Universe  ID: 12968

PIPER Infographic

The Primordial Inflation Polarization Explorer (PIPER) is a NASA scientific balloon mission that will fly to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere to study the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The CMB is a faint glow permeating the universe in all directions with an average temperature of 455 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (minus 270 degrees Celsius). It formed 380,000 years after the big bang, so scientists sometimes refer to it as the universe’s “baby picture.” PIPER will search for patterns in the light of the CMB called E-mode and B-mode polarization. E-mode patterns show exactly the same properties if reflected in a mirror, but B-mode patterns don’t. Scientists say they have “handedness,” which means B-modes twist either right or left and a mirror reflection changes one to the other.

B-mode patterns result from gravitational waves in the universe’s first moments, when it expanded a trillion trillion times after the big bang. PIPER will look for B-mode patterns in order to find these space-time ripples and will help scientists learn about the early days of the universe.

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Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Lead Producer
Jeanette Kazmierczak (University of Maryland College Park): Science Writer
Francis Reddy (University of Maryland College Park): Writer
Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Illustrator
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. However, individual items should be credited as indicated above.

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Astrophysics Stills

GCMD >> Earth Science >> Spectral/Engineering >> Microwave
SVS >> Astrophysics
SVS >> Big Bang
SVS >> Cosmic Background
NASA Science >> Universe

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version