Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2000 December 30
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

A Year of Resolving Backgrounds
Credit: The MAXIMA Collaboration, NSF

Explanation: No matter which direction you look, no matter what type of light you see, the sky glows - but why? The sources of many of these background radiations have remained long-standing puzzles, but this millennial year brought some partial resolutions. In X-ray light the recently launched spacecraft Chandra and XMM resolved much of the seemingly uniform X-ray background into many discrete sources, many of which appear to be black holes at the centers of galaxies accreting matter. In microwave light, the BOOMERANG and MAXIMA-1 missions resolved with new clarity the seemingly uniform microwave background. The size and distribution of these spots indicates a geometrically flat universe, which, when combined recent supernovae results, indicate a universe with an accelerating expansion rate filled with dark matter and dark energy. Pictured above, a map spanning ten degrees of the microwave sky resolves the microwave background into hot and cold spots, as indicated in microkelvins.

Tomorrow's picture: The Millennium that Defined Earth

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.