Friday, March 22, 2013

Our Universe Just Got A Little Older & More Unusual; Data From Planck Space Telescope Says

Earliest Light


Big Bang's Early Light: The Christian Science Monitor says: 

This image released on Thursday shows the evolution of satellites designed to measure ancient light left over from the Big Bang that created our universe 13.8 billion years ago. From left, is NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), and Planck, a European Space Agency mission with significant NASA contributions.
Image Credit: ESA Planck Collaboration/AP
Source: CSMonitor

An article, by Pete Spotts, in The Christian Science Monitor says that the universe is slightly older than previous findings said; it is about 13.8 billion years old, Planck's space telescope says. It measures what cosmologists call cosmic microwave background, or radiation left over from an early stage in the development of the universe, some 3700,000 years after the initial explosion.
For a fleeting moment some 10 nano nano nano nanoseconds after the big bang, the universe inflated at a stunning pace. In that fleeting moment, the cosmos expanded by 100 trillion trillion times, says Charles Lawrence, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the US project scientist for Planck, the European Space Agency space telescope that made the measurements.

As early as 1946, theorists predicted that the big bang would leave a relic afterglow. But researchers didn't deem it detectable until 1964 – about the same time two Bell Laboratory engineers were testing an exquisitely sensitive microwave antenna for radioastronomy work.

The two unwittingly stumbled across the afterglow, formally known as the cosmic microwave background. They saw it as nuisance noise that wouldn't go away, no matter where in the sky the duo aimed the antenna. Cosmologists got wind of the measurements and checked them against theory. The results put the two engineers, Anro Penzias and Robert Wilson, on the fast track to Stockholm and a Nobel Prize in physics.
Planck is the third space telescope sent into orbit in the past 34 years to measure the cosmic microwave background.
The other two are COBE and WMAP, pictured above.  The precise measurement of such radiation gives scientists a more accurate picture of both the universe's development and its age. What this confirms is that the universe expanded or inflated very quickly, but not precisely in accordance with Inflation Theory. The data from Planck, once it is fully analysed, will either confirm Inflation Theory or send it to its grave.

Even so, there remain some difficult questions on the nature of both dark matter and dark energy, which make up a majority of the universe. (Stars and planets, which account for about 5% of the universe, are normal or scientifically explainable matter.) As well,  there are other unexpected results from the Planck data and the map of the universe it generated, including that the temperature seems to fluctuate more on one side of the universe than the other. And what about the large cold spot in one hemisphere? It's typical that new knowledge often leads to more questions, which then leads to further knowledge, and so forth.

All these unanswered questions  will keep scientists busy for years; the universe is, in fact, becoming  even stranger than the best science fiction.

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You can read the rest of the article at [CSMonitor]