Thursday, March 6, 2008

5 years of WMAP data yield best-ever map, confirm & refine standard cosmology

A few hours ago the WMAP team has released its five year dataset, with 7 papers and new maps and power spectra. Highlights of the new results include definite evidence for light neutrinos: The presence of the neutrino background was necessary from Big Bang Nucleosynthesis results, but now the CMB requires their presence at 99.5% confidence. And we now know that the epoch of reionization is more than 3 sigma earlier than the redshift z=6 where the Gunn-Peterson effect blackens quasar spectra. Otherwise everything remains consistent with a flat universe comprised of 72% vacuum energy, 23% dark matter and 5% ordinary matter - the standard model of the Universe for the past 10 years, love it or hate it ...

In other news first pictures of the Moon very close to Venus are coming in, be it a low contrast close-up in daytime or nice conjunction views from New Zealand or Argentina. • Swiss TV just had a big story on the March 1 fireball in its evening news - click on the image next to the story but beware: While the off-voice speaks German, the people interviewed use Schwyzerd├╝tsch. • And finally, here's how to build a globe of Phobos, the strangely shaped Martian moon ...

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