Many of us, probably most, know Smoot and Mather got the 2006 Nobel "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation." But there is more to the story, other scientists other instruments other features of the early universe discovered in the data. So we could try having a thread that covers some other parts of the story besides the familiar chapters of COBE and WMAP. I know only small part of it so I'm asking for help. Please contribute anything you know to help fill out the picture. I think there is more that we can learn from this, or at least I can in any case. And this is the year that the PLANCK mission data will become available---mapping the ancient light with even finer resolution than WMAP, including polarization as well as spectrum and temperature. It could be worthwhile building some awareness in preparation for when the Planck data comes out. I think there's an interest in the human angle too so any anecdotes or if you knew any of the personalities involved and want to share that would be all to the good. In the beginning people didn't use spacecraft to observe the CMB, among other means, they actually used balloons to carry the instruments aloft. Here's a bit from the Wikipedia article on COBE that mentions some earlier projects: ==quote http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_Background_Explorer == ...During the long gestation period of COBE, there were two significant astronomical developments. First, in 1981, two teams of astronomers, one led by David Wilkinson of Princeton and the other by Francesco Melchiorri of the University of Florence, simultaneously announced that they detected a quadrupole distribution of CMB using balloon-borne instruments. This finding would have been the detection of the black-body distribution of CMB that FIRAS on COBE was to measure. In particular, the Florence group claimed a detection of intermediate angular scale anisotropies at the level 100 microkelvins  in agreement with later measurements made by the BOOMERanG experiment. However, a number of other experiments attempted to duplicate their results and were unable to do so. Second, in 1987 a Japanese-American team led by Andrew Lange and Paul Richards of UC Berkeley and Toshio Matsumoto of Nagoya University... ==endquote== Boomerang was another balloon-borne experiment, that was carried out later. It may have been the first to gather enough information about the "angular power spectrum" (the angular scale of the blotchy speckly temperature variation) to deduce things like the approximate average flatness of the universe. No reason to stick to chronological order. The Planck mission looks to be the most exciting and information packed one yet. We could just as well start by gathering some basic facts and links about that.