describes the serendipitous discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background
(CMB) radiation, a faint energy signal believed to be left over from the big
notes that initial studies of the CMB revealed a smooth, uniform glow
that gave no indication of any regions of density that may have provided the
basis for today's cosmic structures.
explains that researchers sought a higher-resolution image of the CMB to
discover what happened during the big bang that made it possible for the
universe to evolve into its current form.
relates findings by the 1991 Cosmic Background Explorer satellite that
first revealed hints of variations in the CMB.
follows the scientific teams working on the Cosmic Background Imager
(CBI) and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) as they compete to
provide a higher-resolution picture of the CMB.
explains how elements are formed in a star—hydrogen and helium fuse
into increasingly heavy elements until a star collapses and explodes, thereby
providing enough energy for the remaining iron to undergo reactions that create
all known remaining elements.
speculates that a critical abundance of heavy elements is necessary for
life to form and that already enriched star nurseries like the Eagle Nebula
might be prime locations for the development of solar systems with habitable
details scientists' discovery of thousands of galaxies rich in heavy
elements, leading some scientists to believe that life could emerge almost
anywhere in the universe.