Space telescope captures images of Big Bang's 'afterglow'

A striking image showing the ghost of the Big Bang has been captured by a new space telescope.

The Planck satellite was launched by the European Space Agency in May 2009 to study the early universe.



It is designed to scan the sky with instruments sensitive to nine different bands of normally invisible microwave light.



Picking up cosmic microwaves makes it possible to see the "afterglow" of radiation produced by the Big Bang that gave birth to the universe around 14 billion years ago.



Known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), it contains information that can help scientists piece together what happened when the universe began.



The Planck image shows the main disc of the Milky Way galaxy, the Sun's starry "home", with the yellow-mottled CMB above and below it.



The radiation was released as the first atoms were forming, just 400,000 years after the Big Bang brought matter, space and time into existence.



Dr David Parker, director of space science and exploration at the UK Space Agency, said: "Planck has 'painted' us its first spectacular picture of the universe. This single image captures both our own cosmic backyard - the Milky Way galaxy that we live in - but also the subtle imprint of the Big Bang from which the whole universe emerged."



The image shows dust strewn throughout the galaxy in blue, with a red band across the centre showing hot regions.



Variations in the CMB backdrop represent minute differences in the temperature and density of matter when the galaxies had not yet formed.



Over time, these small irregularities evolved into denser regions that eventually became the galaxies of today.



Several UK institutions have been involved in the design, construction and operation of the Planck satellite.



Professor Peter Ade, from the University of Cardiff, one of the team in charge of Planck's High Frequency Instrument, said: "At last we can see the realisation of the full potential of Planck, showing in exquisite detail our own Milky Way galaxy superimposed on the relic fireball background. It is a fantastic result for this unique satellite, and demonstrates once again that you can only do pioneering science by using advanced and therefore high risk technologies."



Dr David Clements, another Planck scientist from Imperial College London, said: "Just looking at the pictures you can tell we're seeing new things about the structure of our galaxy. Once we've done that, and stripped away these foregrounds, then it's on to the Cosmic Microwave Background and the glow of the Big Bang itself."



The big question scientists want to answer is whether the CMB can reveal the cosmic signature of inflation, an incredibly fast expansion of the universe that it supposed to have occurred just after the Big Bang.



Inflation is the cornerstone of current theories about the formation of the universe.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world