Spectral variation of the WMAP 5-year degree scale anisotropy

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The black body nature of the first acoustic peak of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) was tested using foreground reduced WMAP 5-year data, by producing subtraction maps between pairs of cosmological bands, viz. the Q, V, and W bands, for masked sky areas that avoid the Galactic disk. The resulting maps revealed a non black body signal that has three main properties. (a) It fluctuates on the degree scale preferentially in one half of the sky, producing an extra {\it random} noise there of amplitude $\approx$ 3.5 $\mu$K, which is $\gtrsim$ 10 $\sigma$ above the pixel noise even after beam size differences between bands are taken into account. (b) The signal exhibits large scale asymmetry in the form of a dipole ($\approx$ 3 $\mu$K) in the Q-V and Q-W maps; and (c) a quadrupole ($\approx$ 1.5 $\mu$K) in the Q-V, Q-W, and V-W maps. While (b) is due most probably to cross-band calibration residuals of the CMB COBE dipole, the amplitude of (c) is well beyond systematics of the kind, and in any case no {\it a priori} quadrupole in the CMB exists to leave behind such a residual. The axes of symmetry of (a), (b), and (c) are tilted towards the same general direction of the ecliptic plane. This strongly suggests that foreground emission contaminates the CMB signatures at the 4 -- 5 % level even on the angular scale of the first acoustic peak.