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Microwave-Img7These two astronomers come in one package, because their main contribution to the astronomical field was a mutual effort. This important contribution was the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation or CMB. Basically, the CMB was an aftershock of the explosive birth of the Universe – the Big Bang. This aftershock had been theorized before its discovery by Penzias and Wilson in the 1960s, but it’s exact value hadn’t been pinpointed until the two scientists began experimenting with the Holmdel Horn Antenna at Bell Labs. As they experimented, they realized they had an ever-present background radiation in their data, and after cleaning their equipment of pigeon droppings, they deduced that the radiation was not coming from anywhere on Earth – or even in the galaxy – but outside the Milky Way… It wasn’t until later that the two realized that their discovery had any significance, when it dawned on them that they had discovered the elusive aftershock of the Big Bang. In 1978, Penzias and Wilson were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery.

CopernicusThe significance of the discovery lies in the fact that at that time there was still a good deal of dispute over whether or not the Big Bang had even occurred. The main opposing theory, known as the Steady State theory, was virtually abandoned by astronomers following the momentous discovery. Some important outcomes of the discovery include evidence for the inflationary model of the universe, the suggestion of a Dark Age of the Universe, advancements in interferometry and countless other repercussions in the astronomical field.

Copernicus was a European scientist born in 1473, and one of the most important of the Renaissance. He is extremely significant because he is credited as the first astronomer to put forward a comprehensive heliocentric version of the solar system.Bio Wm Herschel Although some ancient astronomers had pondered a heliocentric theory, their works had either been lost to the ages or largely ignored. However, in 1543 when his book, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, was published, the theory could simply not be brushed aside any longer. The idea that the Earth revolved around the sun (and not vice versa) went directly against the teachings of the church, and this publication was in a time when the church controlled most of society. Although Copernicus died in the year of his great work’s publication, he still no doubt feared persecution from religious authorities and realized that even after death his name and the reputation of his work could be sullied. Interestingly enough, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres is actually dedicated to the Pope at the time, Pope Paul III, almost definitely to avoid disfavor with the church. For his courageous introduction of the true nature of the solar system to European scholars he is remembered as a monument to the truth in a society largely unwilling to accept it.

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