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.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
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

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

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
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments