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ESA's Planck reveals spectacular new map of the early Universe


March 21, 2013

The ESA's Planck space telescope has revealed a detailed image showing the 'afterglow' of ...

The ESA's Planck space telescope has revealed a detailed image showing the 'afterglow' of the Big Bang (Image: ESA)

Image Gallery (7 images)

A new image acquired by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Planck space telescope provides an unprecedented view of the oldest light in the Universe. The image represents the most detailed mapping of cosmic microwave background (CMB) ever created and both solidifies and questions our current understanding of the Universe.

The light seen in the image was imprinted on the sky when the Universe was just 380,000 years old, at a time when it was a hot, dense mass of interacting protons, electrons and photons. The light itself has now stretched as the Universe has expanded and cooled from a temperature of around 2,700ºC (4,892°F) to form microwave wavelengths that reside at just 2.7 degrees above absolute zero (defined as 0 Kelvin/−273.15°C/−459.67°F).

The initial expansion period of the Universe, known as inflation, lasted just 10-32 seconds (0.00000000000000000000000000000001 seconds), following which the Universe has expanded by a factor of around 1030.

The CMB image, which captures the leftover radiation from the Big Bang, shows minute fluctuations in temperature that signify slight variations in the density of the early Universe. These differences in density represent the seeds of the Universe, detailing the blueprint for the stars and galaxies we see today.

Planck's image is more detailed than previous studies, such as that made by NASA's Wilkins...

The Planck image is the highest resolution and most detailed CMB ever created, and will allow scientists to map the composition and evolution of the Universe with greater accuracy than ever before. It provides more accurate values for the ingredients of the Universe, with normal matter making up just 4.9 percent of mass/energy density and dark matter taking up a larger than expected 26.8 percent. Dark energy, the force that is thought to be responsible for expansion, accounts for slightly less than previously thought, at around 69 percent.

The data also suggests that the cosmos is slightly older than scientists had previously calculated, now putting its age at 13.82 billion years.

Broadly speaking, the findings act as a confirmation for the current standard model of cosmology, a theory that postulates that the fluctuations seen in the CMB occurred immediately after the Big Bang, and were stretched to cosmologically large scales during the period of inflation.

However, though the new image does go some way to confirming our understanding of the Universe, it also gives rise to some new questions. The unprecedented level of detail in the map has revealed a number of anomalies that do not fit with our current understanding of physics.

Planck's CMB image reveals a number of anomalies, including an asymmetry in hemisphere tem...

Prominent among these is the inconsistency between the temperature fluctuations recorded at large angular sites compared to smaller scale structures, and those predicted by the standard model. A degree of asymmetry between the average temperatures in the opposite hemispheres of the sky was also observed.

ESA's Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain commented on this, stating that “the extraordinary quality of Planck's portrait of the infant Universe allows us to peel back its layers to the very foundations, revealing that our blueprint of the cosmos is far from complete.”

Be sure to check out the gallery to see the original microwave image taken by Planck, and scroll down to see a video showing the stages involved in the extraction of the CMB image from it.

Source: ESA

About the Author
Chris Wood Chris specializes in mobile technology for Gizmag, but also likes to dabble in the latest gaming gadgets. He has a degree in Politics and Ancient History from the University of Exeter, and lives in Gloucestershire, UK. In his spare time you might find him playing music, following a variety of sports or binge watching Game of Thrones.   All articles by Chris Wood

Am I the only one seeing the continental map of our Earth in that image?

Guillermo Bernal
21st March, 2013 @ 12:49 pm PDT

If this doesn't prove to religious people that the Big Bang existed I don't know what will. Though god may have created the Big Bang, and later 'modded' the world... That is a possibility one shouldn't refrain from including in ones philosophies

Christoffer Thor W. Sperling
21st March, 2013 @ 10:41 pm PDT

@ Christoffer Thor Wang Sperling

With all due respect, that sounds like a very uninformed, divisive and hurtful comment.

I am a Christian, what you would label as "religious". I currently believe the big bang happened. I think God created the universe this way and once the conditions were "fine tuned" to support life, God did exactly that.

What I struggle with is the concept that life Evolved. I can observe the universe and understand that light has taken millions, indeed billions of years to reach us from the far regions of the cosmos.

What I cannot observe is life spontaneously beginning from no life.

If it were so, we would have in all likelyhood seen other species evolve spontaneously on Earth. The chances of it occurring are so astronomically high that it becomes a faith in itself to believe it is how life had it's biogenesis.

This research into cosmic microwave background is fascinating as it reveals much that is otherwise unobservable. It also points to an ancient universe.

"ESA's Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain commented on this, stating that “the extraordinary quality of Planck's portrait of the infant Universe allows us to peel back its layers to the very foundations, revealing that our blueprint of the cosmos is far from complete.”"

It also reaffirms our knowledge of the universe is in it's infancy. I hope we find many more gems from this research goldmine.

22nd March, 2013 @ 02:20 am PDT


Sorry, I should have chosen my words more carefully. it wasn't aimed at you but rather at hardcore religious people who believe exactly in the words of the bible.

That biological life evolved from nothing is not that questionable, it's the combination of particles. I personally have a philosophical attitude that god might exist, however I view him as a life form, just one much more advanced than us, would he not also have developed from something, like nothing? Let me ask you, do you believe that hes just there and have always been, or do you believe that he originated from something? Not to question your faith, but of interest.

Christoffer Thor W. Sperling
22nd March, 2013 @ 09:18 pm PDT

Excuse my ignorance, but how does a device capture a multibillion year old image, whether it be of light or microwaves of whatever sort, an image only exists for an instant in time and is gone forever.

25th March, 2013 @ 05:19 am PDT
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