You Are Here: NASA Releases "Best Map Ever of the Universe"

"Astronomers worldwide have been on the edge of their seats waiting for this map," says Planck program scientist at NASA HQ in Washington, DC

By Olsen Ebright
|  Friday, Mar 22, 2013  |  Updated 7:29 AM EDT
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You Are Here: NASA Releases "Best Map Ever of the Universe"

ESA and the Planck Collaboration

The image, courtesy ESA and the Planck Collaboration, shows the universe's oldest light, imprinted on the sky when the universe was 370,000 years old.

Thanks to what scientists have dubbed the "best map ever of the universe," NASA now believes the universe is expanding slower than previously thought and is nearly 100 million years older than previous estimates.

The new map — charting the oldest light in the universe — was released Thursday thanks to the Planck space mission, part of European Space Agency. NASA assisted in the effort with technology and analysis.

"Planck is like the Ferrari of cosmic microwave background missions," said Krzysztof Gorski, a U.S. Planck scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

"You fine tune the technology to get more precise results. For a car, that can mean an increase in speed and winning races. For Planck, it results in giving astronomers a treasure trove of spectacular data, and bringing forth a deeper understanding of the properties and history of the universe," Gorski said.

Thanks to Planck's data, scientists now believe the universe is 13.8 billion years old — 100 million years older than previous estimates.

Also, the universe's rate of expansion — 67.15 plus or minus 1.2 kilometers/second/megaparsec — is less than prior estimates.

The map is based on the oldest light in our universe, imprinted on the sky when the universe was 370,000 years old, according to NASA.

"As that ancient light travels to us, matter acts like an obstacle course getting in its way and changing the patterns slightly," said Charles Lawrence, the U.S. project scientist for Planck at JPL. "The Planck map reveals not only the very young universe, but also matter, including dark matter, everywhere in the universe."

High-resolution version of Planck's map:

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