Discovery of the 3 °K Radiation

  • D. T. Wilkinson
  • P. J. E. Peebles
Conference paper
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 164)


Perhaps all discoveries in science have some elements of a good mystery story. This one does. In 1964 the major cosmic puzzle was whether the Universe is Evolving (Big Bang) or Steady State; both ideas had merit, neither had proof. However, the Big Bang had left a deliberate clue — a shadowy remnant of its firey youth. Three groups of physicists are on the case, each starting from a different premise, and unaware of the others. One group (in Russia) is putting together published theoretical and experimental evidence; they are very close, but misinterpret a clue. Another group, ignorant of the past, starts from the beginning and plods systematically toward the solution. The third group is looking, very carefully, right at the clue, and wonder what it is. Thermal Radiation from the Big Bang is about to be discovered. Proving again that nothing is new, the Radiation had been predicted 15 years earlier, but not searched for. And at least two published observations — one 25 years old — gave strong evidence for the existence of the Radiation prior to its discovery.


Thermal Radiation Heavy Element Blackbody Radiation Nucleon Density Serendipitous Discovery 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Dicke, R.H., Rev. Sci. Instruments, 17, 268 (1946).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Dicke, R.H., obert Beringer, R., Kyhl R.L., and Vane, A. B. Phys. Rev, 70, 340 (1946).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    DeGrasse, R.W., Hogg, D.C., Ohm, E.A., and Scovil, H.E.D., Proceedings of the National Electronics Conference, 15, 370 (1959).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Penzias, A.A., and Wilson, R.W., Astrophys. J., 142, 419 (1965).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Dicke, R.H., Peebles, P.J.E., Roll, P.G., and Wilkinson, D.T., Astrophys. J., 142, 414 (1965).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Wilkinson, D.T., Measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Radiation, Proceedings of the Berkeley Workshop on Particle Astrophysics, ed. E. Norman (1989).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Matsumoto, T., Hayakawa, S., Matsu, H., Murakami, H., Sato, S., Lange, A.E., and Richards, P.L., Astrophys. J., 329, 567 (1988).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Adams, S.W., Astrophys. J., 93, 11 (1941).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    McKellar A., Publ. Dominion Astrophys. Obs., Victoria, B.C., 7, 251 (1941).ADSGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Our account is gleaned mostly from reading the early papers, and from conversation and correspondence with Gamow. For a first hand account see: Alpher, A., and Herman, R., Cosmology, Fusion and other Matters George Gamow Memorial Volume, ed. F. Reines (Assoc. Univ. Press, Boulder, CO., 1972) p. 1.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gamow, G., Phys. Rev, 70, 572 (1946).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Alpher, R.A., Bethe, H.A., and Gamow, G., Phys. Rev, 73, 803 (1948).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Gamow, G., Phys. Rev., 74, 505 (1948).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Alpher, R.A., and Herman, R.C., Nature, 162, 774 (1948).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Gamow, G., Vistas in Astronomy ed. by A. Beers (Pergamon Press, New York, 1956) Vol. 2, 1726.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Doroshkevich, A.G., and Novikov, I.D., Sov. Phys-Doklady 9, 11 (1964). This paper was brought to our attention by C.H. Townes after the 1968 Washington APS meeting.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ohm, E.A., Bell Syst. Techn. J., 40, 1065 (1961).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Readhead, A.C.S., Lawrence, C.R., Myers, S.T., Sargent, W.L.W., Hardebeck, H.E., and Moffet, A.T., Astrophys. J., October (1989).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. T. Wilkinson
    • 1
  • P. J. E. Peebles
    • 1
  1. 1.Joseph Henry LaboratoriesPrinceton UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations