In 2001, WMAP was launched to study the cosmic microwave background. This radiation has traveled across space since 300,000 years after the Big Bang, and provides a snapshot of this distant epoch. By studying the fluctuations in this radiation, WMAP was able (among other things, and in combination with other ways of gathering data) to confirm the Universe was flat, tie down the time since the Big Bang and date the first stars to a surprisingly early epoch.
That analysis, released in 2003, was based on the first year’s worth of data. Since then there has been a complete silence from the mission team, with the second year’s worth of data continually a few months from release. However, I’ve just heard that the next tranch of data – together with the team’s analysis – will be released on Thursday at 12pm EST (5pm UK time), settling several years worth of speculation and gossip.
Watch this space!