Researchers Discuss 'Baby Picture' Of The Universe Captured By Planck Spacecraft

The image of the universe captured by the Planck spacecraft, released on March 31, answered plenty questions about the beginning of the universe but created just as many questions. Because of the implications of the image of the universe by the Planck spacecraft, researchers will sit down to discuss the baby picture of the universe.

Baby Picture Of The Universe Planck's image capturing the oldest light in the universe, the cosmic microwave background.  ESA and the Planck Collaboration

On March 31, 2013, the European Space Agency released the Planck spacecraft’s picture of the universe, capturing the temperature differences found in the cosmic microwave background, CMB. According to ESA, the CMB is the oldest light in the universe, dating back to when the universe was just 350,000 years old. The Planck image was used to determine the age of the universe, different properties that would eventually lead to the formation of stars and galaxies as well as what stuff makes up the universe.

The universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old, 100 million years older than previously thought, notes NASA. The Planck image also revealed less dark energy than expected but more normal matter and dark matter. Using the image of the universe, researchers could refine the Big Bang theory but there are anomalies found in the photo of the universe that require more research. The image of the universe also helped refine the rate of expansion, Hubble’s constant, with researchers discovered the universe was expanding slower than expected.

According to NASA, the universe is expanding at a rate of 67.15 kilometers/second/megaparsec with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 1.2 kilometers/second/megaparsec. A megaparsec is about 3 million light-years, notes NASA.  For a galaxy 3 million light-years away from Earth it would be receding at a rate of roughly 67.15 kilometers per second while a galaxy 30 million light-years from Earth would be receding at a rate of 671.50 kilometers per second.

The Kavli Foundation, a private organization that helps fund the advancement of science research, has set up a roundtable to discuss the implications of the first Planck image.

While the image did answer some questions about the universe there were some anomalies, including a larger than expected cold spot. George Efstathiou, from the University of Cambridge, is a leader on the Planck Project and states the cold spot rules out some inflation theories that state the universe should appear relatively uniform in such an image as that taken by the Planck spacecraft. “The theory of inflation predicts that today’s universe should appear uniform at the largest scales in all directions. That uniformity should also characterize the distribution of fluctuations at the largest scales within the CMB. But these anomalies in the CMB that previous experiments had hinted at and which Planck confirmed, such as the cold spot you mentioned, suggest that this isn’t the case,” said Efstathiou.

The researchers, including Efstathiou, Anthony Lasenby from the University of Cambridge and Krzysztof Gorski from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, were most intrigued about the data’s effect on inflation theories as well as more clues about the very beginning of the universe. The live stream of the roundtable with the researchers discussing the baby picture of the universe will be heldon July 31. The full set of data collected by the spacecraft will be released in 2014.

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