New data from the Plank telescope indicates that the universe 13.82 Billion years old — 100 million years older than we thought.
Plank launched into space in 2009 and has been scanning the skies ever since. It reads the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is the energy signature of the Big Bang, when the Universe was born.
“This light started out as a white hot glow… it would have been blindingly bright,” Charles Lawrence, U.S. Planck project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press conference today. “During 13.8 billion years the universe has expanded and this light became a very cold glow that our eyes can’t see.”
This cosmic microwave background radiation, or CMB, is clumpy because of fluctuations in the temperature and density of the universe at the moment the radiation waves started moving through it. The clumpiness was the seeds of galaxies and clusters of galaxies that we see in the Universe today.
Plank is able to look back at the universe when it was just 370,000 years old.
In the new image, above, red means a little bit warmer than average, blue means a little bit cooler, and white is just about average. These are tiny fluctuations in temperature — one hundred millionth of a degree.
“Imprinted in this light is evidence of the universe’s evolution and its origin,” Paul Hertz, NASA’s director of astrophysics, said in a press conference. The data from Plank is a huge improvement over previous readings of the CMB, from the WMAP data — seen to the right. “It’s as if we’ve gone from a standard TV to a high definition TV.”
By studying this data we can answer deep and fundamental questions of our universe. The universe is not only a little older than we thought, it is also expanding slower. Our Universe has more matter than we previously thought — both the “normal” matter that make up our world, and the mysterious dark matter. They also discovered that there’s less dark energy, the mysterious stuff that’s pushing the universe apart.
Here are the specifics:
- The newly estimated expansion rate of the universe, known as Hubble’s constant, is 67.15 plus or minus 1.2 kilometers/second/megaparsec. A megaparsec is roughly 3 million light-years. This is less than prior estimates derived from space telescopes, such as NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble, using a different technique.
- The new estimate of dark matter content in the universe is 26.8 per cent, up from 24 per cent.
- Dark energy falls to 68.3 per cent, down from 71.4 per cent.
- Normal matter now is 4.9 per cent, up from 4.6 per cent.
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