NASA Just Released The Best Map Ever Of The Universe

plank universe map of cosmic background radiationThis map shows the oldest light in our universe, as detected with the greatest precision yet by the Planck mission. The ancient light, called the cosmic microwave background, was imprinted on the sky when the universe was 370,000 years old.

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.

Cosmic microwave background radiation plank cobe wamp data universeComparison of the three readings of the universe’s cosmic microwave background radiation.

“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.
universe matter map plankThis full-sky map from the Planck mission shows matter between Earth and the edge of the observable universe. Regions with less mass show up as lighter areas while regions with more 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.
unexplained features plank universe map annomaliesThe Planck mission has imaged the oldest light in our universe, called the cosmic microwave background, with unprecedented precision. The results fit well with what we know about the universe and its basic traits, but some unexplained features are observed.

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