George F. Smoot
Astrophysics Experiment

Group Site:

Research Interests

2006 Nobel Prize winner-Experimental Astrophysicist George Smoot is an active researcher in observational astrophysics and cosmology. Smoot’s group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley is observing our galaxy and the cosmic background radiation that is a remnant from the fiery beginning of our Universe. Projects include ground-based radio-telescope observations, balloon-borne instrumentation, and satellite experiments. The most famous of these is COBE (the NASA Cosmic Background Explorer satellite), which has shown that the cosmic background radiation intensity has a wavelength dependence precisely that of a perfectly absorbing body, indicating that it is the relic radiation from the Big Bang origin of the Universe.

Using NASA’s COBE DMR, Smoot and his colleagues have made a map of the early Universe discovering the seeds of present day galaxies and clusters of galaxies. These seeds show up as variations at one part in 100,000 level in density from place to place. They also reveal information on the Big Bang and the origin of the Universe. In addition to continuing work on the four years of COBE data and on-going balloon experiments, Dr. Smoot has joined with colleagues in Europe to propose a new European Space Agency satellite to extend and improve these measurements. Dr. Smoot has also published a popular book on cosmology: Wrinkles in Time.

More on Dr. Smoot’s research and projects can be found at or through the Physics Department home page.

Current Projects

CMB data analysis: A major effort is data processing and analysis and the development of new techniques and algorithms. This included the analysis and extension of the extensive data set obtained by the COBE satellite during its four-year mission and analysis of balloon-borne instruments’ (MAXIMA/Boomerang) data. We are currently in analysis of the second-generation CMB anisotropy mission WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe -launched June 2000).

    Max Planck Surveyor is the forthcoming (launch 2008) third-generation CMB anisotropy satellite. We have a major effort in the planning, simulation, and design for the Planck Surveyor satellite-borne mission to measure the cosmic microwave background anisotropy with greater angular resolution and more sensitivity than has been achieved with the COBE DMR and succeeding efforts including WMAP. The European Space Agency and NASA mission Planck Surveyor is nearing completion of fabrication and about to enter the test and verification stage prior to launch August 2008.

    Galactic Emission Mapping (GEM): The GEM project is aimed at measuring and modeling Galactic millimeter to meter wavelength emission and Galactic structure. We utilize data from satellites, such as COBE and ground-based observations in our Galactic modeling. As a major component of the program, we have developed a precise, controlled radio telescope and receivers which are used to make and calibrate radio maps of the sky. The GEM instrumentation has operated from a remote site in California, Colombia, and Tenerife (the Canary Islands), and is currently in Brazil and a sister instrument is under construction in Portugal.

    Dark Energy Probes:  We have a significant effort in (weak) gravitational lensing and a portion of the group works on the supernova cosmology project, particularly SNAP.  This is a currently growing effort. This work is connected to BCCP.

   Berkeley Center for Cosmology Physics:  I am currently Director of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics and we have a substantial effort going in basic cosmology research in theory and observations as well as a large education and public outreach set of activities.

Selected Publications

G. F. Smoot, C. L Bennett, A. Kogut, et al., “Structure in the COBE DMR first year maps,” Ap. J. Lett.396, L1 (1992).

G. Smoot, M. Gorenstein, and R. A. Muller, “Detection of anisotropy in the cosmic blackbody radiation,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 39, 898 (1977).

J. Mather, et al., “A preliminary measurement of the cosmic microwave background spectrum by the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite,” Ap. J. Lett.354, L37 (1990).

A. T. Lee, P. Ade, A. Balbi, J. Bock, J. Borrill, A. Boscaleri, P. De Bernardis, P. G. Ferreira, S. Hanany, V. V. Hristov, A. H. Jaffe, P. D. Mauskopf, C. B. Netterfield, E. Pascale, B. Rabii, P. L. Richards, G. F. Smoot, R. Stompor, C. D. Winant, and J. H. P. Wu, “A high spatial resolution analysis of the MAXIMA-1 cosmic microwave background anisotropy data,” The Astrophysical Journal 561, L1-L6 (2001), astro-ph/0104459.

B. Grossan, G. F. Smoot Power Spectrum Analysis of Far-IR Background Fluctuations in 160 Micron Maps From the Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer   A & A

E. Jeong, G. F. Smoot TheValidity of the Cosmic String Pattern Search with the Cosmic Microwave Background ApJL. 661, L1, 200

I. F. M. Albuquerque and G. F. Smoot, “Measuring atmospheric neutrino oscillations with neutrino telescopes,” Phys. Rev.D64, 53008 (2001), hep-ph/0102078.

D. Scott and G. F. Smoot, “Cosmic Background Radiation Mini-Review,” Physics Letters B592, 1 (2004)

SNAP Collaboration  Supernova / Acceleration Probe: A Satellite Experiment to Study the Nature of the Dark Energy submitted to PASP

 “My Einstein Suspenders,” in My Einstein: Essays by Twenty-four of the World's Leading Thinkers on the Man, His Work, and His Legacy. John Brockman, ed. Pantheon, 2006.