The Planck mission has released a new sky map of the cosmic microwave background radiation – the after-echo of the Big Bang, revealing unprecedented detail.
Planck is an ESA mission (with help from NASA) designed to look at the after-echoes of the Big Bang, which shows up as variations in the microwave band of cosmic background radiation. Planck has been mapping the intensity of this radiation since its launch in 2009 to produce the map above, with improved resolution on its predecessors – able to map intensity changes as small as one twelfth of a degree on the sky.
The new map suggests a number of things – most importantly that the universe is slightly older and expanding more slowly than Astrophysicists previously thought, as well as there being an increased matter-to-energy ratio in the universe.
According to this snapshot of data, the Universe is around 13.8 Billion years old, 100 million years older than thought before; and that there is slightly more normal matter compared to dark matter. The new estimate of dark matter content in the universe is 26.8 percent, up from 24 percent, while dark energy falls to 68.3 percent, down from 71.4 percent. Normal matter now is 4.9 percent, up from 4.6 percent.
The new data creates some interesting questions for Astrophysicists as the map challenges some of the assumptions about the standard model of cosmology – namely that the model assumes the sky is uniform everywhere, but the new map reveals asymmetrical patterns and other density anomalies.
The full data set from Planck is due to be released in 2014 when it completes its scan of the entire night sky.
Image: The new map as released by the Planck team. Credit: Planck/ESA/NASA