A New Baby Picture Of The Universe
THIS SPRING, HUMANITY WAS SHOWN ITS MOST DETAILED MAP of the early universe ever created. Generated by observations from the Planck spacecraft, the map shows fluctuations in temperature in the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang – the moment when space and time came into existence nearly 14 billion years ago. That relic radiation, a kind of afterglow from the Big Bang, is called the cosmic microwave background, or CMB. It streams toward Earth from everywhere in the sky, and it provides a snapshot of what the universe looked like when the CMB was generated 380,000 years after the Big Bang.
Recently, scientists on the Planck team found certain large-scale features on the CMB sky, which they called “anomalies,” that they cannot explain. One of them, for example, is a large cold spot, which corresponds to an anomalously large area of high density. What this means: the theory for how the universe began may need to be modified, amended or even fundamentally changed. In any of these cases, the result will be consequential to how we understand the evolution of existence.