected the Microwave Background Radiation, giving great support to such cosmic concepts as the Big Bang, and the whole of the current history-of-the-universe dogma.

Boomerang went a step further, using a large balloon with a miniature observatory hanging from it (all automated, of course, no people inside) to make an extremely detailed map of the cosmic microwave background. The balloon (following air currents) went around the entire continent of Antarctica in about 10 days, taking measurements, and even landed very near its supposed destination.

The resultant map (after being crunched by a few Crays or equivalent for a few months) gives physicists a lot more data to play with.

The end results, so far:

The map of radiation, preserved from the point in time when the universe became transparent to current day, show immense pressure waves (like sound waves, except a little bigger) transversing the primordial universe. These waves are the cause of galaxies, clusters], and superclusters, as they caused small changes in the density of the homogenous early universe.

The data from the map has also been used to determine to a great precision the curvature of the universe. (See: General Relativity). It turns out to be flat (curvature zero) at least to within experimental error. This means the great crunch will never occur, and the universe will never stop expanding (though the expansion will always get slower). It is also a large piece of support for the Inflationary Theory of cosmic evolution, as it predicts such a flat universe.

All in all, a nifty little project. My physics professor last year was on the project, and he spent a nice lecture covering all this.

And before I forget, the way the title is capitalized is how the web page for the project capitalizes it, so oh well.