New data reveal the early universe

Jan. 14, 2011 at 5:35 PM   |   Comments

PARIS, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Data from the European Space Agency's Planck mission are revealing clues about how the universe began found in echoes of the Big Bang, researchers say.

The initial surveys of the entire sky by the Planck Observatory, a telescope and a collection of instruments aboard an orbiting satellite, produced a vast catalog of new data released this week, SPACE.com reported.

The mission's goal is to collect the most detailed data yet on the cosmic microwave background, a relic of the big bang's explosion 13.7 billion years ago that echoes around the universe as a veil of radiation.

Planck makes measurements at wavelengths between infrared and radio, not visible light, to record otherwise invisible galaxies shrouded in dust, as they were billions of years in the past.

"This is a first step, we are just learning how to work with these data and extract the most information," said Jean-Loup Puget, a principal investigator on the Planck mission at the National Center for Scientific Research in France.

Scientists have been unable to see beyond the cosmic microwave background, which blocks the first 380,000 years of the universe from view, but they hope that Planck can eventually look beyond this veil to the formation of the first large-scale structures in the universe.

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