New Heat Map Reveals the Creation of Our Infant Universe

Planck Light

This map shows the old­est light in our uni­verse, as detect­ed by the Planck mis­sion. Click on the map for a larg­er image.

By now the Big Bang the­o­ry is wide­ly accept­ed sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly. The idea is that the uni­verse began to expand rapid­ly about 14 bil­lion years ago from a dense, hot state and con­tin­ues to expand to this day.

One of the most telling fin­ger­prints left behind by the Big Bang is cos­mic microwave back­ground radi­a­tion. This ther­mal radi­a­tion was thought to be left over from the Big Bang itself. It fills the uni­verse almost com­plete­ly.

A new map of cos­mic radi­a­tion ques­tions some of the core con­cepts of the Big Bang. What if, this pre­cise heat map sug­gests, the Uni­verse expe­ri­enced a long, pre-Bang phase? What if the Big Bang wasn’t the first burp of cre­ation after all?

The Euro­pean Space Agency’s Planck space­craft mea­sures between infra-red and radio waves, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to see back in time to the first light ever pro­duced.

Cos­mol­o­gists released the new images of the ear­ly uni­verse this week. What sur­pris­es them is that Planck detect­ed stronger light sig­nals on one half of the sky than the oth­er and picked up a series of anom­alies or “cold spots.” While this doesn’t chal­lenge the Big Bang the­o­ry as a whole, it does height­en the mys­tery around the universe’s birth and devel­op­ment.

The data is still com­ing in. Like the Human Genome Project, Planck stands to gen­er­ate dou­ble the amount of data it has pro­duced so far.

Planck two

This full-sky map from the Planck mis­sion shows mat­ter between Earth and the edge of the observ­able uni­verse. Regions with more mass show up as lighter areas while regions with less mass are dark­er. The grayed-out areas are where light from our own galaxy was too bright, block­ing Planck­’s abil­i­ty to map the more dis­tant mat­ter. Click the map for a larg­er image.

Some oth­er sur­pris­es from the Planck space­craft data:

• The uni­verse is about 100 mil­lion years old­er and appears to be expand­ing much slow­er than pre­vi­ous­ly thought

•  There is less dark ener­gy and more mat­ter in the uni­verse than pre­vi­ous research showed.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leonard Nimoy Nar­rates Short Film About NASA’s Dawn: A Voy­age to the Ori­gins of the Solar Sys­tem

Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawk­ing & Arthur C. Clarke Dis­cuss God, the Uni­verse, and Every­thing Else

Google Presents an Inter­ac­tive Visu­al­iza­tion of 100,000 Stars

Kate Rix writes about dig­i­tal media and edu­ca­tion. Con­tact her and learn more about her work at .

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