Space

New Planck map begins to unlock the secrets of the early universe

New Planck map begins to unloc...
The new map from Planck, where blue areas indicate the presence of synchrotron radiation, the red is a form of dust that gives off a thermal glow, green represents free-free radiation and yellow indicates the presence of carbon monoxide gas (Image: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The new map from Planck, where blue areas indicate the presence of synchrotron radiation, the red is a form of dust that gives off a thermal glow, green represents free-free radiation and yellow indicates the presence of carbon monoxide gas (Image: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Composite image on top. Below are the various components that make up the main image. (Image: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Composite image on top. Below are the various components that make up the main image. (Image: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The new map from Planck, where blue areas indicate the presence of synchrotron radiation, the red is a form of dust that gives off a thermal glow, green represents free-free radiation and yellow indicates the presence of carbon monoxide gas (Image: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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The new map from Planck, where blue areas indicate the presence of synchrotron radiation, the red is a form of dust that gives off a thermal glow, green represents free-free radiation and yellow indicates the presence of carbon monoxide gas (Image: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

ESA's Planck mission is yielding some surprising findings along with a beautiful new map of the Milky Way that breaks down some of the key elements of our galaxy. The telescope spent four years studying the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), a relic from the birth of the universe. The resulting data from this endeavor is now helping us refine how we measure matter, how we understand dark matter and generally just unraveling the secrets of the universe.

It is believed that the ancient light currently being detected by Planck first came into being roughly 370,000 years after the event that we know as the Big Bang. The charged particles that had previously prevented the free travel of light began to dissipate, allowing the light to begin a journey spanning many billions of years, culminating in detection by Planck's instruments. However Planck does not only detect the microwave wavelength fossil light of the CMB, but also a myriad of constituent elements present in the milky way, both directly and indirectly.

"Planck can see the old light from our universe's birth, gas and dust in our own galaxy, and pretty much everything in between, either directly or by its effect on the old light," explains Project scientist for the Planck mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Charles Lawrence.

Composite image on top. Below are the various components that make up the main image. (Image: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Composite image on top. Below are the various components that make up the main image. (Image: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The data analyzed by the team suggests that the epoch known as the Dark Ages, the period of time between the formation of the universe and the creation of the first star, is significantly longer than previously believed.

Earlier observations undertaken by telescopes such as NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) led us to believe that this era persevered for around 300 to 400 million years, however a preliminary analysis of the new data is causing scientists to revise up their estimates to around 550 million years after the Big Bang.

Planck's surveys are also proving instrumental in measuring the masses of distant galaxy clumps. The new survey cataloged 400 such galaxy clusters, with masses ranging from 1 to 1,000 times that of our own galaxy. The team was able to calculate the masses of the clusters by observing bends in the CMB as it traveled past the massive clusters.

Further more, splotchy areas of the Planck map indicate where matter clumped together in the ancient past to form the kernels of the galaxies that we see today. Deeper analysis of the anomalies may shed light on the galactic evolution process from a very early stage.

The data also supports the theory that dark matter is responsible for forcing the universe apart. However, some scientists suspect that dark matter doesn't actually exist at all, and that it may be gravity itself that forces the universe apart, with the force somehow becoming repulsive instead of attractive at great distances.

As analysis of the Planck data continues, current cosmological theories will undoubtedly be put under ever greater stress, as we hone our understanding of the evolution of our universe through the observation of ancient light.

Source: NASA

5 comments
dr.kerrysmith
I believe the theory is that dark ENERGY, not dark MATTER, is accelerating the expansion of the universe. And both of these are yet to be proven to exist at all.
Ernani Medenilla
What unlock... Nothing has been accurately been figured but are bunch of loose wild interpretations mingled with more speculations and wild guesses. Someone should finally realize that the present universe does not play or is not governed with our Earthly physics! We today only have a little less than 5% of exact or accurate understanding of the universe as a whole.
Gregmorley
This is probably a dumb idea born of ignorance, but having read the article and hearing that some scientists think that there may be a negative gravitational effect that occurs on a cosmic scale, could it just be that the observable universe is more of a bubble than we previously thought? Is what we see as straight lines the slow, enormous curve of the universe? Could that explain how galaxies further away travel faster as they are moving in 'three dimensions' so to say?
Im sure someone, or more than one person will prove me wrong, but with the cmb like a curved map, is it wrong to think that the universe is the same?
Just thought id put my idea up and see if; 1: someone understands what i mean and 2: if it could be feasable in any way.
RMM
+1 on the above comments.
Could we please, just for one time, we see an article that stops conflating "the Universe" with "the Observable Universe. Why keep repeating the questionable idea that "What we see is all there is". That is simply not at all logical. Ask your grandma.
The Copernican Assumption of Uniformity underlies our Big Bang model. But "Dark Flow" / "Great Attractor" data on galactic cluster motion gives increasingly good evidence that the assumption of uniformity is merely a mathematical shortcut so that tough equations can be solved more easily.
Things are bigger and more grand than we can possibly imagine.
The Big Bang Theory will soon break down in a morass of contradictions. Mark that in your diary for twenty years from now.
Oun Kwon
Problems on earth are mounting every day. What good is all this sci-fi for our humanity?