John C. Mather, the Big Bang, and the COBE

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John C. Mather
Courtesy of NASA

“Dr. John C. Mather of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Mather shares the prize with George F. Smoot of the University of California for their collaborative work on understanding the Big Bang.

Mather and Smoot analyzed data from NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), which studied the pattern of radiation from the first few instants after the universe was formed. In 1992, the COBE team announced that they had mapped the primordial hot and cold spots in the cosmic microwave background radiation. These spots are related to the gravitational field in the early universe, only instants after the Big Bang, and are the seeds for the giant clusters of galaxies that stretch hundreds of millions of light years across the universe. …

The team also showed that the big bang radiation has a spectrum that agrees exactly with the theoretical prediction, confirming the Big Bang theory and showing that the Big Bang was complete in the first instants, with only a tiny fraction of the energy released later.”1 

“In 1970, John started his Ph.D. thesis work [at the University of California Berkeley], which would be the foundation for the COsmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite project.” 2    His thesis work was done under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission in the Inorganic Materials Research Division of Lawrence Berkeley [National] Laboratory (LBNL).

1Edited excerpt from NASA Scientist Shares Nobel Prize for Physics
2Edited excerpt from John Mather:  The Path to a Nobel Prize; GoddardView, page 3

Resources with Additional Information

Additional information about John Mather, the Big Bang, and the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE)  is available in electronic documents and on the Web.


Far Infrared Spectrometry of the Cosmic Background Radiation, DOE Technical Report, Download Adobe PDF Reader, January 1974

Report of the Dark Energy Task Force, DOE Technical Report, Download Adobe PDF Reader, September 2006


COBE Sky Map
COBE Sky Map

COBE Spacecraft
COBE Spacecraft
Courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory

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