"Powerful Triumvirate" Explores Foundation of the UniverseNeil Cornish wasn't there when the universe began, but he was in Florida when NASA launched a probe to find out what's happened since then.
"It was an absolute perfect launch. The whole mission has been absolutely perfect," the assistant professor of physics at Montana State University-Bozeman said months later when the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) had almost completed its first map of the universe. "The satellite is working. It's meeting and exceeding its design capabilities."
MAP was launched June 30, 2001 to detect microwave patterns in space. Like film that shows more detail the longer it's exposed, the probe will orbit the sun for at least two years to fill in more gaps. The purpose of studying microwave patterns-or fingerprints of the universe-is to help scientists figure out such questions as what happened the instant after the Big Bang, the shape of the universe, the rate it's expanding and the possibilities for its future.
In addition to Cornish's involvement with MAP, Hiscock and Hellings serve on the science team for a space-based observatory called the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), Hermanson said. That means they will participate in analysis and design for the initial mission. LISA is a NASA program scheduled for launch in 2011 and is similar to an earth-based program called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
The relativity researchers study gravitational waves, while the astrophysicists analyze the structures that produce gravitational waves. Some of those structures are black holes and neutron stars, always popular topics with students who pursue relativity.
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