The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is one of the pillars on which the Big Bang theory relies. High-quality maps of this radiation strongly constrain the history of the Universe and its content. Such maps require accurate and sensitive measurements of tiny random features on a strong uniform background. Stray radiation must be rejected extremely efficiently and the response and noise of the instrument should be known to better than a percent, while full sky maps are needed for optimal data reduction. This is better achieved outside the atmosphere in the conditions of space. In a field where fundamental physics and astrophysics are closely related, the major advances came from the COBE and WMAP spacecraft, and further progress is now expected from the Planck mission and also from recently developed ground-based experiments with dedicated goals achievable on fractions of the sky.
ISSI Scientific Reports Series
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