Planck Mission Gives New Insights Into Universe | Out Of This World Weekly

The Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) was given off when the universe was only 379,000 years old and can be seen coming from all directions in the sky.  Study of the CMB allows us to look back in time to that era to determine the characteristics of that long past universe.  This study has allowed us to determine such things as the age of the universe since the big bang, amounts of Matter, Dark Matter, and Dark Energy, temperature of the early universe, and variations of density of matter in the universe.  The ESA’s Planck mission expands on the previous COBE and WMAP missions with an increased sensitivity and thus greater resolution picture of the early universe.  While the new data isn’t groundbreaking, it does confirm and refine previous estimates with a higher degree of precision that was not available until now and maybe that is the most interesting news – that we have been on the right track all along. 

So – what are these new observations about our universe that the Planck mission revealed?  The amount of matter in the universe has been increased from 4.6% to 4.9%, as well as Dark Matter which has also increased from 24% to 26.8%.  The Dark Energy estimate has been lowered from 71.4% to 68.3% and this has had the effect of lowering the Hubble Constant.  This constant is the rate at which the universe is expanding and this means that the universe will be around and more like the universe we know for longer than previously estimated.  This also affects the estimated age of the universe and a revised estimate of the age of the universe has also been released, now 13.798 billion years instead of the previous 13.77 billion year estimate.  Overall, this data is not extremely different than data from previous sources and because of this, instead of scientists finding new theories to fit the new data of our universe, they are confirming that their current models and theories of the universe are indeed accurate.  (Distribution of matter in the current universe shown on left). 

The Planck mission will continue to gather data until the mission is complete in 2014, even further refining the type of data that it has already sent back in its first complete sky survey.  This will be helpful because the small variations in the distribution of matter have resulted in theories about why that distribution is not completely uniform.  It may be possible that other universes are interacting with our own, causing matter and energy to either surge in or out of our own universe – causing an imbalance.  This was seen in the WMAP image of the universe but is even more prominent as a “Blue Spot” that can be seen at the lower right of the image.  Whatever is causing the variation may be the foundation for a new understanding of our universe or even the multiverse and the forces behind how it works that may extend all the way back to when the universe was very young.  With implications for the understanding of vast amounts of time and space it may not be long before yet another even more accurate probe to study the CMB will be launched into space. 

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