Astronomy Colloquium / Spring 2009

April 29

Michael Way

Goddard Institute for Space Science

"A history of the prediction and detection of the expansion of the Universe and of the CMB"

I will talk about the complicated history of the prediction and discovery of the expansion of the universe and, of course, the cosmic microwave background. We'll start with the "nebulae" observations of Slipher in 1912 and end up with the 2006 Nobel Prize. I will also show that some of the common wisdom today is incorrect with respect to the credit given to various "titans" of Astronomy in this field.

Background: This talk has mainly grown out some discussions of the history of the prediction of the CMB I've had over the years with Igor Novikov, Andrei Doroshkevich and Pavel Naselsky when they were all in Copenhagen together. I've also recently had discussions with Jim Peebles, Peter Roll (of Bob Dicke's original CMB group), and E.A. Ohm (who built the original Project Echo receiver on the Bell Labs telescope that "discovered" the CMB) to better understand how the Princeton group was "scooped" by Penzian & Wilson at Bell Labs a mere 35 miles away.