Graph of cosmic microwave background spectrum measured by the FIRAS instrument on the COBE
, the most precisely measured black body
spectrum in nature.
The error bars
are too small to be seen even in an enlarged image, and it is impossible to distinguish the observed data from the theoretical curve.
The cosmic microwave background radiation is an emission of uniform, black body thermal energy coming from all parts of the sky. The radiation is isotropic to roughly one part in 100,000: the root mean square variations are only 18 µK, after subtracting out a dipole anisotropy from the Doppler shift of the background radiation. The latter is caused by the peculiar velocity of the Earth relative to the comoving cosmic rest frame as our planet moves at some 371 km/s towards the constellation Leo. The CMB dipole as well as aberration at higher multipoles have been measured, consistent with galactic motion.
In the Big Bang model for the formation of the universe, inflationary cosmology predicts that after about 10−37 seconds the nascent universe underwent exponential growth that smoothed out nearly all irregularities. The remaining irregularities were caused by quantum fluctuations in the inflaton field that caused the inflation event. Long before the formation of stars and planets, the early universe was smaller, much hotter and, starting 10−6 seconds after the Big Bang, filled with a uniform glow from its white-hot fog of interacting plasma of photons, electrons, and baryons.
As the universe expanded, adiabatic cooling caused the energy density of the plasma to decrease until it became favorable for electrons to combine with protons, forming hydrogen atoms. This recombination event happened when the temperature was around 3000 K or when the universe was approximately 379,000 years old. As photons did not interact with these electrically neutral atoms, the former began to travel freely through space, resulting in the decoupling of matter and radiation.
The color temperature of the ensemble of decoupled photons has continued to diminish ever since; now down to ±0.0013 K, 2.7260 it will continue to drop as the universe expands. The intensity of the radiation also corresponds to black-body radiation at 2.726 K because red-shifted black-body radiation is just like black-body radiation at a lower temperature. According to the Big Bang model, the radiation from the sky we measure today comes from a spherical surface called the surface of last scattering. This represents the set of locations in space at which the decoupling event is estimated to have occurred and at a point in time such that the photons from that distance have just reached observers. Most of the radiation energy in the universe is in the cosmic microwave background, making up a fraction of roughly ×10−5 of the total density of the universe. 6
Two of the greatest successes of the Big Bang theory are its prediction of the almost perfect black body spectrum and its detailed prediction of the anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background. The CMB spectrum has become the most precisely measured black body spectrum in nature.
Density of energy for CMB is 30.25 eV/cm (×10−14 J/m3) or (400–500 photons/cm 4.0053).