The universe's first light

Updated 10:39 AM ET, Tue March 26, 2013
Universe's First LightUniverse's First Light
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This map shows the light from 380,000 years after the Big Bang in our universe, called the cosmic microwave background, detected by the Planck mission with the greatest precision yet. ESA and the Planck Collaboration
The Planck mission has given scientists insights into the distribution of matter in the universe. Normal matter, what we are made of, is only a small fraction. Dark matter, which does not interact with light, is in more abundance than we thought, based on Planck data. This map shows areas with more mass as darker and areas with less mass as lighter. ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Planck mission has created a map of the oldest light in our universe, called the cosmic microwave background. The results fit well with what we know about the universe and its basic traits, but some unexplained features are observed. One anomaly is that the variations in temperature are not uniform throughout the sky, as shown here. ESA and the Planck Collaboration
The three panels show 10-square-degree patches of all-sky maps created by space-based missions capable of detecting the cosmic microwave background. The first spacecraft, launched in 1989, is NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer, or COBE (left panel). The middle image is from WMAP, launched in 2001, and the far-right image is from Planck, launched in 2009. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA
This is a map created with data from the COBE mission. The detail has improved significantly since then, as seen in the WMAP and Planck maps. NASA
This all-sky picture of the infant universe was created from nine years of WMAP data. It reveals 13.77 billion-year-old temperature fluctuations (shown as color differences) that correspond to the seeds that grew to become the galaxies. Planck puts the age of the universe as 100 million years older than previous estimates. NASA / WMAP Science Team