Share Tech & Science Big Bang dark matter On Sunday evening at a star-studded ceremony in Palo Alto, a team of scientists was awarded a $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics designed to recognize physicists "working on the deepest mysteries of the Universe." The top prize went to the team behind a project called the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. That spacecraft measured what's called the Cosmic Microwave Background, cementing what scientists know about the age of the universe and the stuff that makes it up. But what on earth does all that mean? The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, nicknamed WMAP, is a spacecraft that launched in 2001. It headed away from the sun, to the opposite side of Earth's orbit, and spent about nine years looking for tiny changes in temperature across the universe. "Across the universe" here isn't poetry: WMAP looked to the very oldest light, as far away as human instruments can see. "The universe is expanding into the future," David Spergel, one of the scientists behind the project, told Scientific American in a video explaining WMAP's work. Keep up with this story and more by subscribing now The result is the photograph nicknamed the universe's "baby picture," published just a year after the satellite began taking measurements. Darker colors like blue represent colder spots, brighter colors like red represent warmer spots—although there's just a fraction of a degree of difference between the two. The Cosmic Microwave Background, nicknamed the "baby photo" of the universe. NASA/WMAP Science Team Scientists can use these measurements to understand deeply engrained characteristics of the universe. That's because as the universe expands, it cools from the intense heat that marked the Big Bang. That means, where the universe is a teeny tiny bit warmer, it's expanded just a hair less and has more photons (light particles). Spergel nicknames this "fossil light." Where it's a tiny bit colder, the universe contains more dark matter and dark energy. Scientists still don't understand what either dark energy or dark matter are, but they now know—thanks to the WMAP measurements—that normal matter makes up just a