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  Eiichiro Komatsu shares 2012 Gruber Cosmology Prize

Eiichiro Komatsu shares 2012 Gruber Cosmology Prize

20 June 2012 - The Gruber Foundation has just announced that its 2012 Cosmology Prize is awarded to Charles Bennett and the WMAP Team for pinning down the Universe. As a member of the WMAP Team since 2001 and lead author of the papers presenting the cosmological interpretation of their five- and seven-year WMAP datasets, new MPA director Eiichiro Komatsu has played a major role in the success of the WMAP enterprise. He becomes the third MPA scientist to win the $500,000 Gruber Cosmology Prize after Rashid Sunyaev (2003) and Simon White (2011).

This detailed, all-sky picture of the infant universe was created from seven years of WMAP data. The image reveals temperature fluctuations in the cosmic gas (shown by variations in colour) just 400,000 years after the Big Bang itself. These are weak sound waves which later grew to become the galaxies we see today. The signal from our Galaxy was subtracted using the multi-frequency data. This image shows a temperature range of ±200 µK.
Credit: NASA / WMAP Science Team

WMAP is a NASA satellite mission which was launched in 2001 into an orbit near the second Lagrange point of the Earth-Sun system. (This is beyond the Moon’s orbit in the diametrically opposed direction to the Sun, as seen from Earth.) The WMAP satellite has mapped the nearly uniform Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation across the whole sky, making an image of tiny variations in temperature which reflect small density fluctuations. These structures are seen when the Universe as a whole was only 400,000 years old, long before any stars or galaxies had formed.

The latest analysis of the WMAP data concluded, in a paper led by Komatsu, that the Universe:

  • is within 1 percent of 13.75 billion years old;
  • consists of 22.7 percent dark matter, 72.8 percent dark energy, and only 4.6 percent “ordinary” matter;
  • seems to have undergone a period of “inflation” in the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second of its existence, just as many theorists have been predicting;
  • has a flat geometry, to within 0.6 percent.

So precise are these findings that WMAP’s version of the Universe is now commonly known as the Standard Cosmological Model.

Charles Bennett was the Principal Investigator of this mission and Eiichiro Komatsu’s principal role in the team was to help understand the physical implications of the observed structure. In 2010, WMAP finally stopped taking data, but in summer 2009 a successor mission was launched: The Planck Surveyor satellite mission measures the CMB temperature fluctuations with even higher accuracy than WMAP. The Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics developed important software components for Planck and is heavily involved in the scientific interpretation of the mission data.


linkPfeilExtern.gifAnnouncement by the Gruber Foundation

Original publication:

linkPfeilExtern.gifSeven-Year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Observations: Cosmological Interpretation
Komatsu, E.,, 2011, ApJS, 192, 18


Dr. Hannelore Hämmerle
Press Officer
Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Garching
Tel. +49 89 30000-3980

For more information on the Gruber Prize please contact
A. Sarah Hreha
Tel: +1 (212) 247-8484.

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last modified: 2012-11-22