View of Universe Refined and Complicated

Guest_Jim_* - March 22, 2013 06:46AM in Science & Technology

The history of our understanding of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) is filled with scientists exploring curiosities. First it was an antenna picking up noise that could not be explained and later, with specialized telescope, we found structures that defy explanation beyond being observation artifacts or the result of unknown physics. Well new data from the ESA Planck space satellite, the latest specialized telescope, has revealed the truth about those structures, and cosmologists are practically buzzing about it.

The Planck satellite contains advanced instruments that are cooled to just a tenth of a degree above absolute zero in order to capture the low energy light that still remains from the Big Bang. According to our models of how the Universe formed, this light should be relatively even across the sky, so a picture in any one direction should not be too dissimilar from a picture in another direction. Planck's predecessor, WMAP, however discovered two structures that contradict those models; a cool spot and the 'axis of evil.' The axis divides the sky into two hemispheres with one half warmer, on average than the other. At the time it was suggested that these structures were both the result of error within WMAP's equipment, but Planck has also captured them, confirming these structures do exist.

The results of Planck's observations are not limited to confirming these structures though as it has also refined our measurements of the contents of the Universe, along with the Universe's age. The Universe now appears to be 13.82 billion years old and is 4.9% normal matter, 26.8% dark matter, and 68.3% dark energy. Neither dark matter nor dark energy have been rigorously explained.

Source: European Space Agency