WMAP Concludes Nine Years of Mapping Early Universe

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NASA retired the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) after maneuvering the 9-year-old spacecraft last month into a permanent parking orbit around the sun.

“WMAP has opened a window into the earliest universe that we could scarcely imagine a generation ago,” WMAP mission manager Gary Hinshaw said in an Oct. 6 statement announcing the completion of WMAP mission operations. “The team is still busy analyzing the complete nine-year set of data, which the scientific community eagerly awaits.”

Launched in June 2001 to scan the sky for cosmic background radiation — the oldest light in the universe — WMAP acquired its final science data on Aug. 20. On Sept. 8, the satellite fired its thrusters, left its working orbit and entered a parking orbit around the sun.

WMAP was the first spacecraft to use Earth-Sun L2 as its observing station. The gravitationally stable orbit is about 1.5 million kilometers away.