Source Newsroom: Cornell University
Rachel Bean, professor of astronomy at Cornell University, comments on new data released by the European Space Agency offering a detailed map of relic radiation from the Big Bang.
“The European Space Agency's Planck satellite has measured the oldest cosmic fossil, the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, with exquisite precision. Its map of the sky is markedly better than the results of its predecessor, NASA's WMAP satellite, on which I worked, which itself transformed our understanding of this relic astronomical signal.
“The CMB map is a snapshot of the universe 380,000 years after the Big Bang. This imprint provides physicists with a singular insight into the universe at a time when it was governed by energies and physical laws inaccessible to experiments here on Earth. Planck's results will have a powerful influence in guiding theories of the early universe, which physicists hope to connect to fundamental laws of physics using theories such as string theory.
“The CMB maps also give a record of what the photons have encountered along the way, from the very first stars, to the super-heated, million Fahrenheit, gas in clusters of galaxies, millions of light years across. Now, the Planck survey has enabled us to read this historical record of the universe more precisely than ever before. One example is an unparalleled detection of how the CMB light is deflected as it feels the gravitational pull of galaxies and galaxy clusters it's passed on its way to us, ‘gravitational lensing.’ How the light's path is distorted gives a direct insight into the properties of gravity and how it relates to normal and dark matter and their underlying distribution.
“The Planck results make a significant improvement in our understanding of the matter in our universe and how the universe came into being. It will not be alone, however, in its impressive combination of precision and sky coverage; a number of upcoming astrophysical surveys will refine the CMB maps further, while others will provide censuses of galaxies and galaxy clusters, and their gravitational influence, across all observable space and time.”
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