The [academy] has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2006 jointly to John C. Mather NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA, and George F. Smoot University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation". . . .
This year the Physics Prize is awarded for work that looks back into the infancy of the Universe and attempts to gain some understanding of the origin of galaxies and stars. It is based on measurements made with the help of the COBE satellite launched by NASA in 1989.
The COBE results provided increased support for the Big Bang scenario for the origin of the Universe, as this is the only scenario that predicts the kind of cosmic microwave background radiation measured by COBE. These measurements also marked the inception of cosmology as a precise science. . . .
According to the Big Bang scenario, the cosmic microwave background radiation is a relic of the earliest phase of the Universe. Immediately after the big bang itself, the Universe can be compared to a glowing "body emitting radiation in which the distribution across different wavelengths depends solely on its temperature. The shape of the spectrum of this kind of radiation has a special form known as blackbody radiation. When it was emitted the temperature of the Universe was almost 3,000 degrees Centigrade. Since then, according to the Big Bang scenario, the radiation has gradually cooled as the Universe has expanded. The background radiation we can measure today corresponds to a temperature that is barely 2.7 degrees above absolute zero. The Laureates were able to calculate this temperature thanks to the blackbody spectrum revealed by the COBE measurements. . . .
The success of COBE was the outcome of prodigious team work involving more than 1,000 researchers, engineers and other participants. John Mather coordinated the entire process and also had primary responsibility for the experiment that revealed the blackbody form of the microwave background radiation measured by COBE. George Smoot had main responsibility for measuring the small variations in the temperature of the radiation.
According to Wikipedia, "[m]ost cosmologists consider [cosmic microwave background] radiation to be the best evidence for the hot big bang model of the universe." That model, and the observations which support it, suggest
that the universe has expanded from a state in which all the matter and energy in the universe was at an immense temperature and density. Physicists do not widely agree on what happened before this, although general relativity predicts a gravitational singularity (for reporting on some of the more notable speculation on this issue, see cosmogony).
What preceded and caused the Big Bang? The possibility of a creation by an intelligent force cannot be ruled out. Atheism, therefore, is an unscientific stance because it posits an unfalsifiable hypothesis: the non-existence of an intelligent creator.